French biologist Louis Pasteur had five children. That means he would be treated to five ice cream cones, five bad ties and five cans of beer if he were alive for Father’s Day this Sunday. He would also be 198 years old. His brood would be relatively about the same, so the chances are none of them would have any use for a tie, or could properly digest ice cream or a glass of beer. But, there it is.
The Pasteur connection isn’t arbitrary: He’s the one who discovered — in a scientific sense — yeast. And lager yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus, was named in his honor. And not for nothing, lager is the king of beers and has been for some time. Typically low in alcohol (4.2-5.5% ABV) and featuring a brilliant shade of yellow (from pale straw to goldenrod), lager highlights malt over hops, water over yeast, and drinkability over all else. There are exceptions, legions of them: Pilsners tend to be hoppier, Vienna lagers tend to exhibit biscuity characteristics, while bocks (strong lagers) bring a fusel charge to the palate.
But now we are getting into maibock, doppelbock and eisbock territory, and not the easy drinkers commonly associated with the boys of summer and dear old Dad mowing the lawn.
It should be nice this Father’s Day, highs in the mid-80s with plenty of sunshine. Perfect for a picnic and an ideal opportunity to bring Dad something tasty to quaff. Here are three found at all your better liquor stores. A fourth here. Cheers.
Upslope Brewing Company’s Craft Lager: When Upslope hit the scene in late-2008, it started canning out of the gate. Canning craft beer at the time wasn’t new, but it certainly wasn’t the norm. Then, in 2010, the company introduced its fourth label: Craft Lager. Again, craft breweries making lager wasn’t novel, but it was far from routine. But Upslope’s Craft Lager was different: Elegantly simple and magnificently consistent. It didn’t take long for Craft Lager to become Upslope’s number-one seller. And if you ask any brewer around the county to name one of their favorites, Craft Lager is mentioned time and time again.
Ska Brewing’s Mexican Logger: The translucent pale yellow hue should be enough to let you know that this one is going to go down smooth. And with a whiff of lime, a backbone of sweet malt, and a clean finish, Ska’s Mexican-style lager is about as refreshing as it gets. And the bitterness from the tangy Saaz hops pricks high up on the gums while the malt coats the palate, making it the ideal pair for spicy cuisine. Or salted peanuts. Or another Mexican Logger.
Avery Brewing Co.’s Stampede: A few years ago, Adam Avery decided to make an easy-drinking lager to get his brew crew off “yellow-bellies,” (i.e., Coors Banquet). That led to Avery Lager, light and easy, but probably more malt-forward than wanted. Then came Avery Stampede, a perfectly balanced, low-ABV, highly consumable golden lager that goes down as refreshing as the Rocky Mountain spring water it’s made with. Drink cold on hot days, and it’ll feel like home.
How lager saved the American drinker
Established in 1516, the Reinheitsgebot was the Bavarian decree that beer could only be made with barley, hops and water. When yeast was discovered 150 years later, it became the fourth ingredient. Dubbed “the German purity law,” the Reinheitsgebot might be the first set of governmental food safety regulations and one that was dearly needed.
Before the Reinheitsgebot, brewers made beer with anything they could find, even if the ingredients were harmful, as long as they were cheap. After the decree, Bavarian drinkers were assured that when they ordered a beer, no funny business was in the glass.
Few beer styles took to the Reinheitsgebot like lager. And when Bavarians immigrated to the U.S in the mid-1800s, they brought lagers with them, revolutionizing the American drinking scene, which was littered with poorly made ales and rotgut whiskey.
Lager is clean, crisp, and transparent. And with a low ABV, workers could drink it throughout the day without falling down drunk halfway through. When the country began the march toward Prohibition, many brewers tried to position their lagers as healthy substitutes to demon gin and whiskey. Ban the spirits, but don’t ban the beer.
It didn’t work. Prohibition became federal law in 1920 (1907 in Boulder), but that’s another story entirely.