The name ‘lager’ comes from the German word ‘lagern’ which means ‘to store’.
Lager was first produced in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century when producers started experimenting with conditioning their beer for longer periods of time – in freezing cellars or Alpine caves – at very cold temperatures.
The fermentation of the beer was longer and colder too, with bottom fermenting yeast strains (now typically referred to as lager yeasts) used. These yeasts worked best at lower temperatures and took longer to convert all the sugar to alcohol.
These new fermentation and conditioning practices produced clear, well carbonated beers and their popularity – and production – spread across Europe. The town of Plzen in Bohemia was particularly successful, producing a golden beer (Pilsner) that benefitted from the peculiarities of the local water and barley and became a storming success.
These traditional characteristics of lager combine with very clean fermentation brought about by the low temperatures and the nature of lager yeast. As a result, yeast flavours take a back seat and allow the flavours of the malts (and hops and other ingredients) to shine through.
It is these characteristics of lager that we aim to embrace at Eyeball Brewing.
That said, we are no slaves to tradition! Indeed, flexibility in the lager style has been embraced to great effect long before we got involved. In response to the rising popularity of lager, brewers in Cologne (Koln) developed Kolsch in the late 1800s – a beer that is lagered but brewed with top fermenting yeast. Whereas on the West Coast of the USA, brewers developed California Common (also known as Steam Beer), by fermenting at warmer temperatures using lager yeast.
So, in saluting the unique characteristics of the lager tradition, we also want to see what new delights it can bring to the (beer laden) table!