AT SOME POINT DURING THE COURSE OF HISTORY we collectively decided that lagers lack merit and all our beers should be flavor blasted with cheddar cheese powder. While the child in me giggles at the thought of an idea too absurd not to work, I also find myself thinking about the generations before me that enjoyed simpler times...and beers. To be fair, the naysayer sentiment has really only been shared by the craft beer community for the last 10-20 years, a timeline that happens to coincide with the rise of hop cannons, bourbon barrels, and all types of new-fangled flavor-boosting tech.
It's no coincidence that as consumers' tastes changed to favor more flavor, an entire category fell victim to a wildly changing landscape. Craft lagers suffered the most collateral damage as the beer community at large swore off the perceived tasteless 'fizzy yellow beer' of our bearded forefathers. It's a tragedy, really, because there are some fantastic examples out there, and you can experience many of them at beer-fests big and small. Formerly, most of these titillating tinctures were only available as small batch special releases, but these days there are thousands of commercially available lagers on the market from breweries of all sizes. A lot of that has to do with yet another shift in stylistic trends and consumer purchasing behavior, but the data is only a result of the behavior - that people are just generally gravitating toward more drinkable beverages.
There is a push for sessionable, lower calorie choices that coincides with an increased awareness of the harmful effects of overconsumption and commitment to responsible drinking. What's not to love?
I will come right out and say shamelessly that when it comes to beer, there are very few I don't like. There are certainly those that I wouldn't choose in a lineup, but after a long hike or a day at the river, I am indiscriminate in a pinch. Fortunately, I don't have to choose, and this cross is merely a first-world problem I am happy to bear. The list of sub-styles within the lager category is extensive and could be discussed ad nauseam, so today we will keep it limited to one which has become a personal and fan favorite over the years - The Mexican Lager.
Mexican Lagers are typically defined by their yeast character. In case you didn't know, yeast makes up about 80% of a beer's flavor profile. It's characteristics are more nuanced than that of it's hoppy counterparts (unless you are talking about a very distinctive strain such as a Belgian or German yeast that is known to contribute strong esters and/or phenols) but fortunately for most, it doesn't take an expert to sniff out the differences.
The style is defined by its crisp and snappy carbonic finish and a sometimes "skunky" quality (Brewer speak. Dont take it the wrong way).
Large producers of the style even package their product in clear or green glass, which unlike amber glass, fails to protect the beer from UV damage, also known as becoming 'light-struck'. Normally the unfortunate result of mishandling and poor transportation practices in the supply chain, the slightly oxidative qualities in a lager have actually become quite distinctive over the years and add to the style's quirkiness.
Ultimately though, what we love about this style is it's approachability. Smooth, clean, light, bright, crisp, bubbly, easy, drinkable, refreshing. I don't know about you but that sure sounds like a list of adjectives I can get behind. Maybe it's that the beer actually LOOKS like summer. Straw to golden in color, best consumed ice-cold, and with friends. That's the thing about lagers, you can play a drinking game without being face-down in the gutter by the second round. Cut a lime, Chase a Margi, or top off you bloody with it for a killer bloody beer. There ain't no shame in our game. Just promise to enjoy it. ;-)
Photo credit: The Beeroness
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