Look on the lager side of life


Strewth it’s been warm in FNQ the last few weeks, even with the rain we’ve had its still been stinking hot.

So hot in fact that I’ve found it changes my beer drinking habits. I’m on record as saying that I prefer the fuller flavoured beers, which in Australian beers generally means the beers in the ale spectrum, but it’s been so hot of late that I’ve found that I can only have one or two of those before I find them too big, as they warm quickly in this heat and end up becoming a mouth grenade, or worse still invaded by the dreaded flies that end up doing backstroke in my glass.

Instead I find myself heading back to the lager and pilsner end of the beer spectrum. Traditionally Australian lagers have generally had less taste and are less complex than their ale counterparts. I’ve used words like “featureless” and even “clinical” and I know I’ve definitely used “bland” and “made from marketing department feedback”.

However I should also note that I get where a lot of these beers are coming from especially when it’s 35deg in the shade and 98% humidity. You want a lighter tasting beer that you can have a session on, nothing that’s fuller in tastes, it’s kind of like not wanting to eat a full casserole at lunchtime, the Australian lager evolved to fill exactly that role, however the majority of Australian lagers from large scale commercial breweries aren’t of medal winning standard.

Well at least that used to be the case.

With the global movement of craft beer, the ever increasing rise in the quality of homebrew (the NQ area has a significant number of multi-award winning homebrewers) and the prominence of small boutique breweries that are knocking out fuller flavoured ales, it was only a matter of time before they started to turn their eye toward the humble lager. Even the micro-breweries in our own backyards are knocking out better and better examples of what the new Australian lager can look like. Much like the brewers have shown that a mid-strength beer needn’t be a synonym for bland, they have also worked hard to create interesting new style of Australian lagers.

For what my opinion is worth, creating great lager should be seen as the Holy Grail of brewing. All beer is created from just four ingredients: hops, malt, yeast and water.  But when a brewer creates an ale there are all sorts of tricks that you can use to hide a beer’s failings, things like dry hopping or late hopping, using hop oils or additives like coffee beans when the malt roast goes wrong, the list goes on. With lager that’s near on impossible, it’s up to the brewer to find the best quality ingredients they can, pristine water without any chemicals such as chlorine, unusual or even smoked malts, playing with the hop bill to give interesting expressive hop notes or just leaving them unfiltered helping to add a little extra character and mouthfeel to the beer.

Breweries such as Stone and Wood, Burleigh Brewing even as far west as Feral Brewing have all showed that the lager can be reinvented with a new range of flavours that can satisfy, and not just on a stinking hot day but also as a session beer in winter, beers that are superbly refreshing but also superbly interesting.

A few to look for:

Hawthorn Brewing New World Lager – can be a little hard to find, try your local independent or order online from your local major bottleshop. Kiwi wheat and pilsner malts, combined with hops from both across the ditch and from here at home. The pilsner malts with lager yeast give a distinct character to the beer, but its got these complex tropical flavours in there too, finger lime, longan and a little of the pink sapote fruit. Silver medal winner at the 2016 Sydney Beer and Cider Show. #HawthornBrewing

Cricketers Arms Keepers Lager – probably not a beer if you are a hop-head that loves their huge, highly aromatic beers.  But it doesn’t strike me as the type of beer that’s meant for that, this is meant for sitting around, having a few over the space of a few hours and not getting bloated. It won’t offend anyone, and is quite a bit better than the run of the mill Aussie lagers out there. Slight citrus aromas, light sweetness on the tongue, with light bitterness and soft bubbles. Nice dry and slightly sweet aftertaste. Gold medal at the 2016 Aust. International Beer Awards. #cricketersarms

Burleigh Brewing Duke Premium Lager – Burleigh like to say that you need to be in their local area to find this, but it can be found with a bit of hunting around locally, and it’s worth the hunt. Great biscuity malts in there, and the use of European hops gives it a touch of spiciness to the light citrus notes. Awesome dry lingering finish, with that dryness begging you to go back for another sip. Gold Medal winners at the 2015 and 2014 World Beer Awards.#burlieghbrewing

Struman’s Organic Premium Lager – the word premium on a label scares the heck out of me, I often think its code for something that rhymes with ship, but this breaks that line of thought for me. Their Dry lager or blue label is a bit run of the mill, with cardboard malty notes but this, their Premium or red label ticks a lot of boxes. Nice biscuity malt notes with some interesting bitter notes from the hops in there at the finish. Great beer to move someone of their generic lager into something with a little more oomph. Easy drinking and certified organic if you’re into that kind of thing….probably not if you’re drinking beer. #StrumansOrganicBeerCo

Stone and Wood Green Coast Lager – classy European styled, unfiltered lager. It’s all about the high quality malted grains in this, it’s given the beer a softness on the tongue yet still has a strong malt backbone. Nice subtle hop notes are working in harmony with those grains and great clean finish on the tongue, very drinkable in warm weather. #stoneandwood

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