Pardon me while I get on my soapbox for a minute: Craft beer lovers of the world, unite! We have an important task in front of us; we must rescue or at least rebrand the lager. Put simply, far, far, far too many beer drinkers associate lagers with the beer made by big companies—I don't need to name them do I?
The word lager has been deemed guilty by association. I see it all the time in my store. I might be sampling an excellent lager and customers pass on the grounds of, “Oh, I prefer ales.” Also, I see price point resistance to buy a delicious lager because it’s in the same range as a high end stout or IPA. Somewhere in the public's imagination, lagers still mean that crappy beer they drank before their taste buds knew better. It's time for a freedom movement to liberate this wonderful, cornerstone style of beer from its image as a tasteless beer produced by large companies and consumed by uninformed drinkers. Of course, as my father used to say about elections, you can't beat a somebody with a nobody, and in this case, you can't champion lagers without having a lager or three to champion.
I'm especially fond of two new entrants to the marketplace and one often underrated classic. One of the new brews is American Darling from Pretty Things, the gypsy brewer tandem of Dann and Martha Paquette, who brew several superb styles of beer in Western Massachusetts.Their lager is reserved and crisp with hints of citrus and a nice toasted English muffin overtone at the finish.
Another new lager that I've been loving is the Stillwater Yacht. It's a dry hopped lager that is so crisp it's almost edgy and it‘s got a nice a nice round of florals in the finish.
The classic is Mahr's unfiltered lager, which hails from Bamberg. It's robust yet smooth and full of savory delights.
I love sampling each of these beers to my clientele and watching their eyes light up when I tell them it's a lager. “So THAT'S what a lager is supposed to taste like,” is a common refrain. These beers are distinctly different from even well known American craft beers like Sam Adams Boston Lager or Brooklyn Lager in that they aren't malty, which allows a complex harmony of flavors to shine through. My other big fear is that people will think of them as summer brews when, in fact, these beers are great for year round drinking. They may not have the cachet of a stout aged in bourbon barrels or a pale ale with designer hops, but they are every bit their equal, and these lagers and others like them deserve recognition as great beer.
Martin Johnson is a beer buyer and merchandising manager for Westside Market East Village in New York City.When not selling or drinking beer he writes about jazz and beer for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate, beer for Eater and about a variety of cultural and culinary topics for The Root.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.