The Origin of Lager
For many people, lager simply means beer – such is its widespread popularity. Some sources point to its origin being Czech, whilst others indicate it was born in 16th century Bavaria.
Lager in German means storeroom or warehouse. Indeed, Bavarian brewers used to prepare it in winter months and then store it in large, cold cellars after the initial fermentation.
Lager or Ale?
There are two main features that distinguish lagers from ales:
- Lager is conditioned in low temperatures, between 7 and 13 °C. The aging process is also much slower, taking from a few weeks to a few months.
- Lager yeasts grow less rapidly than ale yeasts, produce less surface foam and settle at the bottom of the fermenter. This process is called bottom fermentation.
How should Lager look like?
Although lager is widely associated with a light-yellow colour (which is true of most Pilsners), there are more shades to it: from golden and amber, to dark or nearly black lagers, such as German Schwarzbier. The colour of lager depends on the type of malt used, boil time, hops and extracts used, the process of caramelisation (or lack of it) and water chemistry, among others. Lagers have a number of subtypes, depending on the region of origin, colour and differences in the production method.
The best-known lager brands are: Pilsner Urquell, Miller, Stella Artois, Beck's, Brahma, Budweiser Budvar, Corona, Snow, Tsingtao, Singha Beer, Kirin Company, Heineken, Carling, Foster's, and Carlsberg. It’s thought that almost nine out of ten beers sold worldwide are Pilsner-style pale lagers.
- Of the top 10 best-selling beers worldwide, all of these are lagers.
- In the USA, National Lager Day is on the 10th December.
- Cenosillicaphobia is a fear of an empty beer glass, followed by serious anger and frustration if the refill is not immediately available.
- A pint of lager with 4% ABV contains approx. 180 calories, similar to a slice of pizza, one avocado or three eggs.
- German Altbier and Kölsch are brewed with a top-fermenting yeast at a warm temperature, but with a cold storage finishing stage. They are classified as top-fermented lager beers.