Great flavors to be found in light lager beers
This week I am going to talk about a style of beer enjoyed by nearly 90 percent of regular beer drinkers: light lager.
Just for a little reference, according to the Brewers Association, all-malt—or craft beer, continues to grow quickly in popularity. In 2016, it carried about 12 percent of the US market share in beer. The light lager category includes most of the mass produced macro lagers, light beers, and lighter bodied imported beers sent to the US.
Light lagers are usually light in color, golden or sunshine yellow. Lagers are lager beers because they are fermented with lager yeast and they're also bottom fermented. Lager yeast works slower than ale yeast and ferments from the bottom of the tank. Ale yeast, classified as top fermenting, will normally ferment out the beer in four to six days, while lager requires about 14 to 20 days in primary fermentation. Ale yeast likes warmer fermentation temperatures (68-72 degrees) and lager yeast prefers cooler (48-52 degrees). Lager beers routinely go through a secondary or lagering period to mature the flavors. Lager yeast profiles are much smoother and full of light notes ales do not generally share.
Light lager beers vary greatly in the grain bill ("recipe" in brewers' speak) formulation. Most of these beers add adjuncts to the malted barley as a sugar source. Typically corn or rice are used, but other possible adjuncts include flaked oats, wheat and rye. Corn and rice are used for cost savings but they also serve as a body lightener and mouth-feel enhancer with a bit of sweetness.
Some craft beer lovers deride these beers as lacking taste, flavor, aroma and alcohol. This is not always true. Light lagers can have great flavor and aroma characteristics but these can be subtle. Some common flavor and aroma notes include banana, apple, lemon, grass or hay and many have a light corn or rice sweet note. They're also generally crisp, again, light and very thirst quenching. You can't please everyone, but all beer styles have fans and detractors. What critics do not always realize is these are some of the toughest beers for professional brewers to produce. The recipes often use six row barley, adjuncts and little else. This means flaws cannot be easily hidden in these beers, unlike a beer full of a huge malt and hop profile. The consistency these beers provide beer drinkers is a very difficult task to ensure. Just ask most brewers if lagers are easy to make. You will be surprised at the respect the process of brewing Lagers gets.
I should mention that many small breweries make light lagers. Often, they are called American lager or light lager, and they can be found at local bars and beer stores. These beers are a challenge to produce as I've mentioned abov,e but also a favorite end-of-shift beer for brewers as well.
Besides the commonly known brands like Coors, Miller, Budweiser, Molson, and Pabst, some smaller breweries have nice offerings like:
Schells - Grain Belt Premium
Fulton - Standard Lager
Full Sail - Session Lager
Sam Adams - Light
Kona - LongBoard Lager
Leinenkugel's - Original
Capital - Supper Club
Point - Special Lager
Enjoying beer is all about community. Having a casual, convivial setting to gather around a table talking about wide ranging topics is the best. And the beer you choose is the one that is the best ... for you. We're fortunate to have so many awesome styles to choose from here. Cheers.