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Lagers and Ales... can't we all just get along?!

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by BigBarley, Feb 24, 2013.

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  1. BlackDragon

    BlackDragon Feb 16, 2013 Michigan

    No idea but New Holland Dragons Milk Dark Lord BCBS CBS KBS Arcadia Shipwreck Porter.... I could go on are all better wheres your patriotism
  2. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Ah, the Lagers vs. Ales debate; the BA version of the “tastes great” vs. “less filling” argument.

    Firstly, let me say that I am a BIG fan of lagers (both commercial and homebrewed).

    So, why is it that a number of BAs are not big fans of lagers? IMHO, it is the fact that the vast majority of lagers are not BIG beers. In other words, the majority of lager styles are not BIG in a hoppy and/or alcohol sense. Needless to say there are exceptions here which have been detailed by many posters (e.g., Doppelbocks, Baltic Porters, Imperial Pilsners, etc.) but from a barrelage perspective most lagers are lower in alcohol and they are not as hoppy or bold as many of the popular ale styles. A number of BAs like to discuss BIG ales as DIPAs but the single largest craft style is the IPA. An IPA has the ‘features’ of being both higher in alcohol (e.g., 7% ABV) and high in hopping (e.g., 50+ IBUs).

    Let’s discuss a lager style such as a Helles (which is a tasty style IMHO). A Helles is lower in alcohol (e.g., 5% ABV) and lightly hopped (e.g., 20 IBUs). For me the distinguishing flavor of a Helles is a nice bready/malty taste. I also enjoy and appreciate the balance of this beer. Would a BA which prefers a BIG ale like an IPA enjoy a Helles? I believe for the most part the answer would be no. A BIG ale aficionado would describe the Helles beer as being bland and boring.

    It seems to me that a lot of BAs are not ‘bilingual’ in that they do not enjoy and appreciate both ends of the spectrum. In my basement right now is a few bottles left of Nugget Nectar, Lagunitas Sucks, and Fat Heads Headhunter (all three are excellent hoppy BIG ales). I enjoy drinking those beers; they are indeed tasty and powerful beers. I also enjoy drinking more subtle beers like a Helles, Kolsch, Wit, etc.

    Perhaps some of the BAs who are fans of BIG hoppy beers will at some point also learn to like what a ‘typical’ lager can provide; a nice balanced enjoyable beer that has ‘drinkability’?

    Maybe the ‘progression’ for a BIG ale drinker is to first learn to enjoy and appreciate the bigger lagers first (e.g., Doppelbocks, Baltic Porters, Imperial Pilsners, etc.) and then move onto the more subtle lager styles?

  3. stayclean

    stayclean Mar 17, 2012 Wisconsin

    dar482, StarRanger and steveh like this.
  4. BlackDragon

    BlackDragon Feb 16, 2013 Michigan

    I meant that all of these are better than Celebrator Dopplebock
  5. Dan114

    Dan114 Feb 14, 2013 Massachusetts

    Just because you put it in a barrel doesn't mean its good...
    steveh likes this.
  6. Chinon01

    Chinon01 Jan 23, 2007 Pennsylvania

    "American beer" is comprised of more than RIS. It includes many styles including many lagers such as doppelbock. Once again since we are far better than Europe gimme the American doppelbock (a popular style btw) that's far betters than Celebrator if you can?

  7. stayclean

    stayclean Mar 17, 2012 Wisconsin

    I dunno, I love Bourbon County Brand Dopplebock and Canadian Breakfast Dopplebock, personally.
    dar482 likes this.
  8. BlackDragon

    BlackDragon Feb 16, 2013 Michigan

    Can't but I'm talking as a whole not only dopplebock would you give up all american beer for all german beer if you had to choose?
  9. Chinon01

    Chinon01 Jan 23, 2007 Pennsylvania

    It's not just doppelbock; as I said I can do this all day. As for your second comment I consider myself a beer lover and therefore could easily give up one country. As far as my beer drinking goes Germany, Belgium, England or the US would all be fine places to be "stuck" in.
    StarRanger, herrburgess and steveh like this.
  10. kolschboy

    kolschboy Sep 18, 2003 North Carolina

    Best post. I'm guessing those who know nothing about bottom-fermented beers, are unfamiliar with obergaerige lagerbier or simply need attention.
  11. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Give me a clean beer. I effing hate bourbon, and don't want it in my beer. Says the guy who had too many Boilermakers in his misspent youth.
    Vonstein15 likes this.
  12. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    Aren't "Kölsch", "Alt" and most Weizen technically Ales ?
    boddhitree likes this.
  13. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Top fermenting yeast, yes.
  14. marquis

    marquis Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    No.The word "Ale" has been hijacked by a group of people and used as if it's a synonym for top fermented beer but ale is not quite this , it's the British (and countries influenced by them such as belgium and the US) take on top fermented beer.Germans call Kolsch an "obergäriges lagerbier" or top fermented lager.It was introduced when Reinheitsgebot was imposed in the early 1900s and made a popular local beer style illegal as it used prohibited ingredients.As RHG only applied to bottom fermented beer the locals simply changed to using a top fermenting variety (a Kolsch yeast, not an ale yeast) but cool fermented and lagered.Nothing in common with ales except for where the yeast collected.
  15. Tut

