A common trajectory of beer drinkers is to start out drinking flavorless macro lagers early in life, and then to move on to more substantial, robust, and bold ales as your palate, bank account, and drinking habits mature. Too many people throw lagers to the side, casting them onto a heap of beer-soaked memories of beer pong matches and bad decisions.
There is a grown up option for lagers, and lagers have come a long way since the days when the only beer readily available was the three big macro lagers. Lagers can be dark, they can be light, they can be amber, and they can be red. They can be hoppy, and they can be sweet. And they can be used for a lot more than beer bonging, keg standing, and pouring over your head like an idiot. The list that follows is a list of real, grown up, delicious lagers, with some party-lager alternatives sprinkled in.
Uinta Baba Black Lager
While Picasso had phases of art, most beer nerds have evolutions and revolutions where they begin to prefer certain beers styles over others. We were firmly in our IPA phase when we first saw the Baba black lager can, and the black sheep adorning that can. Against our better judgment, we tried Baba, and it drinks like an extremely sessionable, delicious porter.
Montucky Cold Snacks
Listen, the name Cold Snacks is pretty descriptive. Don’t expect a gourmet beer, but expect a snack beer at snack prices. This is what we call a “no tears beer.” So you’re camping and the lousy kids from down the beach take it? Who cares? You’re fishing and it floats down the river? Buy some more. When the attempted sale of Pabst Brewing Company to the Russians hadn’t fallen through yet, beer nerds everywhere went searching for their favorite no tears beer. Montucky Cold Snacks is a worthy successor to that throne.
Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils
You’ve probably tried a bunch of crappy macro lagers, and maybe they’ve scarred your palate to the point that a light pilsner doesn’t fit into your life. That’s fine, but understand that you’re missing out. Oskar Blues brews a beer that may look like it belongs in a two-dollar pitcher. Unlike it’s macro competitors, however, Little Yella Pils is brewed with quality ingredients, and not rice and corn for fillers.
It was several years ago when we took our girlfriend and a couple of our buddies to our local beer bar. They were a bunch of crappy light lager drinkers, and our understanding bartender allowed the group to try several different beers. They’ve grown to like several beer styles since then, but Scrimshaw Pilsner was the tipping point that turned several of them into craft beer fans.
Victory Prima Pils
For people used to drinking big, extreme flavors of IPAs and Stouts, Prima Pils is a good example of the delicate nuance a pilsner can deliver. German and Czech hops leave a spicy and earthy finish on a beer that can pair well with just about anything.
Great Divide Hoss
There are plenty of lagers that are available year round, and many that are available in spring. However, a lager drinker’s Super Bowl is in the fall, when many breweries, American Breweries included, release Oktoberfest lagers. Great Divide’s Hoss Rye Lager is malt forward, but also crisp and spicy on the back end.
Coney Island Lager
While lagers often born from classic European brewing styles, Coney Island Lager is a bit different. It’s brewed with a complex malt bill and brimming with American style hops. Coney Island Lager is owned by another company known for their Lagers, actually. Sam Adams, makers of Boston Lager, bought Coney Island Brewing in 2013.
Maui Bikini Blonde Lager
There may be no place in the world further from Germany culturally than Hawaii, and it even gives the rest of the world a run for its money geographically. That said, Maui Brewing’s Bikini Blonde Lager is a German style lager with a crisp hop finish.
Dogfish Piercing Pils
There is really no such thing as a standard-issue Dogfish Head beer. Even their IPAs, which aren’t inventive necessarily, use an extremely complex hop-addition method. Piercing Pils is brewed with pear tea and pear juice, and the use of Amarillo hops and traditional lager malts mix with the sweetness and light tartness of pears perfectly.
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy Lager
This beer also appeared on our list of spring beers and is the result of a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Ballast Point. The triumphs of Beer Camp can be found each year, with last year including a 12-pack with all of the different collaborations. Hoppy Lager is a more long-term offering, and one that you can rack up a lot of empty bottles of before the end of 2015.
Ballast Point Fathom India Pale Lager
From the people who receive partial credit for the aforementioned Hoppy Lager comes Fathom India Pale Lager, a hoppy lager in its own right. Fathom is brewed with a liberal amount of West Coast IPA style hops in the brewing process, and a heavy-handed dry-hopping with Ahtanum hops, which are gaining a lot of traction as a celebrity IPA hop.
Full Sail LTD 06 Black Bock
About a year ago a bottle shop opened up too close to our house for comfort – for the inside of our wallets at least. They gained instant credibility with us when they had Full Sail’s LTD 06 Black Bock on. This beer is light bodied and drinks like a lager, but has some complexity in its dark malts.
Bayern, a confusingly-named Montana Brewery, made its first appearance on these list with its Dunkelweizen called Dragon’s Breath. Their Doppelbock is a close competitor, and may actually surpass the unique dark wheat beer in our books.
Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold
Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold is a great example of the delicate nature of lagers. It’s brewed with just enough Crystal 60 malt to make it gold in color, and just enough Cascade and Mt. Hood hops to cleanse your palate at the end of a healthy swig.
Caldera Lawnmower Lager
We’re beer drinkers with a discerning palate, but when one of our cousins from the country came to our house, they requested some crappy macro lager for our cousin’s wife. We refused and found Caldera Lawnmower Lager. Much to our satisfaction, our cousin’s wife approved, and after a night of polishing off a bunch of beers pulled from our cellar, we finished off the six pack of Lawnmower Lager, which was surprisingly complex given its name.