The hot new thing in craft beer? Good old-fashioned lager

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by officerbill, Feb 2, 2020.

  1. officerbill

    officerbill Devotee (451) Feb 9, 2019 New York
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    “Until recently, “craft lager” might have sounded like an oxymoron.”

    “Still, lager isn’t sexy. It doesn’t drive cool Instagram posts. It garners mediocre scores on the beer-rating site Untappd. “No one in my circle is ever sitting around and saying, ‘Hey, have you had this lager?’” says Regan Long, founder and brewmaster of Local Brewing Co.”

    https://www.sfchronicle.com/wine/amp/The-hot-new-thing-in-craft-beer-Good-15018302.php

    It's about damned time.
     
  2. nesarebad

    nesarebad Devotee (469) Feb 4, 2012 Massachusetts

  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,360) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Craft Lager isn't new - just one example from the article:

    "Craft lager may look like a new trend, but Watson, the Brewers Association economist, sees lager as having been in craft beer’s DNA from its inception; think Sam Adams Boston Lager."

    Cheers for beer that tastes like beer!
     
  4. traction

    traction Devotee (484) Dec 4, 2010 Georgia
    Society Trader

    Creature Comforts makes a good one and the tagline on the can is quite simple, "GOOD - COLD - BEER"

    Here is the description on their website - "The beer is brewed to be a highly drinkable lager that can serve as both an entry into craft beer for new consumers as well as a staple product in the fridge for those who love craft beer and sometimes want an uncomplicated, simple, and delicious lager."

    I think it is a really solid lager but the reviews are rather poor on both on BA and the other beer rating site. People just don't seem to rate the more traditional styles highly because I think people don't tend to rate to style but rather rate to how it compares to their favorite beer which nowadays is probably an NEIPA, sour, or stout.
     
  5. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,360) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Yup, that is indeed the case. If a beer doesn't hit them in the head like a sledgehammer with hops or add-junks then the beer geeks are going to assign low scores.

    But you and I know better!:slight_smile:

    Cheers!
     
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  6. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,593) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    "Glitter beers." Hmm. :thinking_face:
     
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  7. islay

    islay Disciple (327) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    I think these "Hey, there's craft lager now!" stories aren't well-grounded in craft beer history. While American craft beer always has leaned toward ales, I'm sure lagers made up a bigger proportion of craft beer sales in the '80s to '00s than they did in the '10s and now the '20s. The phenomenon that people are noticing is that the cool kid breweries that have opened in the last half-decade and are known for the now-tired standard lineup of NEIPAs, pastry stouts, and fruited kettle sours are adding a lager or two into the predictable mix. I think that's a good thing, as it provides a small dose of much-needed internal style diversity, and it's good exposure to beer-that-tastes-like-beer to a young generation that skipped right to the gimmicky stuff.

    That said, it's notable that most of the breweries that are introducing a token lager are going for relatively low flavor, pale-shaded lagers. Yes, the article mentions maibocks and schwarzbiers and Baltic porters, and of course some breweries produce them (and long have done so), but that's really not the trend. Rather, the trend is craft versions of AALs, pilsners, helles, etc. And while some of those beers, especially pilsners, can be delicious, what sets them apart from other lagers is their accessibility and familiarity to the masses. That makes them consistent in purpose with the NEIPAs, pastry stouts, and fruited kettle sours that they sit next to at these breweries, which are so popular because they're accessible and familiar in a different way. But I'm sure some of these breweries do branch out deeper into lagers after they start that road, and, who knows, that may even lead them to producing beer-flavored ales for the first time. And then the circle will be complete.
     
  8. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (2,867) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
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    Since taprooms are replacing taverns and pubs every brewery should have a nice standard house lager for $2-3 a pint. Oh wait most places will be charging $5-$7 a pint for the ice cold craft house lager??? no thanks then... I’d rather have the $8 10oz tulip of the BA Stout and then head home. Maybe that’s just me.
     
  9. Singlefinpin

    Singlefinpin Disciple (377) Jul 17, 2018 North Carolina
    Trader

    Rating to style is important, Although personal preferences are bound to creep in on a subject as passionate as beer.
    I try to be objective on style and realize that I can't really rate beer styles I don't like.
     
