Lager and Hybrid Beers
How often do you go into a pub and find there is “lager, lager everywhere and not a drop you’d drink?" Quite simply: too often. Lager is the most consumed beer on the planet and as such it’s been ripped apart by mass production methods focussed on reducing the cost per unit and jettisoning any concern for taste to make beery water.
As a result it’s easy to dismiss as a style, but it shouldn’t be. Lagers are usually crisp and refreshing when describing a Helles or a Pilsner style. Moreover, there’s an exciting breadth of variety when you scratch the surface with dunkels, Vienna lagers, bocks, Märzens, and schwarzbiers. So, forget the idea that lagers are fizzy yellow water; when made with love, they're veritably clean, interestingly pure, and bear many unique flavours and aromas. We suggest giving a try some great lagers from the German juggernaut of Augustiner or the Mittenwalder microbrewery, or looking more towards home with Cumberland Breweries' Irish Lager.
Another interesting beer category are the hybrid beers made with lager yeasts but fermented at ale temperatures: Kölsch, Altbiers, cream ales, and steam beers. Each of these styles are a wonderfully easy drink but with varying degrees of maltiness and bitterness as well some interesting flavours--the Kölsch is sometimes known for its wine-like character whereas steam beers have a noticeably clean finish. Anchor Steam is the world's quintessential steam beer while the German breweries of Früh and Schlosser produce great examples of Kölsch and Altbier, respectively.
Pilsner beer was first brewed in the Czech city of Plzen and is a light-coloured, crystal-clear, smooth and crisp brew. Instantly refreshing, a great Czech or Bohemian Pilsener is among the best lagers out there.
German Pilsener is, well, the German response. Less malty and lighter-bodied as well as lighter in colour, herby hops dominate the aroma of this beer. Just like its Czech counterpart, it’s brilliantly drinkable.
Bock, Dopplebock and Maibock are all bottom-fermenting German lagers. Bock is stronger than your average lager, with a strong maltiness balanced by light hoppiness. Maibock is a lighter version, more hoppy and traditionally served as a spring beer. Dopplebock is darker, sweeter, very malty and higher in alcohol.
For a truly excellent lager, look no further than German Marzen. Brewed in spring and stored over summer (lager literally means ‘stored’ in German), it’s ready for drinking in mid-September. The Oktoberfest beer is (slightly confusingly) a Marzen, but has to be brewed in Munich - the location at which Oktoberfest is celebrated.