Why is there so little focus on amber ales/lagers?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by BanquetEnjoyer, Jul 16, 2022.

  1. BanquetEnjoyer

    BanquetEnjoyer Initiate (26) Jul 14, 2022 New York

    I really like these styles (when done well), but it seems like there is very little focus on them. The ones that I can find are basically just the original beers from breweries that have been around since the 80s.

    Sam Adams Boston Ale was one was one of my favorite beers but unfortunately was discontinued. The craft beer industry is so damn IPA centric (and sometimes IPLs pretending to be pilsners) that it's hard for me to maintain interest in. Are there any good amber lagers/amber ales that you guys have had that aren't decades old beers from established breweries?
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  2. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (2,110) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    It seems like the American beer industry has tended toward extremes. Whether we.are talking about industrial beer where super pale and super light brews dominate or the craft segment where beers that emphasize massive hop expression, bombastic pastry flavoring and malt sweetness, or full on fruit smoothie characteristics dominate sales and the conversations of the geekery.

    Amber styles aren't extreme. That's the best answer I've got for you.
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  3. BanquetEnjoyer

    BanquetEnjoyer Initiate (26) Jul 14, 2022 New York

    That must be why Michelob Lager faded into obscurity. It's neither a selzter testing light beer like Bud Light or loud IPA/sour/pastry stout etc..

    A shame, because I really enjoy these "balanced" sort of beers
  4. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,102) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Back when I was one of their best customers, Rushing Duck made one of my favorite beers, an amber ale listed here as an imperial red ale. It had just the right amount and type of hops to highlight that luscious maltiness. Wish I had one now!
  5. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,574) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    They were big in the early '90s, then IPA took over.

    You missed your time.
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  6. crazyspicychef

    crazyspicychef Devotee (429) Sep 27, 2012 Pennsylvania

    Good luck on your quest. I'm in the same boat. Can't find a good beer worth a damn anymore.
    Vienna Lagers are making somewhat of a comeback. Maybe one of those will hit the spot?
    Von Trapp & Devil's Backbone make good ones.
    I haven't seen a good ole classic Amber Ale in a very long time, other than ones I brew.
    A German style Alt might fit the bill if you can locate one?
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  7. jonphisher

    jonphisher Meyvn (1,388) Aug 9, 2015 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    You’re in NY I’m jealous you still can probably get Adirondack Lager. That beer along with long trail ale were my first loves. I’m guessing you have tried though; if you haven’t go grab a six pack.

    For me locally a place called slack tide brews an amber ale I haven’t tried yet but it was just canned again, won a GABF medal too. I hope to find it soon.
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  8. Sheppard

    Sheppard Poo-Bah (2,266) Mar 16, 2013 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    Some thoughts:
    1. Not a lot of people are asking for them, so the demand doesn't seem like it's there
    2. The style itself (amber beer) is already dominated by a couple of players (Fat Tire, Boston Lager) so the ability to create a big brand out of it, which you would especially want with an amber lager (wrt to building scale to combat turnover time). This is a detriment. For the record, I think local renditions of these types of beers can still be successful (see: Port City Optimal Wit in DC where Allagash White is available).
    3. It seems like most owners are creating breweries based off of what they think beer drinkers want from a brewery not what they want to do. That seems to be why we're getting some homogeneity and also why we are not getting as many breweries trying to carve out their own niche.
    My local brewery (Notch) has a polotmavy that I've been crushing every time I go. I'm with you with regards to this style not being more prevalent.
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  9. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,632) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    Bell's is one brewery that still brews and distributes an Amber Ale year-round. You should be able to find it. It's been years since I've had it (yes, I'm caught up in this IPA thing) but I remember it being very good. Check their beer finder here.
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  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,617) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You can add Von C Brewing and Workhorse Brewing to your list.

    The head brewer at Workhorse is Nate Olewine who previously worked at Devils Backbone (and reportedly was instrumental in the recipe formulation of that beer). Workhorse Vienna Lager was a year-round beer for the first couple of years from the opening of Workhorse but now it is a rotating brand. I wonder how long until Von C decided to make their Vienna Lager a rotating product.

  11. LesDewitt4beer

    LesDewitt4beer Meyvn (1,287) Jan 25, 2021 Minnesota

    Yes. One of the better Vienna Lagers that I've had in the past year is from Sioux Falls, SD. Fernsons Lion's Paw Lager. A popular brewery. I'm 4.5 hrs drive from them but I believe they have no drops in MN as I've not seen it here. Cheers!
  12. ESHBG

    ESHBG Devotee (429) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Great Lakes Eliot Ness is a solid Vienna Lager but sadly appears to be another casualty and is rapidly disappearing from my area.

