In recent years, many craft breweries have moved away from the overly hopped IPA’s and dark stouts and moved back to classic lagers and pilsners. “They are jumping [into lagers] similar to the way they jumped into the IPA craze,” says Dan Gordon, Co-founder and head brewer at Gordon Biersch Brewing Company.
He says that brewing lagers isn’t as easy as it would seem. There are a lot of surprises for those who don’t have a background in lager production as it is technically difficult and requires precision brewing. “Lager production is very unforgiving in a lot of ways.”
The excitement that the craft brewing community has for lagers is palpable. “In particular, I think it has become evident that it is time to challenge the notions of what a solid, flavorful American pilsner can be,” says Jon Carpenter, Brew Master at Angel City Brewery.
In other words, lagers are getting weird. Craft breweries are going beyond the traditional German and Czech Pils, and experimenting with newer styles. In particular, they’re marrying traditional ale styles like the IPA with lager yeast to create an IPL (India Pale Lager). “As a brewer, it’s a great opportunity to work with more delicate and nuanced yeast strains that offer their own unique flavor profiles to beers,” says Golden Road Brew Master Jesse Houck.
From the brewer’s perspective, lagers offer a new opportunity to continuously refine their skills, patience and palates towards a wider range of beer styles. “Thanks to some great craft lagers in the market, consumers have also realized that lagers can still be full-flavored and exciting beers,” says Houck.
Maybe there’s a reason the majority of the world is drinking lagers. Here are 10 craft lagers that are worthy of space in your fridge.
Golden Road 329
This is the craft beer-lover’s everyday beer. Medium-bodied, crisp and refreshing, 329 Lager is brewed with 2-Row and wheat malts and balanced with a combination of Hallertau Tradition and Opal hops. This Helles/American-style lager comes in at 4.8% ABV and emanates a delicate floral finish with notes of honeysuckle and jasmine.
Angel City Gold Line
Angel City Gold Line Pilsner is a hop forward German-style pils. Sharp green hop aroma from Hallertau, Tettnang, and Saaz hops lead into a medium-bodied golden lager with a light estery fruitiness and a dry, hoppy, slightly bitter finish.
Gordon Biersch Czech-style Pilsner
Their Czech Style pilsner focuses on the pin-point fine bitterness and aroma produced by the noble aroma hops we use. They use two primary hops: Hallertau and Tettnang. The Czech style pilsner differentiates itself from a German style pilsner by having more body and slightly less bitterness. “The Northern German pilsner are also excellent but we went for the classic,” says Gordon. “Plzen (Czech Republic) is the town where it all started.”
Dogfish Head Piercing Pils
This 6% ABV is a classic Czech style Pilsner brewed with white pear tea and pear juice. The juice and tea are added in the kettle after the boil to create the maximum pear, pilsner combination. This is a great beer for drinkers who are a little wearier of going full-on pilsner on their first try.
Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils
Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pils is a Czech style pilsner made without the usual corn and rice. It’s brewed with 100% pale malt, German malts and Saaz hops. It has the flavor of an authentic European pilsner with a slight hop flavor and only 5.3% ABV. Plus, it comes in a can and that’s pretty cool.
This 6% ABV beer is the only lager from Lagunitas, more widely known for their hop-driven brews. Like Oskar Blues’ pilsner, Lagunitas Pils is loaded with Saaz hops as well as a bottom-fermenting yeast strain to make for a rich, smooth, easy drinking pilsner.
Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager
Brewed for Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest, the Summerfest Lager is an homage to the world’s most popular beer style. This 5% ABV lager is brewed with Perle, Saaz and Spalter Select hops as well as Two-row Pale, Pilsner and Munich malts. This beer is perfect anytime of the year, not just during the summer months.
New Belgium Blue Paddle Pilsner
This 4.8% ABV Pilsner is New Belgium’s first lager offering. It’s a crisp, malty Czech-style pilsner made with Saaz, Liberty and Target hops as well as Pale, Munich, Carapils and Aromatic malts. Enjoy a Blue Paddle while you watch the seasons change from the bleakness of winter to the bright, rejuvenation of spring.
Victory Prima Pils
“Prima!” is the German exclamation for joy. The folks at Victory are overjoyed to craft this malted, sweet Pilsner made with European hops and German malts. It sits at 5.3% ABV and is perfectly suited for spring and summer since it pairs well with burgers, hotdogs and steak.
Bell’s Lager of the Lakes
The famed Michigan brewery’s lager is made in the Bohemian-style of pilsners for a crisp, herbal, malted flavor. It sits at 5.0% ABV so you shouldn’t feel bad about downing a few of these while you catch a few baseball games this summer.