Clean, crisp and endlessly refreshing, nothing slakes a post-lawns, mid-barbecue thirst better than lager. Read our guide to lager's origins, different styles and serving ideas
Lager’s origins can be traced back to 15th century Bavaria, when brewers in Munich began to experiment with storing beer in ice-cold alpine caves over summer. They noticed that the beer continued to ferment slowly in the caves, and also to clear of sediment. The end result was a clean, smooth-tasting beer that was dubbed lager, meaning “storehouse” in German.
Half a millennia later, lager is the most popular type of beer on the planet, accounting for around 90% of the world’s beer consumption. However lager is often misunderstood. We tend to refer to lager as a style, when in fact it’s one of two over-arching categories of beer, the other being ale.
Nearly all beers are either a lager or an ale, and there is a whole rainbow of different styles in each camp. The difference comes down to the type of yeast used and the temperature at which they’re fermented. Lagers are fermented at cooler temperatures and for longer periods than ales, and this gives them that clean, smooth taste that so many beer drinkers prefer.
Want to really swot up on your lager knowledge? Here are a few different styles worth getting to know…
- Pilsner (Pils): Golden, crisp and clean, pilsners have a pronounced hoppy aroma and a well-rounded malt body. Try:Pilsner Urquell or Panhead Port Road Pils
- Pale lager: Straw-coloured, light-bodied and smooth tasting, pale lagers are refreshing, easy-drinking and inoffensive. Try:Heineken or Asahi
- Schwarzbier: Dry, roasty and quenching, schwarzbier is a mahogany-black German lager with aromas similar to a porter or stout. Try:Hallertau 2
- Helles: Bright, crisp and full-flavoured, helles is similar to a pilsner, but with the hops dialled down and the malt cranked up a notch. Try:Tuatara Helluva Helles Lager
- Some other lager styles to look out for: Märzen/Oktoberfest, Bock, Dunkel, Vienna
Like ice cream, gazpacho and revenge, lagers are best served cold. Around 4–7°C is the official word, but straight from the fridge/chilly bin will do just fine. On that note, if you’re drinking outdoors this summer from green or clear bottles or glasses, don’t leave your beer exposed to the sun for too long. Aside from the fact that warm lager is pretty bad, the sun’s UV rays react with hops in beer, causing an off-smell.
Matching lager and food
When it comes to matching lager with food, the rules are pretty straightforward. The clean, refreshing characteristics of lager styles make them great palate-cleansers for rich or fried foods, and their relatively mild flavour profile allows them to pair with a wide range of ingredients. In other words, whether you’re washing down pretzels or pizza, veal or vindaloo, you can hardly go wrong with lager. Here are a few of our favourite pairings to try this summer…
Epic Lager with buffalo wings and blue cheese sauce
Monteiths Barber Lager with Thai pork or chicken larb
Peroni with spicy beer-battered fish tacos
Moa Original with fish ’n’ chips
Kronenbourg 1664 with an antipasti platter
Garage Project BEER with Chinese pork and chive dumplings