Bob Brewer looks at the history and evolution of lager, the most popular beer style on the planet. Many of us who inhabit the craft corner of today’s American brewing industry, myself included, have at times tended to dismiss the vastly greater and hugely popular pale lager style of beer. As of early 2014, the craft segment as a whole is somewhat less than 10% of the total U.S. Source: Brewers Association With this rate of growth, many small breweries are now looking beyond the old concept of making all ales and are beginning to embrace lagers as a method of sustaining their growth. Why the change? Well, it’s because lager is the most popular beer on the planet. Source: German Beer Institute Lager beers originated in Northern Europe, in what is now Germany and Austria. Historically, all beers were fermented with one particular strain of yeast – with a few variations. This yeast, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, has been used in beer fermenting for literally thousands of years.
Sometimes referred to as a “top-fermenting” yeast, Cerevisiae ferments warm and relatively quickly, produces an estery quality to the beer, and creates what we refer to as “ale”. Lager beers are fermented with a different – although closely related – yeast. This yeast strain, Saccharomyces Pastorianus, works at a much slower rate at cooler temperatures, and is referred to as a “bottom-fermenting.” Cool fermentation in caves and cellars dates back to the middle ages.
During that period, beer could only be brewed in the cooler months of the year, typically September through May, and was fermented and stored in as cool an environment as could be found. The old train of thought was that Cerevisiae gradually evolved into Pastorianus over the centuries as it adapted to this environment.
- In any event, sometime in 1500s, German brewers had a new yeast to work with that was ideally suited to cool fermentation and aging.
- But where did this new yeast really come from? The concept of slow mutation didn’t quite work because the strain made a relatively sudden appearance.
- It had been known that Cerevisiae was one parent strain of Pastorianus, but what was the other one? No one was really sure – until recently, that is.
A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on August 22, 2011 identifies the other parent strain of Pastorianus as Saccharomyces Eubayanus, Eubayanus is native to, of all places, the Patagonia region of Argentina. Source: utexas.edu Gabriel Sedlmayr of Spaten Brewery. Source: munichbeergardens.com. Moving right along here, we find that by the mid-19th century the early versions of lager in Germany were gradually evolving from primarily dark beers to paler brews, although dark lagers survive to this day.
Two brewers of the era, Gabriel Sedlmayr of Spaten Brewery in Munich, Germany and his pal Anton Dreher of Austria, are widely credited with starting the shift to pale lagers in Europe. During that period there was also a major migration of Germans and other Northern Europeans to America. It should be noted here that Germanic emigrants as a whole were arguably the most successful ethnic group in America at that time.
They established cities, schools, industries, and maintained much of their cultural roots for generations, and among their industries and culture was, of course, beer and brewing. Even the most casual perusal of brewing history in America turns up German names at every glance – many of them still familiar today.
- And not just America.
- The German diaspora of the 19th century, of which my ancestors were a part, also took brewing to Mexico, South America, and even China.
- And what were they brewing? Lager.
- The history of Anchor Brewing Company is the story of German emigrants and lager beer.
- In 1871, which is almost as far back as we can trace our company’s origins, a German immigrant named Gottlieb Brekle bought an old saloon in San Francisco and began brewing there.
In 1896 that brewery was acquired by two other Germans, Ernst Baruth and his son-in-law Otto Schinkel, and was re-named “Anchor.” Being an organized and industrious lot, Germans built major industries. They organized cold transportation for their products, modernized their production techniques, and developed the first practical mechanical refrigeration plants – all for lager. Refrigeration was the big one here. An early refrigerator car design. Hatches in the roof provided access to the ice tanks at each end. Source: wikipedia.org. The availability of transportation brought about a homogenization of styles as regional breweries were able to compete outside of their home markets.
Smaller regional breweries still had a bit of local loyalty, but the beer was mostly all the same. When prohibition came about it actually benefitted the larger breweries in the end, partly because they were better able to wait it out with their size and resources, allowing them to diversify. The small regionals didn’t fare as well.
WWII sealed the deal for lager brewery operations. Young men from all over the country were thrown together and drank whatever was available, wherever they were sent, and in virtually all locales, that meant pale American lager. There were still a few dark beers around, but with the prevailing anti-German sentiments of the day, they were not popular. Source: formerdays.com, The post-war rise of broadcast media and national advertising, particularly when associated with the airing of sports, expanded the reach of the largest breweries and led to the first truly national beer brands – all pale lagers.
