When many people discover craft beer, they move away from drinking lagers. But we shouldn’t forget about the variety of lager styles out there. Here’s a look at some of them and where you can find them in Sydney.
For a large number of craft beer drinkers it’s lagers they were trying to get away from. We’re all familiar with the bland, fizzy yellow liquid that fails to satisfy so many.
Obviously super hoppy IPAs or smooth and bitter English ales were exactly what many people had been craving from their pint. This has led to lagers being forgotten by some craft beer drinkers.
Variety Of Lagers
But as a collective, we often overlook the breadth of styles that can be categorised as lagers. Bocks, dopplebocks and baltic porters are all lagers packed with complex flavours. They’re the antithesis of Victoria Bitter, Carling or Budweiser in nearly every way.
Even leaving aside the glorious dark lagers such as dunkels, there’s incredible variety of flavour available in the pale liquid. Pilsners are often cited as the truest test of a brewers ability. So balanced and clean is it as a style that it leaves no room to hide mistakes.
So, here’s a quick guide to some lager styles that could be recommended based on one’s preference for ales.
Pale Ale: Kellerbier / Helles
If you’re a fan of good pale ales, give a Helles lager or a kellerbier a try. You’ll probably like the balance of sweet biscuit flavours and light bitterness.
In Sydney, Young Henrys Natural Lager is a kellerbier style, although it’s slightly more bitter than some of its German counterparts. Wayward’s Keller Instinct is another example.
Helles is a Bavarian pale lager and the good ones have serious flavour, balancing a beautiful malt body and the light spice of noble hops. They’re a far cry from the pale American lager we’ve grown to hate.
IPA: IPL (India Pale Lager)
Okay, so you’re a hop head. You love your bitterness and big, brash hop flavours. Give India Pale Lager a go. It’s a fairly modern style but there are already some good ones available.
With a pale lager as the base, it has both the malt bill and the hops turned up a notch to give more booze, more bitterness and bigger hop-driven aromas and flavour. You’ll still get that crisp finish and often it’ll be lighter in body than a big chewy IPA but it can be one hell of a refreshing drink.
Red / Amber Ale: Vienna Lager
Vienna lager is often a copper or amber colour and showcases a brilliant balance of malt sweetness and hop bitterness, a lot like a good red ale. They possess plenty of toasted malt aroma and flavour.
The modern interpretation has probably been made famous by American versions such as Sam Adam’s Boston Lager, or Brooklyn Lager (now available in Australia, brewed by Coopers). If you find these, give them a go.
However, these American varieties do differ from the classic European style, so seek those out too.
Porter / Stout: Dunkel / Baltic Porter
I’ll break this down into lighter beers and big, boozy beers.
If you drink lighter, toastier porters then seek out dunkels. These incorporate a variety of German dark lager styles which often pack in lots of toasty malt flavour with a crisp, dry finish. They’re incredibly balanced and one of the most underrated beer styles.
For fans of dry stouts, schwarzbier, an incredibly dark lager, could be one to try.
There aren’t many of these styles being brewed in Australia but a good bottle shop like The Oak Barrel will have some classic German examples. Blackfont in Marrickville have also been known to have the odd dark lager on tap.
Bigger And Boozier
If you like the darker, richer and stronger variety of porters and stouts, look for a Baltic porter. It’s often boozier and just as dark.
When Eastern Europe got a taste for strong porters and stouts imported from Britain, they started brewing them, fermenting them colder because of the climate. These evolved into the Baltic porter style we see today and it can be fantastic.
4 Pines released one as their 2015 winter seasonal.
You might also like bocks and doppelbocks which provide big malt-driven flavours, substantial bodies and significant alcohol. They’re perfect in the colder months so look out for these as winter seasonal releases.
Lager Styles in Sydney
While expensive to produce, we’re seeing more craft breweries turning their hand to lagers.
Do you have a favourite lager style? What would you recommend to a committed ale drinker? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Further reading: 3 craft lagers (for your VB drinking mate).