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Next Craft Beer Phenom

Over the course of the last 20 years or so there have been a number of different styles that have enjoyed huge success. Back in the mid 90s everybody had there favorite hefeweizen. Then it was pale ales, then stouts, then IPA had their run. Right now I am seeing Belgian yeasts get their turn.

The one thing that these beers all have in common is that they are all ales. When will lagers get their turn? I know that there are a number of breweries that do some lagers but they are clearly the exception to the rule.

When will I get to pick up a local craft brewed pils?

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  1. Quite a few craft brewed lagers, such as pilseners, are out there. Look for them, and you will find many.

    1. Two words: Jack's Abby

      3 Replies
      1. re: brentk

        Not available in Oregon.

        1. re: jpc8015

          Schrimshaw (North Coast) and Polestar (Lefthand) I'd imagine would be available out your way.

          1. re: jpc8015

            Ever beer trade? I haven't but would love to. I could get Jacks Abby around me -

        2. Also lagers are as diverse in color and strength as ale.

          1. As others have mentioned there are many craft lagers. Full Sail, Rogue, Victory, Coney Island, Avery, Ballast Point, North Coast, and Anchor all come to mind off the bat. They tend to be rarer because of the much longer fermentation time required. I think that alone will keep it from becoming a trendy style.

            1. I dont know where in the world you´re from, but pils and lagers is what everybody hates now where I live.

              The new beer trend is all about IPA and pale ales, and also stout, because everyone has started to hate the generic pils.

              And I do as well. It doesnt taste anything, while IPA does. I´m so glad that we´ve moved away from lagers now. Because we are starting to appreciate true craftsmanship behind beer, and exploring the different ingredients from different parts of the world. We´ve been drinking pils and lagers for 50 years without questioning it.

              Lagers and pils are now a thing for old drunks. Who just want to fill their veins with some alcoholic piss.

              28 Replies
              1. re: Ramius

                Many beer lovers enjoy a variety of lagers which as I stated above range in color and strength equal to ale. If you mean macro lager I gotcha. But from pilsners like Victory Prima Pils to eisbocks, lager beer is quality and worthy of your attention.

                1. re: Chinon00

                  I totally agree with Chinon00 on this. There is an amazingly diverse range of lagers in today's craft beer.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    Spot on. The concept that lager = bad and ale = good is a level of ignorance that you are sure to grow out of as you travel the craft beer road and realize there is a long and delicious history of lager making completely independent of what the macro breweries produce. Just because McDonalds makes Big Macs does not mean there are no hamburgers worth eating. If you get a chance take a trip to Germany or the Czech Republic you will find a world of wonderful lagers of all shapes and varieties that they have been mastering for almost two centuries. And there are certainly plenty of american craft brewers doing wonderful jobs with lagers as well as people have noted. Describing lager/pilsner choices as being bud versus craft beer is no longer accurate.

                  2. re: Ramius

                    I live just outside of the beer capital of the universe...Portland, OR. There is no shortage of stouts, imperial stouts, oatmeal stouts,dry stouts, cream stouts, stout porters, porters, IPAs, double IPAs, imperial IPAs, white IPAs, black IPAs, red IPAs, brown IPAs, browns, bitters, extra special bitters, Summer ales, cream ales, Scottish ales, pale ales, rye ales, wheat ales, spelt ales, and on and on and on...There is no shortage of ales and for the most part they are all very good.

                    All I am saying is that I would love to see a few more of the craft breweries like Deschutes, Widmer, and Stone try their hand at a Munch Helles, pils, or schwartzbier. If you think that lager is only for the village drunkard then you are painting with a pretty broad stroke. There is most definitely a time and a place for a good pils, tomorrow night standing over my grill in my backyard would be a perfect example.

                    1. re: jpc8015

                      I am surprised that in the beer capital of the universe there are no breweries that specialize in lagers. I travel the country with regularity for work (though Portland is not on the list of cities I visit) and I do find that there are a scattering of good lager-oriented breweries in many places.

                      I mentioned Jack's Abby (Massachusetts) earlier because that is the best one I have found but even in my home state of North Carolina we have a pretty good one in Olde Mecklenburg. Not sure how the beer capital of the universe can stake that claim when it lacks a brewery that is not focusing on one of the world's three great brewing traditions.