Remember those Germans who went elsewhere? Their descendants are still there making lager. We all know that Latin America saw a surge of Germans and Austrians coming over in the late 40’s and early 50’s. They, too, were lager drinkers. Today, the greater part of brewing tradition in all of Latin America comes from Germans.
They import German brewmasters. Likewise in Asia. Even the former British colonies around the world have adopted lager and German-style brewing. So, where does this get us? The short answer is that by 1970, about 100 years after German brewers conquered the American beer palate, the entire world was drinking some sort of pale lager.
Okay, there were a few exceptions, notably Britain and Belgium and Irish stout, but for the greater part it was the whole world. When I first visited England in 1987, I expected to find a culture of traditional ale drinkers because I had been brainwashed into thinking (quite wrongly so, and by visiting Brits) that American lager was piss and everything beer-wise in Britain was vastly superior.
What I found instead was a nation of mostly lager drinkers with a few traditionalists and a shrill and highly vocal small minority of consumers who sat around and bemoaned the demise of warm, flat, possibly infected “real ale.” To be fair, their organization, CAMRA – or “Campaign for Real Ale” – was a successful preservationist movement that inspired the first generation of American microbrewers, but that’s another subject. The fact was that in 1987 the bulk of the beer being consumed in England was lager. When I went to Belgium a few years later to experience what I had been assured was absolute beer Nirvana, I was similarly disappointed. The Belgians, at least, had all of their wonderful beers readily available in bottles wherever I went.
- They didn’t cry about the loss of tradition, but they were still mostly drinking lagers like Stella, Palm, or Jupiler.
- At least they were using fancy glassware.
- The French were drinking mostly Belgian-brewed lager.
- My visit to Europe last year bore out my earlier impressions, but with a bit of hope for variety shone by a small but noticeable interest in American craft beer.
Circling back to the beginning of my ramblings here, the craft beer segment is growing at a blistering pace. American craft is a big success story, born out of a sort of rebellion against the mega-breweries and their products that is still evolving. The first craft breweries had a hard time getting the word out.
- I know, I was there and it wasn’t easy to bring people around.
- That’s all changed now, but there is still major competition for the craft consumer’s loyalties, and the reality is that it’s a big leap from light beer to IPA.
- Too big a leap for most.
- With the exception of Anchor Steam Beer, the vast majority of craft beers being brewed today are ales, many of them so hop-forward that they can be a real challenge for all but few consumers.
Ale is much easier to produce than lager in that it takes a lot less time. Time is money after all. Ale can also be quite forgiving in other ways since the traditionally stronger flavors and higher hop rates can mask otherwise heavy-handed brewing. Lager brewing takes a lighter touch, more time, and more attention to detail throughout the entire process, which can be difficult for smaller breweries that are set up to be ale-specific.
- While ales definitely have their place, lager is becoming an increasingly more important part of the craft lineup, positioned as a style that can attract a greater number of consumers, which allows smaller brewers to better compete with mega-breweries.
- Here at Anchor Brewing Company, we have been brewing craft lager all along.
As mentioned, Anchor Steam Beer is a lager. It is, however produced using an historical method of open fermentation that was pioneered during the California gold rush, and continued by us today as part of our brewing tradition. A brew of Anchor Steam Beer in an open fermenter. We brew several classic ales as well, and in keeping with our historical roots, we continue to research classical brewing styles. In that spirit we produced a lager beer that was inspired by the very first German-style lager brewery in California, Originally a limited release as the first beer in our Zymaster series, Anchor California Lager proved to be so popular that it became part of our full-time line up in February of 2013.
- 1 What is the difference between beer and lager?
- 2 What is the difference between a lager and an ale?
- 3 What grain is lager made from?
- 4 What is difference between lager and Weissbier?
- 5 How is IPA different from lager?
What makes beer a lager?
What exactly is the difference between ales and lagers? – The basic difference between these two major beer classifications is how they are fermented. Ales are fermented with top-fermenting yeast at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F), and lagers are fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast at cold temperatures (35˚–50˚F). The birth of the Pilsner style in the 1800’s introduced much of the world to lagers. Virtually all beer before then were ales since yeast was not known as an ingredient and cold fermentation would have been difficult. Both ales and lagers can be produced today with relative ease.