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  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,360) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    A local craft brewery, Sly Fox has a new craft lager out now. It is labeled as Black Lager and it was collaboratively brewed with another local craft brewery Stoudts. Both Stoudts and Sly Fox are ‘old school’ craft breweries: Stoudts opened in 1987 and Sly Fox opened in 1995.

    I had a draft pint of this new beer last evening and I enjoyed drinking that beer.

    From the Sly Fox website:

    https://www.slyfoxbeer.com/phoenixville

    I thought you might be interested in knowing that Sly Fox has updated their online beer menu to indicate they have Reading Premium on tap. I met a good friend for lunch last week at Tired Hands and he mentioned he recently had a draft pint of Reading Premium at the new Sly Fox location in Malvern and he really enjoyed it. I will count that as a second vote for this beer.

    Also, they now have a new collaboratively brewed beer of a Black Lager:

    “Black Lager

    Collaborative Black Lager

    12.5 OG30 IBUs5.5% ABV

    Hazies be damned! We’ve been brewing since before craft beer was cool, and our latest release embraces the punk spirit of those early days. We teamed up with some original beer rebels at Stoudts Brewing to bring you a beer that bucks the trends. What’s more punk rock than a black lager in a labeled 16oz. can? We don’t know. But we do know that this beer feasts on the souls of line mules, spits them back out, and laughs in the face of haze bois everywhere.”

    [​IMG]
    Cheers to Sly Fox & Stoudts!

    @rotsaruch
     
  11. Singlefinpin

    Singlefinpin Disciple (377) Jul 17, 2018 North Carolina
    Trader

    I don't know if this is true, but I've heard that brewers enjoy a lager after a long day at work brewing.
    I never really met a craft ale that I didn't like, but, a Craft American Lager can be pretty damn good, and I try to enjoy them where I find them.
     
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  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,360) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    I neglected to mention in my above post (Post #10) that both Stoudts and Sly Fox have been brewing craft lagers since they opened: 1987 and 1995 respectively.

    Cheers!
     
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  13. ESHBG

    ESHBG Aspirant (264) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    You hit the nail on the head for me. As many around these here parts know I have always been a big fan of Lagers, which was tough when it wasn't cool and everything had to be an IPA/hoppy something. But I am a numbers/dollars and cents guy too so when I am out (and don't need to drive anytime soon) it's really hard for me to justify paying $6+ for a 5-ish% beer that tastes about the same as anything else vs a higher ABV something else when I am in the mood to drink just about anything; with Lagers most taste about the same and you just don't get the variation that you can with some other styles. I view this as a good thing because of the reliability and Lagers are one of those hand me one at anytime and I will be happy beers but what I love about Lagers at one time may not always be fitting for another.

    But yeah I am happy to see more out there and I continue to make it a point to buy more Lagers in the hopes that my dollars will help breweries want to keep making them.
     
  14. dcotom

    dcotom Poo-Bah (2,254) Aug 4, 2014 Iowa
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    It's not just you.
     
  15. dcotom

    dcotom Poo-Bah (2,254) Aug 4, 2014 Iowa
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    Still ISO Sour Me Unicorn Farts. :slight_smile:
     
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  16. PNW

    PNW Initiate (150) Dec 23, 2019 Washington
    Society Trader

    Anyone saying that Lagers should be cheaper than a brewery’s other beers is crazy. Lagers take longer to brew and are more difficult. If anything IPAs should be cheaper, but I digress.

    Anyway, whenever a thirsty patron comes in and asks me what my favorite beer on tap is I often point out the lager or pils we have on tap at the time. There’s generally three types of reactions to this.
    1. The person usually drinks Bud or Corona so they are excited to try a beer that is the same type, and most definitely not an IPA.
    2. The person usually drinks IPAs and is surprised to find out Lagers aren’t always macro and tasteless.
    3. The person isn’t from the U.S. and loves Lagers.

    Of course there’s a fourth camp that appreciates the long history of great craft lagers and is excited to try a new and local one, but the first 3 reactions are more common. There’s a stigma to Lagers that keeps a lot of people from reaching for one, but the brands that created that stigma are the same reason a lot of people are reaching toward a familiar type of beer. ‍♂️
     
  17. algebeeric_topology

    algebeeric_topology Defender (697) Dec 30, 2014 New York
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    I think your understanding of the phenomenon is off. What you describe is certainly happening, but nobody is buzzing about lagers because Other Half is suddenly canning Crickets and Tumbleweeds. People are going crazy for lagers because breweries like Suarez are focusing on great lagers and saying to hell with the styles you mentioned above.