                      1. re: brentk

                        There may be some breweries out there that specialize in lager. They would just be so small that they don't matter.

                        There are a couple of breweries that do feature a lager or two. Someone else here mentioned Bridgeport which has their Session Lagers. There is also a very small brewery in the town I live in which makes a pils that is passable but I am not convinced they are using lager yeast. I keep meaning to ask but always forget.

                        It just seems to me that this is a style of beer that is a bit neglected in the craft beer world.

                        1. re: jpc8015

                          It's simple math. Lagers = long fermentation and storage, tying up tanks and resources that could be turning out ale. I also lament the lack of craft lagers. There are some good ones out there, but not enough IMO.

                          1. re: Josh

                            Sad yet true. Me thinks this lead to the demise of my fave Sierra Nevada, Pale Bock.

                            1. re: MOREKASHA

                              And Glissade. Still devasted about that one - and still searching for a late winter replacement for it.

                            2. re: Josh

                              In addition to the math, which is pretty compelling, craft breweries focused on ales from the beginning because they were taking inspiration from CAMRA, and McAuliffe was inspired by Scottish beers. Even Anchor eschewed lagers.

                        2. re: jpc8015

                          I am a huge fan of beers like Arrogant Bastard. One hot day I ordered an Arrogant Bastard at a local bar (that lacked air conditioning). I found it difficult to drink. I followed it with Pilsner Urquell, which I typically never order, and it refreshed.

                          1. re: Jim Dorsch

                            I still think that the Original Pivo Urquell (I know that's redundant) was one of the worlds great brews. It's sad what it has become and what folks think of Pils and most have never had a fresh, authentic Urquell. It was one of the few brews that I thought of as a true year 'round tipple.

                          2. re: jpc8015

                            Is Widmer still considered a Craft Brewer in Portland?

                            1. re: JAB

                              Aren't they a Bud product now?

                              1. re: MOREKASHA

                                Regardless of who the parent company is, they are still putting out some fantastic beers. Their rotator IPA series is top notch.

                                I had not heard that they may be an AB subsidiary but it would not surprise me.

                                1. re: jpc8015

                                  AB owns part of the group that comprises Widmer, Kona and Redhook.

                                  http://beta.fool.com/patrockk/2013/05...

                                2. re: MOREKASHA

                                  Yes, for some time now. I used to like their Amber Ale but, wouldn't cite them as a Craft Brewery with so many others to cite in stead.

                                  1. re: JAB

                                    What makes them not craft - except for BA's definition?

                                    If they were craft beer before they were part of a bigger company then they still are - the way I see it, not much has changed about the kind\quality of beer they make. Still making craft styles with flavor imo. It seems many beer geeks get all caught up about their hefeweizen - yet the american wheat beer is a craft style despite being taken over by industrial brewers in the last few years.

                                    Just because you have a preference for other non-corporate breweries, doesn't exclude Widmer from being a craft brewery.

                                    1. re: LStaff

                                      We each have our definitions. My statement was that I wouldn't site them as an example of a craft brewer when there are so many independent craft brewers who could have been cited in their stead.

                                      1. re: LStaff

                                        "...What makes them not craft - except for BA's definition?
                                        If they were craft beer before they were part of a bigger company then they still are..."

                                        Totally agree.
                                        I'll go a step further and say that _any_ beer made with more attention, care, and flavor than the run of the mill American Light Lager has every right to call itself "craft" beer.

                                        And for the sake of conversation, I'll stir up the mud more with this question: If a small, artisanal ("craft") brewer decides to make and sell an American Light Lager, is it not still a "craft" beer by virtue of it's origins???

                                        That tired marketing term ("craft beer") inches more and more towards obsolescence with each passing year.

                                        1. re: The Professor

                                          I also agree. Widmer may be owned by a company which then has a parent company that also owns Budweiser...however that goes; it is irrelevant to me.

                                          For me the bottom line is whether or not the beer in the glass is good and Widmer still puts out some great beer. Their rotator IPA series comes to mind. Check it out.

                                          I think the same is true for Redhook. I think they are a sibling to Widmer at this point. I still love Redhook.