    Tut Sep 23, 2004 New York

    Very well put. It seems to me that it's generally the younger people who are relatively new to craft beer that quickly go to the extreme fringe of the beer world. They have to prove something. I like your use of subtle as a descriptor. The ability to recognize and appreciate the more subtle qualities of the good things in life increases with age and experience. Kids always need to push everything to the extreme. They can't enjoy a well crafted beer that's not "big". I'm 62 and have been drinking craft beer for well over twenty years. I've had them all and these days I prefer balanced beers with subtle characteristics that intrigue and interest without slapping me in the face.
    drtth and Stahlsturm like this.
  16. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    I was under the impression that top fermenting = Ale, bottom fermenting = Lager.

    We do ? o_O I wasn't aware of that but that may be due to the fact that due to the fact that I'm Bavarian I'm not really a "German" :)
  17. marquis

    marquis Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    It's a rule of thumb as it's generally right. Just like regarding people who live in America as Americans you'll be right most of the time.But not everybody living there is an American and not all Americans live there! So it's roughly OK but useless as a definition.
    Ron expresses it better;
    herrburgess and Crusader like this.
  18. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    What would your favorite brewmaster say if you called his Weizen an "ale?"
  19. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

  20. dmfc906

    dmfc906 Jul 2, 2010 Illinois

    Metropolitan Iron Works Alt gets me through Chicago summers
  21. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    They get along fine in my house and gut.
    Providence likes this.
  22. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    I'd think the Kölsch would be a nicer Summer beer, but the Ironworks is one of the best U.S. interpretations of the Alt style you can find.
  23. dmfc906

    dmfc906 Jul 2, 2010 Illinois

    Their kolsch is another summer favorite...but the alt is my favorite of their year round beers
  24. YamBag

    YamBag Feb 2, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I like both, but there is nothing better than drinking a well crafted Export and tasting the subtle complexity of the malt profile.
  25. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    So, you don’t refer to a Kolsch as a obergäriges lagerbier? Does that mean you are a Homebrew Twat!?!;)

  26. SirBottlecap

    SirBottlecap Jan 28, 2013 California

    I agree with you. And neither do I.
  27. Picaroon

    Picaroon Jun 28, 2012 Ontario (Canada)

    I have no problems with lagers. Sometimes if I've been hard on IPA's or other hoppy ales, i'll grab a 6 pack of Sam Adam's Lager or something to give my pallet a rest. Sometimes it's just a crisp, cold refreshing beer you need at the end of the day. Doesn't matter what it is. Unless it's Budweiser :D
  28. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    I have never even heard the term "obergäriges Lagerbier" until yesterday...
    And why would I even bother to home brew when I have over 20 breweries satisfying all my beer needs within a 20 mile range of my house and 3 of them practically in walking distance ?

    I AM an opinionated grumpy old asshole though :p :D
  29. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Well, it is interesting to know that even a German has not heard the terminiology of "obergäriges Lagerbier".

    So, you think your grumpy, eh? Based upon Ron’s writings maybe you two fellows have something in common?;)

    “Is Kölsch an Ale?
    I try to stay out of arguments with certain American homebrewers. The ones who lurk on beer forums. That's where you find all the self-appointed experts. People who've read a few homebrewing texts and think they know everything. I'm not calling every homebrewer a smug idiot. The majority aren't, I'm sure. Just the Homebrew Twats*.”

  30. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    You may be even more shocked by how many Bavarians (or even Duesseldorf-ians) have never even TRIED a Koelsch (or Koelner an Alt)...much less been apprised of its official brewing appellation.
  31. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Scott, you are a Kolsch ‘expert’. Are you familiar with the terminology of "obergäriges Lagerbier"?

    Apparently the Kolsch Konvention defines the beer as “a light-colored, highly fermented, strongly hopped, bright, top fermented Vollbier."

    My understanding of Vollbier is: “One of four German beer tax categories. Vollbier literally means "full" or "entire" beer. It contains 11 to 14% extract. This beer category holds about 99% market share in Germany. A completely fermented Vollbier usually has between 3 and 5.3% alcohol by volume. Pils, Helles and Weissbier (Hefeweizen) belong in this category.”

    I fully recognize that the German Beer Institute is not viewed favorably by some BAs, but I think it is still worthwhile to note that they describe a Koslch as being an ale. For example:

    One of only a handful of traditional German ales. Kölsch is the local brew of the city of Cologne ("Köln" in German). It is one of the palest German beers made. It is Germany's answer to the British pale ale.”

    I am citing the above from the German Beer Institute not as a way of ‘validating’ that a Kolsch should be considered an ale but just to simply point out that it is not just Homebrew Twats who associate a Kolsch with being an ale.