    It would also be wrong to describe NEIPAs, pastry stouts, and fruited kettle sours as "now-tired" in a broader context (we are talking about national trends here) than just your own drinking preferences.
     
  18. ESHBG

    ESHBG Aspirant (264) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Cheaper, yes probably not. Competitively priced? For sure. I have seen way too many failed Lager experiments due to out of touch pricing for what it is.
     
  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,360) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    I paid 5 bucks for a pint of lager beer (Black Lager, Pikeland Pils) at Sly Fox Brewpub last evening. Would you consider this competitive pricing?

    Cheers!
     
  20. islay

    islay Disciple (327) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    The ultrahip taproom that solely features New England IPAs, pastry stouts, and fruited kettle sours -- along with, now, a pilsner -- is the biggest cliche in craft beer in 2020. It's like the brewpub with the golden ale, amber ale, brown ale, pale ale, and porter circa 2000.

    I think a young brewery like Suarez (opened late 2016) is riding the wave of the newfound cool factor around lagers; it certainly didn't cause or drive it. It's notable that the places in which that sort of brewery gets a lot of attention are the places known especially for a hype-driven craft beer scene (such as New York state and southern New England). Similar breweries in the Midwest, with its much deeper lager brewing tradition, or in the western United States, with its much more entrenched and mature craft beer culture -- where such styles aren't a novelty -- don't garner nearly the same level of buzz.

    I do think that it's great that a self-professed Other Half fan like yourself can appreciate core beer flavors; many can't (either never could or have lost the palate for the stuff). For the long-term sake of craft beer, I hope Suarez and the like, along with the token lagers at the hype factories, are able to ween some image-conscious newer or lost craft beer drinkers off of the gimmickry. That may be the way that we get an overdue return to beer-that-tastes-like-beer: By imitating the cultural trappings and buzz-based marketing (special releases, eye-catching labels, aggressive social media strategy, trendy taproom atmospheres, etc.) of beer-that-tastes-like-juice/desserts.
     
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  21. officerbill

    officerbill Devotee (451) Feb 9, 2019 New York
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    The article caught my eye because of the 2020 beer trends thread, where numerous folks stated that lagers will be this year's breakout. I've noticed an uptick in pro-lager media lately so it seems lagers are at least getting more attention; I'll wait to see if that attention leads to better quality and wider availability.
    I have my doubts it will due to two things mentioned
    “It’s more difficult and more time-consuming to produce than many other beer styles...”

    “Unlike an IPA, whose assertive hops might be able to mask other flavors, lagers are unforgiving. “If there’s an off flavor, if you rushed things, there’s nothing to hide behind,”

    I'll get a high hopped beer if there is nothing else appealing on tap (hence the SA NEIPA & Hopocalypse last night), but I won't review then because I recognize my bias.

    But they can be cheaper. Great Lakes and Jack's Abby distribute great lagers at a price significantly lower than most mediocre IPA's.

    So, the people who live along the Hudson between Albany and NYC?:wink:
     
  22. ESHBG

    ESHBG Aspirant (264) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Yeah for sure. And as far as draft beer is concerned I get that this is a good money maker so I don't expect to see too much variance until you start getting into the really big beers. But six+ pack wise, being competitively priced becomes extremely important for beers that can be basically just a step up from an AAL.
     
  23. PNW

    PNW Initiate (150) Dec 23, 2019 Washington
    Society Trader

    Yes, but are Great Lakes & Jack’s selling their Lagers for less than the rest of their own lineups? The idea that Lagers should be cheap stems from the fact that Adjunct Lagers are cheap. Craft Lagers shouldn’t be expected to compete with Bud pricing. Around here the brewery making the best Lagers is Chuckanut, in my opinion, and a half barrel of Chuckanut is like $185 vs Bud’s $120.
     
  24. honkey

    honkey Zealot (577) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Society Industry

    I'd go out of business in a few months if I sold my IPA's for the same price I sell most of my lagers.
     