- However, in the current craft beer market ales are typically more common among craft brewers because ale yeast can produce beer in as little as 7 days, making it more convenient for small breweries who may not have the fermenter space to produce lagers on a regular basis.
- In medieval Europe, ale, along with bread, was a very important source of nutrition.
During this time, people (including children) drank small beer, which was unfiltered and porridge-like in consistency, but highly nutritious, with just enough alcohol (1% ABV) to act as a preservative. This provided nutrition and hydration without the effects of alcohol or the dangers of water. The advancement of technology played an important part in the advancement of Ales and Lagers. The Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 actually stated that beer could only be make of grain, hops, and water. It made no mention of yeast since it was an unknown ingredient.
The ability to see yeast strains under a microscope and advent of refrigeration in the 1800s altered the course of beer history for the next century. In the late 19th and most of the 20th centuries saw the dramatic rise of lager beer. The mellow taste and lower alcohol content led to the take over of pilsner-style beers.
Thankfully, ale has made a resurgence in the past 40 years. As of 1974, there were just 55 breweries operating in the United States. They were mass producing the flavorless, watered down “lager” a true craft beer lover would not be caught dead drinking.
Today, there are more than 6,000 breweries in operation, creating ales, lagers and combinations of the two that have brought beauty and art back to brewing. So, what’s the bottom line when it comes to beer? All beer is either an ale or a lager (or hybrid). This is not determined by color, flavor or alcohol strength, but by the fermentation technique and yeast used in brewing.
The only detectable difference between and ale or a lager is the presence of esters in ale. These esters are produced in greater quantities during warm fermentation. This is why they are more present in ales due to their warm fermentation. We are experiencing a brewing renaissance, and it has given beer lovers an abundance of flavor and character in our beer choices with flavor and character.
What is the difference between beer and lager?
The key brewing difference between lagers and ales – Before we delve into the details, it’s important to know that all lager and ale falls under the category of beer. The alcohol volume, flavour and colour may determine what type of ale or lager it is, but the technique in fermenting the malt is the one thing that separates lager and ale.
Lagers are fermented using a bottom fermenting yeast at cool temperatures over a relatively long period of time, while ales are fermented with a top fermenting yeast at much warmer temperatures and can be ready to drink in as little as three weeks.200 years ago, the vast majority of beers available were ales.
That’s because it was much harder to brew beer at cooler, controlled temperatures and yeast was unknown as a key ingredient in the process. Not to mention that ale takes almost half the time to ferment, so could be ready to drink much faster.
What is the difference between a lager and an ale?
What’s The Difference Between Lagers and Ales? – Firestone Walker Brewing Company We’re sure you’ve heard it before: All beer is either an ale or a lager. But is that true? And what actually is the difference between lagers and ales? We sat down with Sam Tierney, Brewery Manager of our, to get to the bottom of it. The simplest explanation for the difference between lagers and ales is that they use different yeasts during fermentation. Lagers are made with lager yeast and ales are made with ale yeast. There are some exceptions to this generality that Sam likes to think of as “hybrids” (more on that later).
- While reading about ales and lagers, you might see a lot of information about top-fermenting and bottom-fermenting yeast.
- Before the science of genetics and microbiology was well understood, ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ fermentation descriptions were used to differentiate yeast types based on how they looked during fermentation,” Sam explained.
“Top-fermentation was done with yeasts that produced large, foamy heads that could be seen in open-top fermentation tanks used before the modern era,” he said. The yeasts that didn’t produce the large, foamy heads were considered bottom-fermenting. “We now know that these yeasts are almost always divided into two different species. Installation of six 1,500-barrel fermentation tanks at our Paso Robles brewery in October 2021 Of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, “some classic ‘lager’ yeasts are genetically ‘ale’ yeasts that have developed special adaptations making them phenotypically present just like lager yeasts in the brewery,” Sam told us. Fermentation temperature also plays a factor in the difference between lagers and ales. Generally, the two species of yeast have genetic differences that allow them to thrive best at different temperatures. Ale yeasts tend to ferment at warmer temperatures, generally in the 60°F to 75°F range, but sometimes going as high as 100°F. Of course, as it seems with everything related to the lagers versus ales distinction, it’s not always so cut-and-dry. “While those are the general guidelines,” Sam told us, “there are some lager yeast strains that are happy fermenting at warmer temperatures, and some ale yeasts that can ferment just fine at lager temperatures.” Here they are again – the hybrids. Some ales and lagers can be distinguished by their flavor. Colder temperatures often cause yeast to produce fewer aromatic compounds during fermentation than warmer temperatures. This means that lagers generally have a ‘cleaner’ taste that allows the malt and hops to be more noticeable.
