With Bockfest happening this weekend, a celebration of amber and dark lagers, it’s time for me to finish this post that I’ve stewed on for a few months now. Last June I wrote a plea for fellow craft beer enthusiasts to embrace the Love of Lagers. I realized then that far too many folks think lager = pilsner = Budweiser and nothing else.
Lager just means that the wort ferments into beer with a yeast that prefers cooler temperatures around 35° – 40° Fahrenheit over weeks or months. To contrast that, ale yeast likes to ferment around 64 – 70 degrees for a week or two. On top of that, there seems to be a pervasive idea that lagers have to be a pale yellow color. Today we’re going to dispel the notion that all lager style beers are flavorless yellow fizz by highlighting a few different darker lager styles.
The Color of Beer: From Pale Lagers to Dark Lagers
First off a few quick words on color. In beer, we have the Standard Reference Method (SRM) scale for defining color. The lighter the color of the beer, the lower the SRM number. As you can see below beers like Budweiser, Miller, and Coors –what many Americans think of as the total sum of all beer – all fall at an SRM of 2. Today, we’ll be checking out looking at SRMs of 15 and up!
That’s enough info on SRM for today’s discussion. If you still have lingering questions and want to know more about SRM check out my Learning About Beer post on the subject.
Doppelbock – SRM 24
With Bockfest soon I wanted to begin with a bock, but I decided to double down and go with doppelbocks. Both bocks and doppelbocks are super malty beers showing off flavors of toasted biscuits. These are great late winter/early spring beers for when it’s still chilly out.
When it came to beer to pick for doppelbocks I had to go with Moerlein’s Emancipator due to it winning a silver medal at GABF! This is an excellent example of the doppelbock style. Here’s a full review of it I did two years back. Be sure to try it this weekend at Bockfest!
Vienna Lager – SRM 17
Vienna lagers were the first type of lager I liked before I even knew what a lager was. I imagine this is the case for an excessive number of people due to 4 words, Sam Adams Boston Lager. Before we get into this style ask yourself, when was the last time you heard someone order a “Boston Lager” or did they just order a “Sam Adams”? It seems few people realize that “Sam Adams” is a lager. If you want to keep things more regional look for Great Lakes Elliot Ness.
Vienna lagers are pretty similar to Oktoberfest beers, the main difference being the intensity of all the aspects. Oktoberfest steps up everything in Vienna lagers just a bit more. I was going to put Oktoberfest beers here, but it’s time to brew Oktoberfest beers, not drink them. Vienna lagers are best summed up as having a clean toasty character with a dry finish.
Schwarzbier – SRM 30
Like the bitter chocolate and roasted coffee notes from a stout but don’t want all the heavy body and high ABV? Then Schwarzbier, literally translated as black beer, is for you! Schwarzbier is the darkest of the dark lagers. If you like your beer dark, you’ve got to try one!
My favorite example of this style is Brew Kettle’s Dark Helmet, it’s a tasty beer, regional to Cincinnati, and I love Spaceballs.
Have you tried any of these styles or any other non-pale yellow lagers? If so, what are your favorites?