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  25. honkey

    honkey Zealot (577) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Society Industry

    Our beers in Tombstone start at $5 per pint for onsite consumption. Because of this, we make a better margin on lagers than IPA's. Higher gravity beers like Russian Imperial Stouts, DIPA's, and TIPA's are still $5, but you get a 10 oz. pour. For cans though, most of our lagers are either $8 or $10 per 4-pack whereas most of our IPA's are either $10 or $14. DIPA's and TIPA's are $12-$16. Personally, I think all of those prices are reasonable and "competitive." I never expect to pay less than $5 per pint from regional or local breweries. I don't even complain when it's $5 for big craft breweries like Sierra Nevada. The price per ounce of beer isn't necessarily economical for onsite consumption compared to offsite, but you're paying for service and the experience so in my mind it's worth it.
     
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  26. Scott17Taylor

    Scott17Taylor Meyvn (1,454) Oct 28, 2013 Iowa
    Trader

    Agreed, people don’t tend to rate to style. One of the reasons I really appreciate that this site shows where a beer ranks in its style. Let’s me know if there’s a dunkel or bock etc in an area that I need to try.
     
  27. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,408) Feb 15, 2010 New York
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    Care to elaborate?
     
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  28. honkey

    honkey Zealot (577) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Society Industry

    I can’t get into too many specifics, but our cost of ingredients for IPA’s is almost equal to our wholesale price of kegs of lagers. Sure, we sit on lagers longer, but it costs little to store a beer and keep it cold. Hops for IPA’s on the other hand are a huge expense. So you might see a pint price at the brewery that is equal for IPA’s and lagers, but there’s no way we could sell IPA’s as low as our wholesale price for lagers. Our retail to go lager price is also lower priced than our IPA’s to go. If we sold our IPA’s that low in cans, it would actually not make any sense for us to package the beer at all... working on low margins
     
  29. algebeeric_topology

    algebeeric_topology Defender (697) Dec 30, 2014 New York
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    IPAs were pretty cliche at one point too and that's turned out ok. It will all be fine pal.

    2016 is very pre lager buzz. Jack's Abby has been brewing fantastic lagers for a while now and created no buzz. It wasn't Founder's Gold, Night Shift Nite Lite, and whatever other craft AAL that created the buzz. It's these smaller breweries like Suarez focusing on the style.

    QUOTE="islay, post: 6786974, member: 184611"]I do think that it's great that a self-professed Other Half fan like yourself can appreciate core beer flavors; many can't (either never could or have lost the palate for the stuff). For the long-term sake of craft beer, I hope Suarez and the like, along with the token lagers at the hype factories, are able to ween some image-conscious newer or lost craft beer drinkers off of the gimmickry. That may be the way that we get an overdue return to beer-that-tastes-like-beer: By imitating the cultural trappings and buzz-based marketing (special releases, eye-catching labels, aggressive social media strategy, trendy taproom atmospheres, etc.) of beer-that-tastes-like-juice/desserts.[/QUOTE]

    Again, someone like you grumbled and said IPA (and even craft beer in general) was just a gimmick at one point and I'd say it's turned out ok.

    Don't be daft, I used them as an example. Similar happenings are all over.
     
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  30. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,408) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    Thanks. I'm wondering how specific that is to your circumstances.

    How do you think that would change at different volumes though? For example, if you brewed more lagers than IPAs, would the time and space factors for lagering be more significant in your assessment? What if all of your brewing volume had to go into cold lagering storage for two months rather than just one or two beers in a portfolio... and you didn't have beers with quicker turnaround in the mix? How would that change your assessment of the cost of space and time needed? In addition, I wonder how different this would be for a brewery that didn't spend as much time and money on the hops for their IPAs as your team. Similar to how uncompromising one wants to be with hop procurement, I would think that the same is applicable for lagering times. In that case, it would be the cost difference between lagering for 3 weeks vs 8 weeks (for example).
     
  31. islay

    islay Disciple (327) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    Yep, no buzz ever for Jack's Abby. It's basically unheard of outside of Framingham. It's the quintessential hidden gem, second only to Other Half, of course.
     
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  32. islay

    islay Disciple (327) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    It should be noted that you choose to make your IPAs far more expensive than IPAs need to be by concentrating on sexy hops ("Made with Apollo oil, the highest quality Citra hops possible, and Mosaic Lupulin Powder"). You mainly seem to utilize hop types in high demand and/or low supply and that thus are way more costly than many other varieties that are perfectly well-suited to the IPA style. I also suspect you expend a lot of those hops to contribute to aromatics more so than their traditional use for bitterness. You could easily shave a lot of cost off your IPAs, or -- for that matter -- add a lot of cost to your lagers, if you chose to utilize your resources differently.

