Beer has been a part of Australian life since the beginning of British colonisation, with Captain James Cook having beer on Endeavour as a means of preserving drinking water, and the story of beer in Australia has continued to grow and develop since then.

With lots of long, hot days it’s no surprise that the light and refreshing taste of a crisp, cold lager has engaged Australian beer drinkers for a long time. Iconic and historical beers like Cascade Draught, from the oldest brewery still in operation in Australia, as well as Carlton Draught, Tooheys New, Victoria Bitter and XXXX are all Australian lagers.

The first Australian lager, Excelsior, was brewed by the Cohn Brothers in 1882. They were soon followed by American immigrants, the Foster brothers, who arrived with refrigeration technology (making it easier to recreate the cool storehouses of Germany) in 1887, while Castlemaine Brewery and Quinlan, Grey & Co produced its lager in 1889.

There can be little doubt that lager is the most regularly drunk beer style in the world. According to Brand Finance, a market research firm which offers estimated valuations of brands, all of the top 10 most valuable beer brands in the world in 2023 had lagers, or lager-like beers, as their main product. The top three brands, Heineken, Corona Extra and Budweiser are all global lager brands.

It can be argued that a consumer response to the ubiquity of such lagers was the start and growth of the craft beer movement, with drinkers moving towards more hop-forward, punchy beer styles that made you have to sit down and think about what was in your glass.

But, once again it is starting to change, and lighter more refreshing beer styles are coming to the fore and brewers are responding to consumer demand.

The man many would consider to be ‘the Godfather of Australian craft’, Chuck Hahn has come out of retirement to launch Chuck and Son’s Brewing Company with his son Scott Hahn, and the pair have said they will focus on bringing nostalgic, refreshing and sessionable beers back to Australia’s beer-loving consumers.

Speaking about the beers, Chuck said: “We call the first beer The Original Pilsner, but it’s a classic style of Pilsner using mostly Czech Saaz and 100 per cent malt, it’s a really good quality beer, not too high alcohol level, it’s a classic Pilsner.”

Chuck also said the team had developed a Radler-style beer, which is a connection back to his German heritage, with Scott adding: “With the Radler we wanted to offer something to younger legal-age drinkers and those people who don’t really like the full taste of beer. I know there’s seltzers out there but we said ‘let’s have a go at bringing back tradition to refresh pallets’.”

Philter’s Head Brewer, Max Haemmerle, agrees that there are opportunities for breweries who engage with younger, legal age, drinkers.

“The current market shows that the younger generation alcoholic drinks consumers ask for low carb, low cal, gluten free etc. beverages. I think breweries jumping on board to create ‘Seltzer’ alternatives is the way to go in the current market. 

“Lagers which apply for the slightly older generation from 25+ have experienced a rise in popularity. There is no big change required how lagers should be these days but there is room for experimenting with lagers.”

Haemmerle also talked about some of the key elements needed to create that perfect, crisp lager.

“I wouldn’t say there is much of a challenge of creating a solid good lager,” he said. “If there is, you want to always focus on a clean crisp taste and choosing the right yeast.

“When it comes to lighter style beers, the brewer wants to create a product still providing a great body and hops presence according to the beer style. Reason being is that lower ABV beers lose some body so you want to compensate and act on your grain bill and hops additions. And again, the yeast plays a role as well.”

Brightstar’s brewer Steve Brockman highlighted the role of various yeast strains in lager, saying:” It is estimated about 70 per cent of the world’s lagers are made with W34/70 – a super clean lager strain isolated from world famous Weihenstephan. It is a workhorse, producing very clean beers with consistent results.

“There are other strains that also produce fine lagers. S-23 (isolated from VLB Berlin, also known as Fermolager) has very light fruity notes, from increased ester production. S-189 (isolated from Hürliman in Switzerland) brings a herbal and floral note to your beer.Because lagers can be quite delicate, picking the right yeast can be integral in nailing the flavour profile you’re after. Take the time to do research, work out what lager strain is most appropriate for the style of beer you are brewing and experiment.”

Fermentis is a global leader in the complex art of fermentation, working with brewers, winemakers and distillers across the world, delivering yeast strains of the highest quality.

The Fermentis range of lager yeasts includes all those mentioned by Brockman: SafLager™ W‑34/70, the strong & robust lager yeast, ideal for neutral beers, SafLager™ E‑30, the optimal yeast to reveal the esters in lager beers, SafLager™ S‑189, a great yeast for elegant lagers with floral notes and the new SafLager™ S‑23, the solution for fruity and hoppy lagers.

Haemmerle said: “Fermentis has got a great variety of yeast strains to suit many beer styles. “It always depends on which flavours and aromas you want to bring out and support in your beer and according to that you choose your yeast.

“Furthermore the attenuation of a yeast strain plays a big role. It will be interesting to try the new lager strain that Fermentis just quite recently released.”

So, with the Australian consumer once again showing its love for lager; with lager offering opportunities for brewers to show their skills and create brews that truly resonate with Australian beer drinkers; with Fermentis offering a great range of yeasts that can help brewers make incredible lagers, now is the time to contact your local Bintani representative and make brews that Australian consumers will love.

Click here to find out more about the Fermentis SafLager™ E-30 yeast and how it can help you with your lager brews.