    The beer scene is not really my cup of tea err beer anymore and my interest continues to decline with each passing year for various reasons. I do think that the IPAs/hazies trend is going to implode soon, though, due to saturation.
  13. slander

    slander Poo-Bah (2,345) Nov 5, 2001 New York
    Moderator Society

    The Amber went the way of the Brown Ale and Porter before it.
    Not gone, but fewer of them out there.
    These used to be flagship styles to breweries and they've traded up for the hazy, pastry, and Idontknowwhatthefuckyouweregoingforhere sours.
    I often feel like the only reason the Stout is still with us is due to the horrible things people can do them.
    There are still some of 'em all out there, but a lot less of them and not as fresh when you find them.
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  14. kp7

    kp7 Initiate (116) Feb 8, 2021 Massachusetts

    As another poster mentioned, with you being in NYS long trail ale is going to be one of your best bets. It should be available just about anywhere (but you might have a situation like my local that stocks four "different" long trail IPAs but doesn't carry the ale). Another good option is jack's abby shipping out of boston. A very nice amber lager. I'm not sure what JA distro looks like in NY, but grab a 12 if you can get it.

    This is a bit out of scope, but as you're in NY if you want a bolder flavor than an amber try lake placid's ubu ale. A great English style strong ale.
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  15. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,102) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Man, I lived on those DB Vienna Lagers at Lockn. So good!
  16. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,617) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    But plenty of Von C Vienna Lager available to you.

    Served from a Lukr side-pull tap at the brewery:


    Or cans from your local Beer Distributor (albeit in our non-preferred format of four-packs/16 once cans):


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  17. ESHBG

    ESHBG Devotee (429) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Yeah that's the main issue, not thrilled with the format and price and prefer things like EN for that reason.
  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,617) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I was just at Kunda hoping to find fresh German brewed Kolsch beers.

    There are three six-pack of Von Trapp Vienna Lager on the shelf.

    Cheers to six-packs!
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  19. BanquetEnjoyer

    BanquetEnjoyer Initiate (26) Jul 14, 2022 New York

    Yes we do have Adirondack Lager, which I love. It is not as easy to find here on Long Island as it used to be though.

    My local beer distributor used to have Long Trail ( I never tried it) but I think got rid of it since the Seltzer craze, so I'll have to look elsewhere.

    I have seen Bell's Amber in the wild, I would like to try it.

    All 3 of these beers have been around a very long time though, which goes back to my original point that it seems like very few breweries are making new ones.
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  20. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,994) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    I get the Jack's Abby variety pack quite often, and love how it includes Shipping Out of Boston- one of the rare variety packs that's solid throughout.
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  21. jkrich

    jkrich Meyvn (1,416) Nov 1, 2001 Florida

    Bell's Amber ale was one of my favorite amber ales, and could usually find it even in the Florida panhandle. Sadly, I haven't seen it for over a year.
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  22. GratefulBeerGuy

    GratefulBeerGuy Poo-Bah (3,506) May 20, 2006 New Hampshire
    Society Trader

    Word to the industry: bring back more styles!! I love NEIPA and I like fruity sours but I need more styles. I came up on The Smuttynose Big Beer series bombers, different styles all of the time. Take me back.
  23. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,632) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    I agree with you when it comes to distributed beers, but I visit many breweries (many fairly new) as kind of a hobby, and I see amber ales listed on the menu boards on a regular basis. I think it's probably the new brewers are still practicing their trade by brewing the basic recipes, or they haven't come to the realization yet that they'd better be brewing more IPAs if they want to make any money.
  24. BanquetEnjoyer

    BanquetEnjoyer Initiate (26) Jul 14, 2022 New York

    I don't buy that IPAs are inherently better selling than ambers considering the long standing popularity of Boston Lager. At the 7 Elevens near me, those are one of the only craft beers that survived the hard seltzer craze. They used to carry a decent amount of craft beer but now that space all goes to hard seltzer.
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  25. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,632) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    You're confusing me. In your opening post you lamented that the industry is too IPA-centric, and that statement implies that IPAs are outselling amber ales, not only because there are more of them but also because the demand is greater for them or there wouldn't be so many on the store shelves.

    And for the Boston Lager to have survived the seltzer craze on the store shelves of 7-11 stores, I have a feeling that's because the Boston Lager comes in on the same truck that delivers the Truly Hard Seltzer and the distributor is just pushing his entire product line based on available shelf space in a small store. But I agree that BL is a big seller.
  26. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Aspirant (296) Jan 13, 2006 New Mexico

    They are still very popular in Europe. I have 3 Belgian and 2 French ambers in my beer fridge right now. I even have a non alcohol amber for my BIL who quit drinking 10 years ago but still likes beer flavor.
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  27. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,903) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I still see it in SE MI.
  28. IMFletcher

    IMFletcher Crusader (787) May 2, 2014 Kentucky

    Folks on here lamenting that they can't drink an InBev-owned product anymore. Sigh.

    Craft breweries can't make old school flagship-style beers that compete with the price/quality of said old school flagships produced by macro on any sort of scale such that the grumpy old men can find them on store shelves, because there aren't that many grumpy old men wanting to buy craft flagships. Go look at the date codes on them and see how long they've been sitting on that shelf, waiting for you to come buy it.
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  29. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,515) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Well, "inherently" is the catch in that claim :wink: but if one looks at the actual stats, IPAs became the largest style within the craft segment around 2010 IIRC Before that, in 2008, the Brewers Association put IPA's share of craft at around 8%. Last figure I recall seeing it's over 40% these days.

