Posts Tagged ‘lager’

Fall Is Here

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009


from theweeklybrew

For many people summer is already over now that labor day has come and gone. Fall weather is already settling in here in the valley, and the school year starts tomorrow. This also means that it is now football season.

Football season is the time of year for consuming mass amounts of light lager. So in honor of summers fall, and in honor of football. I feel the need to do some posts dedicated to the whipping boy of beers. First off, a little history.

The Beer That Made Brewing Big Business

Tracking beer prior to 1810 is difficult. We know the names of some brewers, but no statistics such as consumption (consumption numbers are inaccurate anyway) nor any stats on production. Many historians point to this as a sign that beer just simply wasn’t as popular to early Americans as people want to believe. We do know that many spirits were cheap, and easily available, and we also know that British ales were the typical beer produced.

The first year we can track production is 1810, and the total barrelage produced was a measly 180,ooo barrels. Breweries were much more local affairs due to both technology, and demand. People often blame shipping for ruining beer and preventing it’s transport during this time. The truth is that the British had been shipping beer across the world for a long time. More likely distribution costs and slow methods of transportation were to blame. Combine that with a lack of demand, and the only true way for a brewery to get big was in big cities.

The big change in American brewing came when German immigrants brought a thirst for lager to these shores. Immigrants from around Europe helped to boost the beer industry, but German lager was something different to Americans, and they quickly adopted it. A surplus of German brewers, and a higher demand for lager pushed lagers to the forefront, and British ales to the background. The fact that lager was so popular became important when the industrial revolution caused beer production to skyrocket. Even prior to artificial refrigeration brewers were looking for ways to boost production in order to expand their markets. Icehouses began springing up and brewers bought rail lines. Artificial refrigeration though made lager king because it could be brewed year around now. Combine that with early prohibitionists who embraced beer as a nutritious less intoxicating alternative to spirits and the explosion makes sense.

The creation of light lager though is what concerns us. In a time when lager was king, the brewers were looking for something new to brew. Being from Europe, the wealthier ones would spend time back home. It was through a trip home that we were introduced to Budweiser, and the light lager fad. Budweis was a region in Europe that made a pale lager brewed with Saaz hops. The beer was so pale and light, because of poorer soil conditions that the barley was grown in. Low quality barley made a unique beer. Brewers in the US tride to duplicate the lighter beer, but American barleys weren’t conducive to this. Brewers looked to adjuncts. At the time using corn or rice in beer was more expensive, and required some advanced brewing skills.

Beer produced through the new adjunct methods was pale, light, and Americans loved it. In fact at the time adjunct beers were considered higher quality. Many of these light lagers became flagship beers. With increased production capacity more resources were dedicated to the flagships which sold and less to the other lagers. Sorta similar to Widmer Wheat, or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was only natural that these flagship lager beers would grow to dominate the American landscape that was already dominated by lager. The rise of prohibition certified this when it began shutting down smaller breweries that still catered to their German clientele, or their customers from the British Isles.