                                          1. re: jpc8015

                                            And then you have Shock Top, Land Shark, etc. which are masquerading as craft beers.
                                            More water muddying.

                                            1. re: TroyTempest

                                              I don't know what the story with Shock Top is but I guess it is similar to Blue Moon.

                                              Blue Moon is Coors' attempt at getting into the craft beer market. The difference is that producers like Widmer and Redhook started out as small micro breweries that got large and larger as demand for their product grew. I don't know that either of them can still be defined as "micro" but would still call both of them "craft" Blue Moon, on the other hand, is a brand from Coors Brewing Company in the same way that Miller High Life is a brand from Miller Brewing.

                                              Coors has done a great job of hiding the fact that Blue Moon belongs to them. You won't find the word Coors anywhere on the label.

                                              I went to my mom and dad's house house a few weeks back for a barbecue. My mom was so excited to tell me that she picked up some of the Belgian beer that I like so much...it was Blue Moon. I smiled politely, thanked her, and drank it.

                                              1. re: jpc8015

                                                Well, gosh, Blue Moon isn't so baaaadd. But when you get a chance to try a Belgian Witbier with some history to it, then the game really changes. For me, Blanche de Namur was quite a transformational experience, with immense depth and layers of flavor that truly fascinated me. Give a real Belgian a try and you can quickly see what is lacking in Shlock Top and Blue Moon.

                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                  I agree, Blue Moon isn't s bad when compared to Bud Light, Coors Light, etc...It is definitely a step up. It will do the trick when I am standing ver a hot barbecue all day.

                                                  By no means will Blue Moon replace Chimay White in my heart though.

                                                2. re: jpc8015

                                                  Blue Moon was introduced in 1995 (according to Wikipedia, and that seems about right). Coors showed extraordinary patience as they slowly grew the brand. The brewer, Keith Villa, studied brewing in Belgium.

                                                  Shock Top started in 2006 (again, according to Wikipedia), and it is sold at a pretty low price point, unlike Blue Moon, which is priced more like craft beer.

                                                  While both brewers seek to exploit the craft beer market, I give a lot of credit to Coors for building a solid brand, while AB is doing their usual thing, coming into the game late and using price to drive sales.

                                                  Putting a low price on a supposed "craft" beer undermines the segment by reducing potential profitability, and it makes Shock Top vulnerable to sales erosion should AB want to bring up its price point.

                                                  1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                    I dont have an issue with Blue Moon either. Its a drinkable beer with some tradition behind it. Shock Top is gross in comparison in my opinion. I was just in Denver recently and took some time to walk around downtown stopping at all the MANY MANY awesome breweries that saturate the city. I did stop by Coors Field's Sandlot Brewery where Blue Moon was born as I had heard they had some interesting variations that they only served there. Sure enough they had 8 or 9 different beers on tap. I tried a sampler and I must say their experimentation left a lot to be desired... They had an agave Blue Moon (imagine Blue Moon mixed with tequila *shudder*), a juniper DIPA which was overwhelmed by the taste of steeped juniper... and something called "Tongue Thaid" which was a belgian style ale brewed with what seemed like millions of tons of lemon grass... All three were really tough to get down. And all three made my regular Blue Moon taste quite good!

                                                    1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                      I've heard the beer selection at the Sandlot has changed as of late. When I visited in 2005?, they had a wide selection of all malt lagers that were pretty good examples of their styles - even had a rauchbier that was in the range of something like Spezial.

                              2. Maletis Beverages 7000 N. Cutter Cir., Portland, OR 97217 (503-735-2330) is a distributor for Victory Brewing Co. The brewery specializes in German lager (e.g. Victory lager, Prima Pils, Festbier, Doppelbock)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Chinon00

                                  Checked out the victory brewing website and would love to try their beer. Unfortunately I can't find their beer within 100 miles of Portland, OR on the website "beer locator".

                                  Apparently the distributor has done a less than adequate job of getting them shelf space. This is understandable. Portland is a "buy local" first kind of town and with all the local breweries that shelf space is at a premium.

                                  This is unfortunate. I think that we sell ourselves short by dismissing a brewery that may be a couple of states over in favor of the local one, when the local one is inferior.

