Some craft beer aficionados are declaring 2016 the year of the lager. That’s because, despite the current obsession with India Pale Ale, many more small and independent breweries are returning to this most popular beer style in the world.
The Czech-German lager tradition is rich and varied, going back to Bavaria and Pilsen. But whether it’s a German Spaten, a Czech Pilsner Urquell, or an American Budweiser, the common ingredient is the lager yeast strain, Saccharomyces pastorianus, which creates a clean, clear brew at cold temperatures.
That said, lagers are generally more challenging, time-consuming and costly to make. That may help explain why ales, which are not only widely considered to be more flavorful, but can be ready to drink in less than two weeks after brewing, have become the craft beer standard. But it’s not the whole story.
Sam Adams Boston Lager is one of the original craft success stories. And others, such as Left Hand Polestar Pilsner and Victory Prima Pils, are long-running and popular examples that give the lie to the idea that lager is simply yellow fizz for the masses.
What’s even better, suddenly, you can find several really fresh and refreshing lagers from local brewers, all available year-round, and made with high-quality malt, hops and yeast. And, of course, the bright, aromatic, thirst-quenching nature of this low-alcohol style is perfect for summer sipping.
Here are four to look for at your favorite pub or package store:
Creature Comforts Bibo Pilsner — A favorite on draft since the brewery opened two years ago, it was finally released in cans last week, and is now a year-round offering. Brewed with a blend of Czech Saaz, Sterling and Motueka hops, it has a classic Pils character with a touch of fruitiness.
SweetWater Take Two Pils — Originally brewed as a summer seasonal, this robust take on a Bohemian-style Pilsner soon became a year-round favorite. It features a combo of malts and American and European hops, and is dry-hopped and bottle-conditioned.
Terrapin Sound Czech Pils — Originally part of a one-off series benefiting the Georgia Theatre, it’s the newest year-round offering from Terrapin. Brewed with 100 percent Pilsner malt and Czech and German hops, it has a crisp, sophisticated essence worthy of an Old World lager.
Three Taverns Prince of Pilsen — First brewed as a special summer beer in honor of the World Cup, this Euro-style lager, dubbed “a hoppy pilsner,” is dry-hopped with American Falconer’s Flight 7-C’s and features distinctive floral and citrus aromas and flavors.