Lager Ferments at the Bottom, but Still Tops the World Market

beers, lagers and pilsners

Although Lager can come in many colors from light yellow to dark amber, many people are most familiar with the golden-colored Pilsner.

Lagers vary widely. Produced all over the world, under thousands of labels, all lagers still have one element in common: they type of yeast upon which they rely to ferment the sugars in their malt to alcohol. Lagers largely differ from ales due to the yeast their brewers choose.

Unlike ales, which exploit highly active, top-fermenting yeast, lagers turn to a slow-acting yeast that tends to settle near the bottom of the fermentation tank.

Lager color values are usually light, but they span the spectrum from quite pale to medium dark. Well-made lager is often highly carbonated, ranges from 3%-5% alcohol, and its hop flavor, although distinct, is not too heavy. In short, lager is regarded as a very refreshing beverage. 

Lagers are generally fermented in the moderate temperature range of 7-12¡C (45-54¡F), but held at temperatures near freezing for two weeks to a few months. Lagers ferment under much colder conditions than ales, and most people prefer to drink them much colder, too.

In fact, among the specialty lagers is a brew called ice beer. Ice beer fermentation takes place below 0¡C (32¡F). Ice-brewed beer is typically light, quite crisp, and consumed very cold.

Sampling Some Famous Lagers

Because lager boasts an extensive production history and a diversity of producers, numerous sub-types have developed within the genre, many of them so different from one another it is difficult to believe they belong to the same general group. Even lagers from the same nation differ greatly.

  • From Germany comes Bock, a strong brew that can be either light or dark.
  • Germany also produces Dortmunder, the working class hero of German beers. Dortmund style is malty, more deeply colored than Pilsner, a little earthy, and slightly bitter.
  • Munchener, a Bavarian beer, is almost always dark and very malty.
  • Marzen is a beer with which you become familiar if you frequent authentic Oktoberfests, and can be pale, amber, or even dark brown, but should always be full -bodied.
  • Rauchbier is brewed from roasted malts, and further flavored by wood smoke. Vienna beer is amber-red.

The Most Popular Lager

Famous as the German lagers may be, they are overshadowed by Pilsner. Pilsner originated in the town of Pilsen, located in the Czech Republic. The archetypeal Pilsner color is pure gold; its flavor can range from dry to sweet, and be light or exhibit substantial hops. Pilsner is, in general, more bitter than other beers.

The recipe for Pilsner evolved between 1820 and the mid 1840′s, but it has a near stranglehold on today’s marketplace. Sales statistics indicate that, in the United States, nearly 90% of the beer we drink is a variation of Pilsner lager. And, that the pale lager is the most popular style of beer in the world.

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