    I'm not suggesting you're doing anything wrong from a business or even creative perspective, just that you're knowingly and intentionally making strategic decisions that result in higher business expenses accruing to your IPAs.
     
  33. PNW

    PNW Initiate (150) Dec 23, 2019 Washington
    Society Trader

    That makes sense. Thanks for the info.
     
  34. officerbill

    officerbill Devotee (451) Feb 9, 2019 New York
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    officerbill said:
    So, the people who live along the Hudson between Albany and NYC?:wink:

    The point being, it doesn't matter if a brewery makes some of the best lagers in the country if you can't buy them more than an hour away from the brewery.
     
  35. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,321) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    It’s still all about the quality, a poor lager is just that, there’s certainly no magic there. Same with any ipa, brew a great one and it will sell, the shelf is saturated with poor efforts. I don’t believe there’s any secrets in this business.
     
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  36. AWA

    AWA Aspirant (279) Jul 22, 2014 California

    So maybe I'm just an entitled dick, but I'll happily pay 5 bucks for a quality lager. I mean, I'll pay 8 bucks for the stout too, but, hell, why not both?
     
  37. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,321) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    I don’t think anyone minds paying for a quality beer, it’s the mediocre “name” beer that’s the problem. Regardless of style imo.
     
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  38. algebeeric_topology

    algebeeric_topology Defender (697) Dec 30, 2014 New York
    Society Trader

    A) No, that's not the point at all. The point is that @islay doesn't understand the lager renaissance (among other things, but that seems to be common knowledge around here) and that many of us have our own local brewer dropping killer lagers. I cited my example. You chimed in from left field with a comment that has no bearing.

    B) Why does it not matter that someone is making excellent lager regardless of distribution? Are you arguing that a great brewer making excellent beer in a particular part of the world is irrelevant to the entire rest of the world if the beer isn't distrod to their door step? Good luck with that one, see Hill Farmstead, Tree House, Cantillon, Russian River, etc
     
  39. honkey

    honkey Zealot (577) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Society Industry

    I don't think it changes that much. You need more vessels for lagers to make the same amount of beer so your capital investment needs to be higher resulting in a longer return on investment, but that's a relatively minor expense in the grand scheme of a brewery. A single fermenter or lagering vessel can be paid off within a couple of batches turned through it. Where most breweries get into trouble is funding a brewery with debt and then expanding before being out of debt. Those loan payments can kill you.

    I would point out also that very few breweries lager for 2 months. With proper yeast management (pitch rate, pH, aeration, purity of culture, nutrition, temperature control, etc.) and with modern technology there should be no benefit to such long lagering times. I would not be comfortable with ever sacrificing quality for a quicker turnaround time and I've never seen 2 months as being anywhere near a necessity with the exception of breweries that messed up earlier in the process.

    That's a pretty basic way to phrase it... I would say: "it should be noted that I choose to make beers that sell." The varieties have little to do with it... I work on hop contracts for years in advance so right now, per bbl I pay about $18 more ($9 per keg) for Citra vs. the average price for Cascade. We could certainly switch hops to a bittering addition and reduce the aromatics, but that means we brew entirely different beers with an entirely different target flavor profile and that those beers simply won't sell. So in short, I can make a cheaper beer with no problems, but I will also watch sales disappear.

    There's also the matter of expectation of a style. Today, if you brew an IPA and it's not extremely hoppy, it simply will not be an easy sell. On the other hand, if you brew a Pils and it's not exceptionally drinkable or "crisp" then you won't get sales. Those styles lend themselves to being brewed in a certain manner and a Pilsner is less expensive to brew. I can also brew a Double IPL and make it more expensive than an IPA easily, but the expectation of the beer for the consumer is more in line with drinking an IPA or DIPA. The consumer drives the market at least as much as the producer and I would actually argue that the consumer drives it far more than the producer.
     
  40. meefmoff

    meefmoff Devotee (438) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts
    Trader

    Says the guy who is on record proclaiming that cask beer is inherently bland, flat and tasteless.

    If only the world could harness the power of your own self regard.....