Idle Hands brewery cofounder Chris Tkach has a simple theory for the rise of the craft lager.
“Maybe people’s palates are getting a little too fatigued with the onslaught of hops,’’ says Tkach, whose Malden brewery has been brewing lagers like Emelyn since 2014. “Maybe they’re looking for something easier to drink, something that doesn’t require as much thought.’’
It’s true that craft beer drinkers can be overly analytical, parsing hop varieties and fussily entering Untappd data into their phones. As an antidote, many well-known brewers are offering up clean lagers alongside their cloudy IPAs. (By definition lagers are brewed more slowly at cooler temperatures, attaining crisp, cracker-like flavors and a clean mouthfeel.)
Lagers are beers for the boat, for backpacks, and backyards. Below are five such brews that’ll look right at home swimming in your cooler this summer.
American Lager, Castle Island Brewing Co. (5.2 percent ABV)
Castle Island’s latest year-round release isn’t an IPA, but it is a gold medal winner, having picked up the award at the 2018 US Open Beer Championship. Unlike the Budweisers of the world there’s no corn or rice in the brew, but New Zealand Rakau hops contribute a mildly fruity aroma, a twist on the classic style.
Firestone Lager, Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (4.5 percent ABV)
Matt Brynildson knows complicated: Every year, the Firestone Walker brewmaster solicits the help of California winemakers to blend a high-octane anniversary brew. Firestone Lager is the opposite of that beer, made with German pilsner malt and Hallertau hops and finishing bone dry,
“This is a drinking beer,’’ says Brynildson. “ I think that people are finally ready for a beer like this.’’
Green State Lager, Zero Gravity Craft Brewery (4.9 percent ABV)
If Vermont is getting into the craft lager game you know it’s serious. Green State Lager is the first beer on the menu at Burlington’s Zero Gravity brewpub/Flatbread Company pizza location, and it’s perfectly quenching, with grassy hop notes from traditional European varieties like Hallertau and Saaz.
Nite Lite, Night Shift Brewing Co. (4.3 percent ABV)
Night Shift’s version of a light lager clocks in at 120 calories, is brewed with real corn, and is meant to mimic the Bud Lights and Coors Lights of the world. It’s the palest beer of the group, light on aroma and flavor yet highly drinkable.
Solid Gold Premium Lager, Founders Brewing Co. (4.4 percent ABV)
Maybe more than any other brewery, Founders is going after current lager drinkers aggressively, pricing 15-packs of Solid Gold around $15. The beer is unfiltered and has hints of corn sweetness and a touch of citrus from Lemondrop hops.