The craft of lager
We think nothing beats an ice-cold lager on a summer’s day provided it’s been brewed with skill and patience.
Our Craft Lager won ‘Gold’ in last week’s Free From Food Awards 2020 so we thought you might like to know a bit more about what goes into making an award-winning lager.
Standard lager still accounts for around 70% of the beer drunk in the UK, but increasingly consumers are moving away from the industrially produced, fizzy stuff that’s piled high and sold cheap in supermarkets and choosing premium options - craft and ‘world’ lagers.
The 'lager' style is often associated with continental beers.
Some of the greatest are made in Germany, Czech Republic and Belgium, where ‘lagers’ have been made for centuries.
The name comes from the German word meaning to store, keep or lay down - Lagern.
It is a way of producing beer that requires it to be stored for several weeks, if not months, at near-freezing temperatures [0 - 5℃], before it’s filtered and packaged.
Nowadays, breweries use chilled tanks to cold-ferment/lager their beers, but before mechanical refrigeration, continental brewers would store their beer in very cool, often underground spaces, to stop it from spoiling.
It was the long tradition of cold-storage - ‘lagering’ – that resulted in a new strain of yeast emerging, one that actually thrives at colder temperatures. Research has indicated that this lager yeast - Saccharomyces pastorianus - is a hybrid of ale and wine yeasts.
With advances in chemistry, it became possible to isolate this specific yeast and cultivate it.
Because these yeasts collect at the bottom of the fermenting beer, the beers they produce are referred to as ‘bottom-fermented’.
Lagering is used - almost exclusively - for bottom-fermented beer styles and only rarely for top-fermented ales, though in fact any beer can be ‘lagered’.
Even though light-bodied and crisp styles — especially pilsners — have come to represent a lager, there is a huge range of lagered beer styles from darker, altbiers to ambers and straw-coloured kölsch.
During lagering, subtle but significant biochemical reactions take place that enhance the flavour of the beer, giving it the crisp and clean taste we usually associate with lager beers.
A well-lagered beer is going to be clearer (and so cleaner-tasting) and it’s also going to develop layers of flavours.
While in most breweries, the lagering process doesn’t usually last longer than a month (and 21 days is fairly standard) but long and slow lagering improves the flavour.
We usually lager for three to four weeks. Ironically, due to lockdown, we’ve had a batch of Craft Lager sitting in a cold tank for six weeks now and it tastes incredible.
As our brewer, Keith says, “We brew our Craft Lager (5.2% ABV) using a traditional lager yeast and modern hop varietals. A long, cool fermentation process, coupled with a generous lagering period, gives the beer its clean, crisp character. This is backed up with the fruity, citrussy, herby flavours and aromas of Ekuanot and Mandarina Bavaria hops, to create the perfect drinking choice for long summer days (and nights). ”
So if you’re lucky enough to live in Edinburgh and can drop by the brewery (Collection times Tuesday 1400-1800, Fridays 1400-1800, Saturdays 1300-1800, contactless payment & social distancing) to collect a 4-pint container or two, fresh from the tank, then your weekend is sorted!
If you're not local, don't despair. You can find our Craft Lager in our online shop here, in good bottle shops and on Amazon.
Cheers, Team Bellfield
Lager yeasts are different to traditional ale yeasts in several ways. They
- prefer colder temperatures
- can convert a broader range of sugars than typical ale yeasts, so they generally produce a clearer, crisper beer, often with a slightly higher alcohol content
Some of the best known yeast strains for making lagers come from the breweries of Weihenstephan in Germany and the Czech Pilsner Urquell.