Lagers – The King of Beer, Really?

Posted: October 24, 2010 in Flavor Series, Lagers

How in the world Lagers ever got to be the most popular beer in the world is beyond me! Well actually its not, the science behind lagers is so simple that it actually makes sense, couple that with the process of continuous fermentation – which allows the beer to ferment faster—and bam you have the American dream, simple and fast! I like light lagers, when I am at the bar, or when I know I will be at a social event when I am going to be drinking for a longer period of time the low alcohol content keeps me under wraps. But they are by no means the top choice for my fridge!

Lagers are a bottom fermented beer that are made in cold storage. The yeast they use, require colder temperatures and much, much longer periods of time in order to ferment. Lagers got their start being fermented in caves outside the city walls of Rome, and when they first started they were a much stronger brew than the ones we know today! Lagers became very popular in Germany sometime in the 16th century and were marketed as a beer that was darker and stronger than ale. Lagers did not make their way to the US until around 1840. With the large influx of German immigrants dunring that time, it was really only a matter of time before lagers became popular. The first documented brewing of a lager with the US was in Philly, and done by a Bavarian imagrant named John Wagner, he brewed it with yeast he smuggled in with him from Bavaria.

In 1953 a New Zealander name Morton W. Couttis developed the process of continuous fermentation. Now I am not a chemist so I don’t understand the technical aspect of it, but I can tell you it did two things to lagers. First it sped up the fermentation process so it could rival the fermenting time of traditional ales. Second it lightened the beer so it made it not as strong or as dark, broadening its market, essentially making it more popular. Through the years major breweries have learned how to lighten this even further to make “Light Beers”.

Today lagers have skyrocketed companies such as Anheuser Busch, and Coors/Miller. The ability of these companies to make a cheap, decent tasting, inexpensive light lager, had allowed them for years to rule the beer market. However the Micro-brew and craft beer revolution, have taken a large chunk of the market over but these cheaper beers still do very well in all markets of the US. Bars really help to sell these cheap beers as well as football and other sporting events. Again these beers are a great sell for these types of establishments because they have lower alcohol contents and are much lighter than other beers therefore allowing people to drink more without feeling drunk or full. If you are a traditional or light lager drinker I encourage you to get out there and try some of the great micro-brews offered. Stop in at your local beer store, or go to a brewery or brew pub, and ask questions. Get to know some different beers, and I guarantee you will quickly trade in that domestic light beer, for something perhaps a little more local! Cheers!


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