Ales, on the other hand, tend to have strong fruity and spicy flavors that balance out the malt and hops. If you focus on the fruity and spicy character as the hallmark of an ale, you can start to notice the difference in most beer. — Sam Tierney, Brewery Manager Consider two iconic Firestone beers as an example – and,
Pilsners fall under the ‘lager category,’ and Pivo is a great example of a crisp, clean-tasting beer that allows the malt and hops to shine through. Mind Haze, on the other hand, is a juicy beer with fruity flavors that were achieved both through the yeast and fermentation and through its featured hops. Another, perhaps more obvious, example is versus,805 is an ale, while Cerveza is a lager. “If you taste the two side-by-side, you will notice a fruity character in 805 Beer that many people find evocative of banana candy or juicy fruit gum,” Sam said.
“In contrast, 805 Cerveza does not have this flavor, and this allows the lime addition and clean malty character to take center stage.” But again, it’s not always so simple. Sam explained: “Even so, some ales are relatively clean in profile and can seem lager-like. In general, lager and ale styles have other differentiating aspects beyond just the type of yeast used, making it useful to know your beer styles.
The examples of hybrid styles show that changing yeast or fermentation doesn’t always make for a very different beer.” Hybrid styles and breweries’ own discretion in labeling their beers can complicate it a bit, but here’s a recap of the basics: most beers are either lagers or ales, and the primary distinction is that they’re made with different species of yeast. Ale yeast tends to ferment better at warmer temperatures, and lager yeast at cooler temperatures.
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What grain is lager made from?
The grains, which are usually malted barley, contribute colour, flavours, proteins and maltose (the sugars which ferment into alcohol). Hops come from the hop plant, give the drink its bitter taste (to counter the sweetness of the grain sugars), and help stabilise the body of the brew.
Why is it called lager?
BAVARIAN LAGER – Lager traces its roots to 1400s Bavaria. The word “lager,” German for “storage,” refers to the cold caves in which the beer was traditionally stored while fermenting. Brewing it during the winter and maturing it in the caves during the summer prevented spoilage and allowed the beer to keep its consistency year-round.
How is pilsner different from lager?
What is the difference between lager and pilsner? – Pilsner is actually a type of lager, named after the Czech city Plzen. The most notable difference between them is that pilsners tend to have more hop-forward flavours and they use different yeast. Ultimately, pilsners are just spicier, more hoppy lagers.
- Pilsner was first brewed in 1842 by the Bavarian brewer Josef Groll.
- Groll set about trying to produce a good quality lager as the quality of Czech lager at the time was disappointing.
- From Bavaria, Groll brought a special yeast, which mixed with the soft water of Plzen produced a clear beer, golden in colour and crisp in character.
The beer was loved so much that it still exists today: Pilsener Urquell, A must-try and a good place to start if you want to explore Pilsner! If you’re interested in pilsner, read for a more detailed description.
What is difference between lager and Weissbier?
What Is the Difference Between Wheat Beer and Lager? – Wheat beers and lagers are often compared since they are both frequently light in color, low in bitterness, and relatively low in alcohol. Both categories of beer originated in Germany and are popular with beer drinkers worldwide.
- Lagers have a wider range of color and style, from popular pale varieties like pilsners to dark amber styles such as dunkels.
- Wheat beers are usually top-fermented ales (though that’s not always the case) and must contain a high percentage of malted or unmalted wheat.
- Lagers, on the other hand, are bottom-fermented and can be made with corn, barley, rice, or any combination of those grains.
As with wheat beers, the flavor profiles can vary greatly with the style of lager, but many lagers have more hop character than wheat beers and lack the generous foamy head of a hefeweizen.
What grain is Heineken?
Our Heineken® lager contains three main ingredients: malted barley, hop extract and water. When our Heineken A-Yeast® is added, this is when Heineken® magically transforms into the brew we all know and love.
How is IPA different from lager?
IPAs are often highly hopped (more than40 IBU and commonly over 60 IBU), whereas lagers are generally far more subtly hopped (around 20-40 IBU). IBUs are international bittering units, a standardised way of quantifying bitterness in beers.