Lager (German: storage) is a type of beer that is brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast at lower temperatures and for longer durations than those typically used to brew ales. In German, the term "lager" refers to storing a beer at cool temperatures and does not necessarily imply bottom-fermentation. Pilsner, Bock, Dortmunder Export and Märzen are all styles of lager.
Pale lager is the most widely-consumed and commercially available style of beer in the world. There are also dark lagers, such asDunkel and Schwarzbier.
History of Lager
While cold storage of beer, "lagering", in caves for example, was a common practice throughout the medieval period, lager yeast seems to have emerged as a spontaneous mutation or hybridization somewhere in the Holy Roman Empire.
As a new variety of beer, its production faced opposition from established brewers. Private brewers of lager were often required to produce their beer outside city walls; more traditional brewers produced beer which evolved into the Altbier and Kölsch styles.
While lagers have become the predominant form of beer in America it was not until 1840 that they made their way to America. With the influx of German immigrants during the 19th century it was only a matter of time until the production of bottom-fermenting beers would be produced there. Lagering may have had its roots in Germany but it was John Wagner with his small brewery on St. John Street, near Poplar, Philadelphia who started the first brewery producing lagers in America using yeast strains which he brought with him from Bavaria where he had been a brewmaster.
In 1953, New Zealander Morton W. Coutts developed a process known as continuous fermentation. Continuous fermentation allowed the production of lager at a much faster pace, albeit with a reduction in flavor development. This development made possible the mass production of lager beer at a rate competitive with ales. As this technology became widespread, the light lager style emerged, quickly becoming the most popular style of beer in much of the industrialized world.
Since 1950, pale lager has displaced ale as the type of beer most consumed in the United Kingdom, and also constitutes the overwhelming majority of beer produced and sold in the United States, China, Australia, India, Japan, France, Italy, Russia and most countries where beer is made and consumed.
As the modern definition of lager relates only to the method of fermentation, the characteristics of lager beers are varied.
The average lager in worldwide production is light in color and usually represents the helles, pale lager or Pilsner styles. The flavor of these lighter lagers is usually mild and the producers often recommend that the beers be served refrigerated. However, the examples of lager beers produced worldwide vary greatly in flavor, color, and composition.
In colour, helles and pale lager represent the lightest lagers at as pale a colour as 6 EBC. The darkest are Baltic porters, which can be as dark as 400 EBC; darker German lagers are often referred to as Dunkel lagers.
Lager yeast ferments at lower temperatures and flocculates on the bottom of the fermenting vessel, while ale yeast ferments at higher temperatures and settles on the tops of fermentation tanks. The organism most often associated with lager brewing is Saccharomyces pastorianus, a close relative of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
The flavour of a lager can be quite simple, with the most mild being light lagers. Lagers with the most complex flavors are typically the darkest, although few lagers feature strong hop flavoring compared to ales of similar alcohol by volume. In general, however, lagers display less fruitiness and spiciness than ales, simply because the lower fermentation temperatures associated with lager brewing cause the yeast to produce fewer of the esters and phenols associated with those flavours.
In strength, lagers represent some of the world's most alcoholic beers. The very strongest lagers often fall into the German-originateddoppelbock style, with the strongest of these, the commercially-produced Samichlaus, reaching 14% ABV.