The craft beer industry experienced steady growth for a number of years. This is evident when looking at any tap list or bottle shop selves. As the industry continues to experience growth more and more beers become available.
Craft beer lovers are certainly not strangers to IPAs, bold barrel-aged stouts or barleywines, but it seems that many overlook the flavorful and reliable lager. Lagers are just as delicious, act as great gateway beers and are wonderful go-to beers for even the most jaded of craft beer drinkers.
Many craft beer lovers were exposed to lagers through the popular pilsner style that many macro breweries produce and the results were less than favorable. While older craft beer lovers know that flavorful lagers exist, younger drinkers drift more toward IPAs and other “hip” beers.
Lagers are also often rated much lower on many beer-rating sites. This is mainly due to many raters who “judge” beer on a flavorful impact which is often misunderstood and lost with beers such as lagers that are not overly hop forward or barrel-aged.
There are plenty of craft brewers who produce world-class lagers. German brewers are still making some incredible beers so there is no shortage of availability.
Here is a short list of great lagers for craft beer newbies, long time drinkers, and even non-craft beer lovers. Let’s bring back the love for great lagers.
Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Eliot Ness: This 6.1 percent ABV Vienna lager has everything any beer lover could want. The wonderfully smooth and slightly caramel sweet malt bill makes for a beer that is beyond easy drinking. The slight kick of noble hops gives it a bitter kick. The balance between malt and hops is textbook for a great lager. This is certainly a lager any beer lovers will enjoy but be warned, it is addictively good.
Sam Adams’ Boston Lager: This is the beer that started it all for Sam Adams and also the beer that helped pave the way for craft beer. First brewed by Sam Adams in 1984, and still adhering to the same recipe, truly shows the meaning of the phrase “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” The 5 percent ABV makes this a beer for get-togethers or nights out with friends. The rich and robust malts have a slightly bready and caramel sweet flavor with spicy hops providing perfect balance.
Anchor Brewing Co.’s Anchor Steam Beer: At 4.9 percent this is the lowest ABV beer on the list and another beer that helped lead the way to today’s craft beer market. This California common has a perfect blend of pale and caramel malts with great carbonation. A mild bitterness from the hops is present to provide balance, but does not detract from the smooth malt character.
Ayinger’s Celebrator Doppelbock: Ayinger has a lot of world class traditional German beers but Celebrator may be its true masterpiece. The rich toasted malts have notes of toasted nuts, caramel, brown sugar and chocolate. While there is little to no hop presence in this beer there is still perfect balance. Celebrator may be sweet, but it is far from cloying. Celebrator has a very loyal following and after just one sip, you too may become one of the converted who seek this beer.
Whether you are a hop head or a barrel-aged beer junkie there is always room for a delicious lager. They can be enjoyed year round, make great palate cleansers, and are the perfect beers for any friends who claim to hate craft beers.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.