This week, I'm moving back to basics and starting up the beer style ladder with a look at the lager, a type of beer that is popular among many and one that has been dominated in this country by a few large producers.
The idea is simple: The lager is a beer that is conditioned at low temperatures, a term that is, unsurprisingly, called lagering. There are specific yeasts involved that distinguish it from an ale. In a nutshell, it's these two factors that contribute to the classification of this style.
For much of the early history of the United States, we were an ale-, rum-, and whiskey-drinking country, until the end of the 19th Century when German and Austrian immigrants brought with them their pale lager brewing knowledge. Since then, the US has been enamored with the lager, with Budweiser the best known global producer of the style.
While it has long been the purview of macrobreweries, many local breweries are coming back to the style as a way to find solace from the summer heat. Saltwater Brewery has Lager Del Rey, a 3.5 percent ABV beer aged on seagrape wood; Due South Brewing Company has Craft American Lager, a 4.6 percent ABV beer in the German Pilsner style; and 26 Degree Brewing Company has their Pompano Lager, a 5.5 percent ABV international light lager. In other words, it's a style that is no longer confined to European imports or Big Beer influence.
For this style, I've picked up the Cigar City Brewing Lager, which was found at a local big box beverage retailer. In this example, Cigar City has moved in the direction of the German-style Helles, a Munich blond lager. This style of beer is unique in that there is a known "date of creation": March 21, 1894, when the Spaten Brewery of Munich shipped its first cask to Hamburg. There they sought to battle it out in the market with the popular Pilsner from neighboring Bohemia.
It pours with little foaming out of the can, crystal clear and straw yellow with aromas of fresh grain, lemon, and some light honey. Grain sweetness hits off immediately and moves into a more husky bite. It finishes with an herbal dryness that leaves a bit of a bouquet on the palate.
Go out and explore the lager, especially fresh ones made nearby. You could find yourself coming to enjoy the style.
Cigar City beers can be found at your local craft beer retailer.
Cigar City Brewing is located at 3924 W. Spruce St., Tampa. Call 813-348-6363, or visit cigarcitybrewing.com.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger dedicated to educating the public about all things beer, with a focus on Florida brews. He is the Brand Marketing Manager for Due South Brewing Company and has been a homebrewer since 2009. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.