If 2019 gave us the summer of seltzer, then 2020 is primed to be the summer of lager.
Not only have lagers, which are typically lighter and lower in alcohol than ales, been growing in popularity among craft beer drinkers in recent years, but their longer brewing time, longer shelf life and cheaper cost may make them a necessity for breweries trying to survive COVID-19.
“I think that the element of uncertainty of when we all will be allowed to open is contributing to the amount of lagers that are being brewed right now,” says Chris Bell, who owns Call to Arms Brewing. “Every brewery wants to be making beer and keeping its people employed — but not lock up a bunch of raw materials in inventory that has a much more limited shelf life, like IPAs.”
Unlike IPAs, which demand an enormous amount of hops to brew, lagers use mostly malt and a relatively small dose of hops. And while the big hop punch of IPAs can fade after a few months — or weeks, in many cases — the more subtle flavors in lager styles like pilsner and helles last longer.
In addition, lagers take twice as long to brew as ales — like pales, IPAs, porters, stouts, saisons, browns, dubbels, tripels and more. This is a problem in normal times, when taprooms are trying to crank out as much beer as possible. But it works better for our current coronavirus lifestyle, since lagers allow breweries to produce beer at a slower pace while taprooms remain closed.
Call to Arms typically has two or three lagers on tap, including Ballroom Beer, it’s pilsner-esque flagship. But Bell is enjoying the resurgence of lagers among other breweries, as well. “I think people have been craving lagers more now than ever for something nostalgic to enjoy in their back yards in this beautiful spring Colorado weather,” he says.
Comrade Brewing was one of those that needed to slow down its production rate after the shutdown took effect. “We had a good amount of beer on hand,” says Comrade owner David Lin, especially since restaurants were no longer buying Comrade’s kegs, either.
So Lin and head brewer Marks Lanham decided to put some lagers in the tanks that would take a while to ferment. They included a Mexican-style lager, a malt liquor and a Kolsch, a German ale style brewed using some lagering techniques.
At Goldspot Brewing, head brewer Kelissa Hieber managed to fill all four of her fermentation tanks with lager at one point last week. Although Goldspot often has at least two lagers going, this was the first time in the brewery’s history that it had four in process.
“Hoppy beers are expensive,” she says, and since so much beer is lost when filling Crowlers to go, the brewery decided to focus on less expensive styles since money is scarce. “So we ordered enough ingredients to last us for two months of brewing lagers.”
Not only that, but Hieber loves them.
The beers include a Mexican lager made with pomelos, a hoppy Italian-style lager made with Motueka hops, and a “beautiful, wonderful” Dortmunder, a collaboration with Bierstadt Lagerhaus that Kieber is saving until Goldspot is able to reopen in some format.
Dozens of other Colorado breweries are also brewing lagers. Some would have been made anyway for the spring and summer seasons, but others are simply projects that will help the breweries get by, or beers that they always wanted to brew but hadn't yet had the time to work into the schedule.
So, what's on tap and what's in tanks? Check out the following lists of local lagers:
Brand New Lagers
New Image Brewing, Llama Bite Czech Lager
Cannonball Creek Brewing, Italian Pilsner
Westbound & Down Brewing, The Coloradan Mexican-Style Lager
Oskar Blues, Slow Chill Munich-Style Helles
AC Golden/Coors, Batch 19 Pre-Prohibition-Style Lager
Dry Dock Brewing, Dayboard Lager
Goldspot Brewing, Italian Pilsner
Diebolt Brewing, Boltwiser American Lager
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Lagers to Try Right Now
Ratio Beerworks, Rooftops Mexican Lager
Our Mutual Friend Brewing, The Fizz Unfiltered Keller Pils
Prost Brewing, Vienna Lager
Seedstock Brewing, Northern Bohemian Pilsner
Goldspot Brewing, Mexican Lager
Comrade Brewing, Eisenhower Premium Malt Liquor
Resolute Brewing, Grill Sauce American Lager
Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Heirloom Corn Lager
Lagers Coming Soon
Goldspot Brewing, Dortmunder
Odyssey Brewing, Colorado Strong Indian Pale Lager
Spice Trade Brewing, German-Style Pilsner
Baere Brewing, Maibock
Call to Arms Brewing, Mochi Rice Lager
Wild Provisions Beer Project, Premium Czech Lager
Some of My Favorite Lagers
TRVE Brewing, Cold Kellerbier
Cannonball Creek Brewing, Netflix and Chill Pilsner
Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Helles
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Von Pilsner
Odell Brewing, Colorado Lager
Sandlot Brewing, Goat Rancher Bock
Cerebral Brewing, Nordic Noir Baltic Porter
Classic Colorado Lagers
Wibby Brewing, Moondoor Dunkel
Call to Arms, Ballroom Beer American Lager
Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Fearless Youth Dunkel Lager
Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Slow Pour Pils
Ska Brewing, Mexican Logger
Upslope Brewing, Craft Lager
Tivoli Brewing, Bohemian Girl Pilsner
The Post Brewing, Howdy Beer Western Pilsner