                                2. The new trend in lagers seems to be attempting to make them taste like ales with bold citrusy american hop profiles that cover any lager character. The style mash up is appealing to newer beer geeks for sure, but I don't really see the point in making a lager if you are just covering up the lager yeast character. Sure the beers are tasty, but they would have been equally as good brewed with chico yeast.

                                  As a lager lover, its kind of funny/sad to see kids these days claim their love for lager (as if its something you have to say to gain credibility or something) while citing jack's abby hoponious union, celebrator, and prima pils as the best lager has to offer.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: LStaff

                                    Seems like a strange comment to me. I've never really thought of lagers as having a yeast character - quite the opposite in fact. Lager yeast is so clean from the low temperature fermentation that beers in that family are much more malt driven, vs. ales with the esters and phenols that come from warmer fermentation temps.

                                    Hoppy lagers can be out-of-whack balance-wise, but not all of them are. Victory Prima Pils comes to mind. It's got a bit more hop character, but still clean and with plenty of malt too.

                                    Also not sure why you'd be down on Celebrator - that's an excellent doppelbock from Germany.

                                    My guess is that "kids these days" are finally exploring the lager end of the beer spectrum instead of being solely focused on IPAs.

                                    First you guys complain that all the beer geeks want IPAs, now you're unhappy that they're getting into lagers. Seems the real problem is the existence of young people.

                                    1. re: Josh

                                      Agreed on the yeast point. To me a good pilsner is about the mix of noble hops and the clean crisp character not the yeast. Sure some are a bit hoppier than others but thats ok. I still find them quite refreshing and clean and fundamentally different from an IPA or a Pale Ale. And Celebrator is definitely all about the malt.

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        Only strange if you don't get/recognize the subtleties that lager yeasts provide. Not something I expect those who cut their teeth on ale flavor bombs to appreciate or understand. When the beer geek bold flavored lager trifecta is held out as the best examples of the style, I just suspect that subtleties are lost on them and they really don't like lager unless it tastes closer to an ale.

                                        If yeast didn't impact the character of the beer why would brewers go through the trouble using a lager yeast when they could make lager faster/easier just by using a clean ale yeast like chico to get a clean yeast profile? Why? Because you can't get the same flavor profile with chico as a lager strain. I've attempted to make lager like beer with chico, and although you can get it to put out some sulfur character and low esters by fermenting at the low end of temperature range, they come out boring because they miss that subtle nutty/mineral depth.

                                        1. re: LStaff

                                          Where did I say yeast doesn't impact the flavor of the beer?

                                    2. May be a West Coast thing. I'm in Philly, and there is no shortage of craft lagers. Besides Victory, Sly Fox makes a couple different lagers. Then there is Stoudt's, they've been making top notch lagers since 1987, including some really complex brews (Honey Double Mai Bock). Eastern PA has deep German ties, so I assume that is a large part of the reason.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: SP1

                                        Besides all of the West Coast craft brewers with individual efforts, there are 2 NorCal craft brewers dedicated to lagers, Trumer and Sudwerk.

                                        1. re: SP1

                                          Off the top of my head Sly Fox regularly brews at least 5 lagers including: helles, pike land pilsner, instrigator doppelbock, dunkel, and Oktoberfest. And I know they do an annual bockfest and feature a bock, maibock, and an eisbock in addition to the doppelbock. I'm sure I forget one.

                                        2. I miss Celis white in a big way and am waiting for the resurrection.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: MOREKASHA

                                            Unfortunately, Hoegaarden White is very little like the original that Celis made, and two others, Julius and Benedict, are history. I consider the original Hoegaarden brews to be the master creations of Pierre Celis.

                                            1. re: MOREKASHA

                                              Maybe you won't have to wait too long. According to this article Christine Celis (daughter of Pierre Celis) is set to start brewing Celis beer in Austin in 2014. Though, according to this, the white isn't the first beer they will brew. It will be a Belgian IPA (which historically isn't possible, i don't think), but sounds tasty. I too miss the white.

                                              http://www.austinchronicle.com/food/2...

