This script is from the second season of Beer Notes, which you can listen to at beernotes.org.
Craft beer magazine Hop Culture predicts lagers to be a major trend in 2019. This week on Beer Notes, we’re going to discuss what makes the lager different from the traditional ale.
Ales are brewed with a top-fermenting yeast which is more common and more stable. It is the “original beer yeast, used in the production of all original beer styles dating back to early Babylonian times.”
Lagers, on the other hand, use bottom fermenting yeast, which ferments throughout the body of the beer wort and settles to the bottom of the vessel. This yeast attenuates and converts sugar to alcohol more slowly. It is not tolerant of high levels of alcohol, and cannot protect itself from the cold temperatures used to brew ales. Therefore, it continues to work at temperatures below 39 degrees Fahrenheit.
The word lager comes from the German “lagern,” to store, which leads us to a quick history of this increasingly popular beer.
Bavarian brewers discovered that their beer continued to ferment when stored in cold ice-caves during the winter. It is clearer, crisper, and less fruity, with a lower alcohol content and more sugars left in the beer. Traveling monks took the yeast used to brew this beer to Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, where the most renowned version, pilsner, was created in the city of Pilz.
With refrigeration, this new style of beer became extremely popular. After WWII when pro-Prohibition forces were trying to limit the US production of beer, large brewers started using cheaper non-malt adjuncts resulting in lighter and less flavorful beer. People finally got tired of these tasteless lagers and craft brewed ales made a come-back. Now, however, craft breweries are making lagers the old-fashioned way, with good flavor. According to Fred Eckhardt at “All About Beer, ” Any brew that can be aled can be lagered. Two different results and twice as many satisfied customers.
For Beer Notes, this is Ann McGinnis Hillyer.