Brewing Lager

Lager comes from the German root word “lagern”, meaning “to store”. A “lagern” refers to the practice of storing beer in cold places such as caves or refrigerated cellars to allow them to ferment. Brewing consists of two processes. The first one, known as the fermentation phase, is the one in where the lager yeast (Saccharomyces uvarum/ Saccharomyces carlsbergensis) is allowed to ferment at 7-12°C (45-55°F). The yeast is then allowed to undergo secondary fermentation at a lower temperature of 0-4°C (30-40°F). This is called the lagering phase, and it takes several weeks to several months to finish this process. It is during this second stage that the lager is allowed to clear and to mellow, thereby producing a clean crisp taste. Today, in the advent of modern technology, most modern breweries take only 1-3 weeks for the lagering phase to occur.

A lager is a term usually related to brewing beers or ale. It refers to the slow fermentation of beer or ales and matured under refrigeration. Beer produced in this way is called the pale lagers, otherwise known as pilsners.

Pilsners first appeared in 1842 when Josef Groll, a Bavarian brewer, used different malt with his town’s local water, which was softer than the then popular Munich or Viennese variety. The product of Groll’s new recipe was a bright golden colored beer that is highly carbonated and had an alcohol content of 5% by volume. It became popular all over Europe and has since become the basis for the modern day pale lagers.

Lagers taste anywhere from sweet to bitter. The sweet taste that comes from the malt is balanced by the bitterness of the hop, a flower used as a flavoring agent in brewing. The term Noble hops refers to four varieties of the hop plant (Humulus lupulus) which are mildly bitter but highly aromatic. Aside from imparting lager with its signature flavor, hops also have an antibiotic effect that favors the exclusive activity of brewer's yeast over other less desirable microorganisms.

Common varieties of lager include Dunkel (German word for dark), Helles (pale), Märzen/Oktoberfest, Pilsner, Schwarzbier, Spezial and Vienna lager. Common Brands include Budweiser, Carlsberg, Corona, Heineken, Samuel Adams and Konig.

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