    Samuel Adams Boston Lager hasn't even been BBC's best selling "beer" SKU for most of the last decade - since BBC "Seasonal" (same barcode, regardless of beer) has been outselling the flagship. It does appear that both Twisted Tea and Truly appear to outsell SABL as well these days.
  30. DrStiffington

    DrStiffington Poo-Bah (1,822) Oct 27, 2010 New Jersey

    Yup, that beer was my favorite of theirs back in the day. In fact, I forgot I was the one who added it to BA until I clicked on your link. Hoppy amber/red ales are a great change of pace.
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  31. DrStiffington

    DrStiffington Poo-Bah (1,822) Oct 27, 2010 New Jersey

    One I wish was still around (at least I haven’t seen it) is Oskar Blues G’Knight.
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  32. dennisthreeninefiveone

    dennisthreeninefiveone Initiate (156) Aug 11, 2020 New Jersey

    Do you know if Brooklyn Lager out sells Boston Lager?
  33. BanquetEnjoyer

    BanquetEnjoyer Initiate (26) Jul 14, 2022 New York

    Highly unlikely
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  34. Mortal_Wombat

    Mortal_Wombat Initiate (153) Jul 7, 2020 Texas

    It's definitely a bit region-dependent anymore. Amber ales were pretty popular in the Southern Plains states (Kansas/Oklahoma/Texas) through most of the 2010s and seem to still get some run by local brewers.

    As for lagers, anecdotally at least I've noticed a lot of the IPA-centric brewers in DFW kicking out the occasional Vienna or Vienna-adjacent lager. It's definitely not something I see a ton but it's out there. I think there's some movement happening on pivoting back to lagers so maybe that changes soon in a lot of places.
  35. BruChef

    BruChef Initiate (189) Nov 8, 2009 New York

    Wait til next year when Big Ditch brews Galaxy Red again. Its a “red” IPA but to me it’s a more modern version of (Troegs) Hop-back Amber/Nugget Nectar. Great price at $9.99 for a sixer of 12oz cans.
  36. BanquetEnjoyer

    BanquetEnjoyer Initiate (26) Jul 14, 2022 New York

    Sorry for the confusion. I do think that the industry is IPA centric, but I do not believe that it is purely because that's what consumers prefer. A chicken vs egg kind of debate I guess.

    I don't think Boston Lager's survival at 7-11 is purely because it comes on the same truck as Truly. Sam Adams has been the most popular craft beer company for a while, so their products are less likely to be taken off the shelves than those of a smaller brewery. But it is sad to see how much shelf space beer is losing.

    Even when I go to actual beer distributors, seltzers and alcopops take up way more shelf space than they did a few years ago. So I see a noticibly smaller variety in craft beer that I can get. No more Long Trail and Saranac, for instance.

    I'm not surprised about Twisted Tea and Truly being more popular than BL. Both hard seltzer and hard tea are gaining in popularity while beer (both macro and craft) is declining.
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  37. bsp77

    bsp77 Poo-Bah (2,404) Apr 27, 2008 Minnesota

    Does Fat Tire still sell much, or is that even getting its ass kicked by all the Voodoo Ranger variants?

    I also just had Alaskan Amber (altbier) on draft the other day and forgot how solid that beer is.
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  38. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,802) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado

    From what I understand, Fat Tire still sells fairly well BUT the Voodoo Ranger line is far and away the most successful part of New Belgium right now. The conversation went something like "Fat Tire isn't going anywhere, but it's not what keeps the lights on anymore." Even around here, most of the random bar/restaurant FT taps have transitioned into VR taps.

    CO used to be the "amber state" and I don't think any of our famous examples (Avalanche, Fat Tire, 90 Shilling, Sawtooth, Annapurna, Ridgeline, HMS Victory, the Tower, etc.) are the top sellers anywhere. Many are only barely hanging on.
  39. ilikebeer03

    ilikebeer03 Poo-Bah (1,848) Oct 17, 2012 Texas
    Society Trader

    Because IPAs and stouts sell better. That simple.

    But there's been a resurgence of lagers. Especially down here in Texas where it gets quite hot.
  40. jmdrpi

    jmdrpi Poo-Bah (8,559) Dec 11, 2008 Pennsylvania

    Not based on the Brewer's Association's definition. When they changed their definition of "Craft Brewer", Yuengling took over the top spot.

    The 2021 list:

    Yuengling's flagship Traditional Lager is an amber adjunct lager, it's over 75% of their sales, so that is one beer in that category still going strong. Gambrinus is #5 on the list, and their flagship Shiner Bock is another amber adjunct lager as well. Abita is #16 on the list, I would assume their best selling beer is still Abita Amber since that's the most common craft beer tap handle you see in New Orleans.
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