    While we are on the topic of Homebrew Twats, I bottled my homebrewed Kolsch (where I used Kolsch Malt) last night. In a couple of months I hope to be enjoying my own homebrewed Kolsch ale.;)

  32. Crusader

    Crusader Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

  33. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    I am no 'expert.' This place has far too many 'experts' spouting off as it is. If I had to choose, I'd say I might be a pretty good 'guide' to German beer -- but honestly I'm not even that for Koelsch...more of Rauchbier/Bamberg/Franconian beer guide.

    I think you're getting a bit caught up at the initial hurdles of translation and terminology. Vollbier is used extremely loosely in my experience, so I wouldn't put too much stock in what's written/translated here, or attempt to apply this 'definition' across the board. It simply doesn't work that way.

    Again, the choice of 'ale' here is, I suspect, a matter of translation and not as prescriptive as you may think. Which brings us to the bigger issue (the one I believe Ron is making): secondary sources are usually not going to accurately reflect reality the way that primary sources -- and personal experience -- are. It's, again, a matter of needing more beer guides and fewer beer experts.

    Let me know how it tastes. Then I will write up some guidelines based on that secondary source...Oops! I mean I will trade you some of mine for some of yours ;) Prost!
  34. marquis

    marquis Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    Kolsch has so little in common with an English Pale that I can't see it. A totally different concept except for a minor detail about the nature of the yeast.
    Oh dear. The German Beer Institute seems to be an authoritative body until you delve into the details. When you check into this you find that it's the same person who wrote the pure drivel in the Oxford Companion to Beer regarding Scottish beer.The author is not noted for letting facts get into the way and has probably lives in the US long enough to have forgotten them anyway.
    I like this quotation from Martyn Cornell ". What is particularly worrying is that this clown is one of the contributors to the forthcoming Oxford Companion to Beer. Horst does seem to be one of those people - I've come across them before - who, when presented with a stick, will almost inevitably grasp the wrong end of it"

    And you use his work in support of an argument?
    Nobody said that it's only to do with homebrew twats but the internet has an insidious way of propagating drivel to the level where it's accepted as fact. I see often that Edison invented the light bulb despite the ascertainable fact that it was patented 20 years before he was born and Joseph Swann was manufacturing and marketing them a year before he got involved. But the popular version persists.
  35. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    I think you're correct in that evaluation. While "Alt" is definitely named after the "old" method of fermentation, "Ale" is an English (nationally, not linguistically) term I don't believe is ever used in discussion of brewing in Germany. German brewers know and respect the sort of history Marquis and Ron speak of when it comes to beer.
    kolschboy likes this.
  36. Ispeakforthetrees

    Ispeakforthetrees Apr 2, 2012 Colorado

    Upslope Craft Lager.
    Most sessionable beer ever.
  37. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Ah, here comes the wrestling tag team member (to the rescue?).;)

    I was very, very clear in my post that I was not citing the German Beer Institute as being an ‘authoritative’ source. I stated: “I am citing the above from the German Beer Institute not as a way of ‘validating’ that a Kolsch should be considered an ale but just to simply point out that it is not just Homebrew Twats who associate a Kolsch with being an ale.” Is this another instance of Britain and the US being separated by a common language!?!

  38. Chinon01

    Chinon01 Jan 23, 2007 Pennsylvania

    So you equate "lager" ONLY w/ "crisp cold refreshing"?
  39. marquis

    marquis Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    Or even the German language?
    Ron's article lays out pretty clearly that British and German brewers both pursued their craft on top fermented brews in a widely different fashion.They have little in common except how the yeast operates. Do we classify artefacts in groups according to whether they are nailed, screwed or glued together?
    There's no reason why German top fermented beers should be called ales except for the fact that the vast majority of top fermented brews in the US were of British origin and a false association developed.
  40. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I read and to a certain point enjoyed reading Ron’s article. Why he feels a need to utilize belittling verbiage is a bit beyond me.

    I hope that he (and you?) is not offended but I would also like to obtain input from others on this topic. I am confident that Ron (whose first language is not German) would concede that perhaps it might be worthwhile to consult with others on this matter.

    Stahlsturm (whose first language is German) made mention of: “I have never even heard the term "obergäriges Lagerbier" until yesterday...” Now as has been pointed out he is from Bavaria but I find his input useful nonetheless well.

    I asked Scott (herrburgess) whether he was familiar with the term "obergäriges Lagerbier". Scott has lived in Germany (Franconia) and is conversant in German; he has also traveled to Cologne and drank Kolsch beers ‘at the source’. Perhaps he was ‘put off’ by my verbiage of “expert” so he didn’t want to answer this specific question?

    Maybe somebody else who reads this thread and is knowledgeable of German as it is spoken in Cologne can comment on the utilization of "obergäriges Lagerbier" to describe a Kolsch beer. That would be helpful to this discussion.

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