American lager is pale lager that is produced in North America. This style of beer originated in Europe in the mid-19th century and moved to America with German immigrants. When we think about American lagers our first thought is often Budweiser, or if you’re a hipster (yes, I’m looking at my fellow Bushwick friends), you might think of a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon or Narraganset at your favorite dive bar (don’t forget the shot of Fireball to go along with it!).
Swig editor and contributor Kristen Baughman sat down with Adam Eshbaugh, the co-founder of 919 Beer and the “Beer Guy” at The Mason Jar Tavern in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina to chat all things American lager and to learn more about the American craft lager scene that is beginning to blossom in this Southern state.
Defining the “American Lager”
First of all, what exactly “defines” an American lager? The history is actually quite interesting. Pale lager was first introduced to North America by German immigrants who developed their beers using indigenous ingredients like American six-row barley. Rice later gained popularity in the North American brewing market during World War II because of grain rationing on the home-front. Most breweries could not afford the barley required for production and they used rice as a filler instead.
“When I think of craft lager I think of something that’s bold and crisp,” Adam states. Adam is a huge fan of American craft lagers and thinks that they will continue to become increasingly popular over the next few years due to their taste and accessibility. American lagers are being viewed as “cool” again and many breweries are capitalizing on this new trend in the craft beer scene.
“I believe there’s this standard progression that most of us go through as craft beer drinkers,” states Adam. “Many of us start by drinking all different types of beer styles to learn as much as possible and to figure out what we like the best.” Adam is one of the many craft beer drinks that has become engulfed in the craft beer scene and desires to bring other people into the craft beer world who don’t necessarily share his same appreciation for these beverages. Lagers are any easy sell.
Adam, like many craft beer connoisseurs, appreciates well made beer. “There’s nothing to hide behind in craft American lagers. People’s palates are being fatigued by the many beers out there that are overloaded with added flavorings or hops. The American lager offers beer drinkers something refreshing, clean and crisp,” Adam explains. Plus, craft American lagers are an excellent gateway for folks to get involved in the craft beer scene. These traditional beers come in at around 4 to 6% ABV, which makes this beer style perfect for tailgates and parties, and especially after you spend the afternoon working out in the yard. The American lager is a balanced beer and you can have several of them, make it a perfect social beer.
“I think American lagers are the next frontier,” states Adam. Craft American lagers will be embraced by the older generation who are current Budweiser fans, and by those beer drinkers who are ready to move away from beers overloaded with hops and malt.
5 Craft American Lagers from North Carolina
Of course, Swig had to ask Adam for his American lager recommendations. Adam is local to North Carolina and suggested the following five NC beers:
Hi-Wire Brewing, Lager (Asheville)
This true American lager is made with 100% Pilsen malt with a delicate body and light hop profile. Layered in the tradition of the style to full maturity. It’s a break from the typical craft American beer scene (Source: Beer Advocate).
Bombshell Beer Company, Otter Lager (Holly Springs)
This American lager is made with Maris Otter malt and was just released earlier this week on draft.
Brüeprint Brewing Company, Zambrüeni (Apex)
This American Pale lager style beer is refreshing and “will keep your palate smooth for the whole game,” according to Brüeprint Brewing Company.
Brown Truck Brewery, #10 American Lager (High Point)
This American-Style Light Lager recently won a Gold at the Great American Beer Festival.
Deep River Brewing Company, Cottontown Lager (Clayton)
Deep River Brewing Company’s Cottontown Lager is a light refreshing lager that is perfect for spring and summer days. The brewery also creates a seasonal variation for the summer, Double D’s Watermelon Lager that is infused with fresh Johnston County watermelon flavor.
Drink up, Drink Explorers! Comment below and tell us about your favorite craft American lagers brewing in your area. Cheers!