                                              1. re: TroyTempest

                                                Praise the lord and pass the Celis. As for the IPA,well they gotta bring in some money and I'm sure it'll be fine brew.

                                                1. re: TroyTempest

                                                  I'll believe it when I actually see bottles on the shelf. She has been talking about this for at least two years now.

                                                  Did the Vroentestraat line that she was creating while trying to acquire the Celis rights ever come about? Labels were approved in the US, but never heard anything else beyond that.

                                                  1. re: LStaff

                                                    You are correct. We have been hearing about it for a while. Keeping fingers crossed.

                                              2. Full Sail (Hood River, Oregon) brews a wide variety of lagers. They have two year-round lagers under the Sessions label (Sessions and Sessions Black), with a third winter-seasonal lager (Sessions Fest). Full Sail also does a limited lager series, which I'd guess might be right up your alley?

                                                Anchor Steam, officially referred to as a Steam beer or California Common style, is an amber lager. At least, in every conversation I've had with Anchor employees, they've been comfortable with that truth.

                                                Sierra Nevada's summer seasonal, Summerfest, is a lager.

                                                I've seen North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner already mentioned here - it's a delicious pils.

                                                I'm not in Oregon, so not super familiar with your regional breweries. Unfortunately for you, Brooklyn Brewery doesn't sell in Oregon (Brooklyn Lager is a fantastic dry-hopped amber lager). And also, Real Ale Brewing out of Texas doesn't sell in Oregon....They have a pilsner (Hans Pils) that's out of this world. It's similar to Victory Prima Pils in a lot of respects - some differences in the bitterness on the finish but both are amazing summertime beers! Anyway, point being, there are a ton of craft lagers out there to discover! Good luck!

                                                1. I work overseas and make it home for three weeks every quarter. I just got back from my quarterly trip home and was surprised to see the number of lagers out there. Apparently a number of breweries were a step ahead of me.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                    Ah - this makes a lot of sense.

                                                  2. Well it seems that the Light IPA (only a matter of time ;-) ) - aka Session IPA or India Session Ale is making a big splash as of late. Founder's is even calling All Day IPA their flagship now. Green Flash Citra Session IPA is quite good.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: LStaff

                                                      I saw that Widmer had a IPL (India Pale Lager). Sounds interesting but I did not get a chance to try it.

                                                      1. re: jpc8015

                                                        I've been drinking it lately as it's included in the summer mixed 12 pack. Its ok but you wouldn't know it was a lager - or an ipa for that matter - unless they told you.

                                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                                          I guess count me confused on this whole IPL trend. When I first heard about them I thought how silly, an excuse to amp up yet another beer that doesnt need it. But then I read an article stating how IPL's were emphasizing traditional (often noble) hops in their beer and not just the usual cascade/centennial/etc. hop suspects so many IPA's have in them. A brewer told me IPL's accentuate the clean lager finish and not the big fruity explosion you get from ale hops. Being a big fan of Hallertau and Saaz and other noble hops I became more interested in trying some so I went out and got a Sam Adams IPL and another (Ive forgotten which one now...) and they both just tasted like IPA's. No distinction whatsoever. How disappointing. Im not sure what I was expecting though. I mean if I want a lager with amped up noble hops I can get a Jever or even a Prima Pilsner and be more then satisfied. So what is the deal with this new IPL category? Just yet another excuse to sell beers to people who cant get enough IPA's and who wouldnt touch a lager otherwise? Please enlighten me if its not just another silly gimmick.

                                                          1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                            Different strokes.

                                                            1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                              And I thought Sam Adams was one of the few that I have had where lager character actually came through the barage of modern hop flavor.

                                                              >Just yet another excuse to sell beers to people who cant get enough IPA's and who wouldnt touch a lager otherwise?

                                                              Nailed it. Also with over the top hop character you don't have to worry about creating malt depth and balance that good lagers have.

                                                              1. re: LStaff

                                                                Mind reading is fun.

                                                        2. Ninkasi Brewery Company. Eugene,Oregon.Superb. The finest brew I have had in years.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: emglow101

                                                            Which one? I have had a number of their beers and I have enjoyed them all.

                                                            1. re: jpc8015

                                                              Spring Reign,Total Domination,and the Radiant.