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Lager… It Ain’t All Bad

Lager

Photo credit: Simon Taylor Photography.

 

Somewhere along the line lager developed a bit of a bad rap, but as Luke Robertson discovered in our Summer 2017/18 Issue, drinkers are slowly coming back and brewers are responding with some new and unique variations on the classic style. 

The word lager conjures all sorts of negative images for many drinkers. Green bottles, big marketing campaigns, and lifeless pours out of dirty lines in your local pub. The glory and the romance of a well-crafted lager has had much of the life sucked out and it’s synonymous with all the things that represent the negatives of beer.

Slowly, it seems, drinkers are coming back to lagers and brewers are trying their own unique variations on the classic pale lager or pilsner led styles. One such brewer is Renn Blackman at Blackman’s Brewery in Torquay. He’s one of Australia’s biggest champions of the style. While he agrees it does have a bad reputation he’s finding the pointy end of the market still appreciate them.

“I think the real proper beer geeks, the ones who are really into it, actually get lager. So beer nerd-wise 80 per cent of people shun lager a bit, but that’s because they don’t really understand how cool it can be.”

Renn has an unfiltered lager as a staple in his range and has started a project called the Lager Collective, showcasing three different versions of lager. At Hairyman Brewery in Sydney’s southern suburbs, brewer Andy Orrell agrees that lager is a bit misunderstood.

“A lot of people have a bad rap on lagers, because of the way commercial breweries have treated them and branded them over the years.”

He has one lager in his three beer range. He says his outer-Sydney location makes lager a perfect style for a crowd that may not be ready for bigger flavours, a comment echoed by Viren Goundrie from Stone & Wood. He has just completed a series of lager education sessions around Australia, to coincide with the relaunch of their Big Scrub Lager. They wanted to change perceptions of lager by showcasing not only their own take, but other beers using lager yeast and techniques. He says when they visit smaller towns they find their Green Coast Lager is a good way to get beer into peoples’ hands.

“We see that very much when we do our local events, Pacific Ale might be too weird and wacky for the people who have just drunk regular lager all the time.”

A recent trip to Germany helped Goundrie improve his own perception of lagers.

“Once you’re open to it, it’s about perceiving the subtle difference, rather than a big bold IPA with out there hops in it, and the differences can be really obvious.”

Another Sydney-based brewery finding a place for lager is Australian Brewery. They have a New World Pilsner, which is a hoppy take on the classic Pilsner style, and a Mexcian style lager called Seis Hermanos Lager. Marketing Manager David Ward says he was initially tentative to have two core range lagers, but says they have found a place for both of them. Likewise for fellow Sydneysiders Willie the Boatman. They have a straightforward pilsner-style, called Marrickville Lager, and a corn ale-slash-Lager called ‘Albo’ (named for Anthony Albanese, the local politician) in their line-up. The Marrickville Lager is their biggest selling beer.

“It’s literally just malt, water, yeast and hops, and our approach is pretty much just a straight lager recipe. It’s really uncomplicated and it’s just a beautiful beer,” McInerney says, adding, “It’s an expensive beer to make, just in terms of how long it’s in the fermenters, it’s a real challenge.”

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  • Mike at Old Bar

    Probably more the case that Australian craft brewers are now finally competent enough to make a decent lager as opposed to the inevitably orange cloudy frozen ales that passed as craft beer ten years ago.

    Not only does making a lager involve tying up valuable storage for weeks or months, but you have to be skilled enough to brew the thing properly in the first place – maybe even have a stab at decoction mashing. Any errors or fluctuations in quality can’t be hidden behind by simply throwing more Simcoe or Amarillo at it.

    Welcome to the world of real brewing.