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The A to Z of Lagers – Part 2

Beer_June4_AaIn last week’s article, we took a quick look into Lager and explained the first four common types of Lager that you can find here in Thailand. This week’s article will focus on the other four of the eight major styles of Lager.

To recap from last week: The first four styles of lager are:

  1. American – Beers like Budweiser, Chang, etc. that are either Adjunct (with ingredients like corn or rice added) or American Pale (made with the four main ingredients: water, hops, barley and yeast.)
  2. European – Beers like Heineken or Singha that are brewed following European recipes and typically consist of all malt, with no adjuncts.
  3. Red/Amber – Beers like Samuel Adams Boston Lager (which should be available soon). This style is really a catchall category that covers Lager that is usually darker and more hoppy than the American or European styles.
  4. Pilsner – Beers like Pilsner Urquell or Paulaner Pils that are generally straw or golden in color and are bitter due to a higher amount of hops used in the brewing process.

This week’s article will focus a little more on the European side of Lager, more specifically Germany, where Lager is an institution. Before we look at the other styles of Lager, let’s look into what makes German beer so special.

Why is German beer held in so much regard?
Some of you may be wondering what exactly sets German beer, more specifically Lagers, apart from the rest of the world? In truth, the answer varies depending on whom you ask. The reason we think German Lagers stand out is because of the Reinheitsgebot (Rein-Hights-ga-boat) – German Purity law which states that only water, hops, barley and yeast may be used in beer – and the fact that the Germans are the ones who invented and perfected Lager.

We feel that it is because of these two reasons that German Lagers are often thought of as being superior to their European and American counterparts. That being said, not all German Lager is good, really it comes down to personal taste.

So, let’s look at the four other Lager styles:

Bock
This is a strong Lager, traditionally from central Germany it was adopted and adapted by brewers in Munich. Bocks come in a variety of colors from light copper to dark brown and usually taste toasty, often with a slight caramel flavor, with little to no hop flavor. Many Bock beers are brewed and presented as ‘fest’ beers, meaning they are associated with special occasions like Christmas and Easter.

An interesting thing about Bock style beers is that they were often consumed by monks in Germany while they fasted. They likened this beer to ‘liquid bread’ due to the fact that it’s sweet and somewhat nutritious. Popular Bocks include Paulaner Salvator.

Dark Lager/Dunkel
Dunkel is a name you can have fun with, it seems to just roll off the tongue. Those of you who speak German would know that Dunkel means Dark, and that’s what this Lager is – dark. Commonly found in and around Munich, Dunkel beers are dark amber to a dark red, almost black color. There are numerous sub-types of Dunkel, the most common being: Munich which is a malty, toasty flavored Lager (think a very light chocolate smell and flavor) with minimal hop bitterness. A good example of a Munich Dunkel Lager is Paulaner’s Munchner Dunkel.

Munich style Lager (Helles)
Helles is German for bright, and these Lagers are just that. As you can probably tell by the name, these beers originated in Munich Germany, and closely resemble pilsner Lagers. Helles Lagers are a little more malty than their Czech counterparts with hops that balance the malt. Paulaner Original Munchner Hell and Löwenbräu Original are both fine examples of Helles Lagers.

‘Light’ Lager
Many who consider themselves beer aficionados scoff at the so-called light beer. Like it or not however, these beers are styles of Lager that have proven to have some staying power. The vast majority of light beer available on the market falls into two different categories:

  • Reduced alcohol – This beer has low, to no alcohol, but manages to retain some of the taste of beer. The majority of these beers have between 0.5% and 4% alcohol. Many brewers make this by brewing beer normally then essentially cooking after fermentation to reduce alcohol content (alcohol burns at a lower temperature than water, so this can be done without boiling the beer). Paulaner Hefe Weissbier Alcoholfrei and Chang Light are both reduced alcohol beers.
  • Reduced calories – Reduced calorie beer differs from reduced alcohol beer because it is brewed with the specific goal of reducing calories. This means using less carbohydrates and a generally lighter beer, with a slightly less than normal alcohol content (usually around 4%). Famous beers (for their name, not taste) brewed this way include Coors Light and Bud Light. Here in Thailand, an example of a reduced calorie beer is San Mig Light.

That about sums it up for Lagers, we’re interested to know what your favorite Lagers are. Let us know below.

Wish of the week
Hacker Pschorr Gold
This beer is brewed by one of the original Oktoberfest breweries and is sure to conjure up the feeling of sitting in a crowded beer hall in Munich with a fresh pretzel in one hand, and stein in the other. This Helles has a great golden color with a refreshing Lager taste, it’s pretty much what Lager should be. Prost!

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