Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: toddhert on December 19, 2010, 03:19:59 PM

Title: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: toddhert on December 19, 2010, 03:19:59 PM
This is probably just a matter of opinion and I'm sure that I'm influenced by the area I live in, but why do you think that micro-brewers virtually ignore lagers? It seems that homebrewers have no bias against lagers and obviously Americans prefer lagers if you look at sales. Yet, if you look at the number of lagers available from small breweries, it's a fraction compared to the amount of ales that are produced. It would seem to me that small brewers would want to produce a superior pils or other type lager to compete with the bigger brewers. Is this not the case?

This may be a completely selfish argument, as I would love to be able to purchase a high quality American produced pils or helles as easily as I can a porter or an IPA!!
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: gordonstrong on December 19, 2010, 03:23:16 PM
They take more time and equipment to produce.  So you get fewer "turns" on the equipment, so make less profit.  Unless you price the lagers proportionately higher, but that's not happening.  It also takes more skill and precision to make lagers, so people may not want to brew that way.  But it's probably the first reason more.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: bluesman on December 19, 2010, 03:40:36 PM
I agree with Gordon...it's all about dollars and cents.

Time is money. So if a beer has to sit and take up space it will cost the brewery more money in the long run. From a profit margin standpoint, the object is to keep the fermenters and holding tanks turning over as quickly as possible.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: tubercle on December 19, 2010, 04:07:27 PM
Micros are trying to serve a niche market. Lagers are everywhere.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: Mikey on December 19, 2010, 04:10:49 PM
Micros are trying to serve a niche market. Lagers are everywhere.

"Bad" lagers are everywhere.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: hopfenundmalz on December 19, 2010, 04:27:55 PM
This is probably just a matter of opinion and I'm sure that I'm influenced by the area I live in, but why do you think that micro-brewers virtually ignore lagers?

You did not say where you are.  In PA they have many craft lagers of high quality.  Prima Pils or Troegenator Doppelbock are excellent, in my opinion.

Gordon's take on this is correct.  We toured Firestone-Walker back in April, the tour guide said that they did one lager years ago, and never did it again because it tied up the tanks too long, which is a pain if you are at capacity.  They still get customers asking when they are going to do that again, though.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: beerocd on December 19, 2010, 04:28:03 PM
But there ARE quite a few threads lately about lagering(maybe cuz its winter) and the Solera, and the Ballantine thread... So there's probably a desire for this, but if ales are coming in at $12 a four pack - what would someone be willing to pay for a four pack of great lager?
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: tubercle on December 19, 2010, 04:45:40 PM
Micros are trying to serve a niche market. Lagers are everywhere.

"Bad" lagers are everywhere.

 Tubercle stands corrected ;D
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: bonjour on December 19, 2010, 05:58:33 PM
1. Turnover,  turnover = profit.
2. Equipment, you need more equipment so your beers can turnover while you are waiting for the lagers to be ready. More Equipment = higher loans = less profit. 
3. Energy,  It takes more energy to keep a lager at conditioning temps.  More energy = less profit

A lot of brewpubs make mock lagers

Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: Mikey on December 19, 2010, 06:01:45 PM
I agree with Gordon. It's about maximizing profits and keeping your overhead down.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: toddhert on December 20, 2010, 12:02:43 AM
Not sure why it's not showing up in my profile, but I live in Michigan since someone asked. We used to have the excellent Frankenmuth ('pride of the Franconians" in German) brewery which was a mid-sized brewery that produced the best pils I can ever remember from an American brewery, as well as a range of other German style beers. They sold everything from bottles, cans, mini-kegs, and full kegs, but it burned down in the early 90's. It re opened a few yrs ago as a brewpub, but only selling beer on premesis. I haven't tasted anything from the 'new' brewery but I'm told it's quite good.

Why am I telling you this? Just so you know where I'm coming from and that indeed there WERE good mid-sized brewerys producing lagers in Michigan! So, that being said, I fail to see why a brewery can't do the same thing nowadays. Don't get me wrong, we have some GREAT brewerys here, but like I said earlier, I'd like to be able to buy a good helles as easily as I can an IPA and if Frankenmuth did it yrs ago, I can't see why a mid-sized brewery couldn't do it now.

What's even more frustrating to me is that when a brewery DOES have a light lager available, it seems like they're just making something so that a Bud drinker can stay and drink rather than producing something a true beer lover could appreciate. This isn't true in all cases, as with Prima Pils and others, there are some great lagers out there! However, they're far a few between.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: hopfenundmalz on December 20, 2010, 03:29:26 AM
Todd, looked at your profile and it says Grand Rapids.  Yes, Frankenmuth did make some good lagers.  The brewmaster was Fred Sheer who had his advanced brewing degree from Doemens in Germany knew how to make some good pilsner.

Geyers was the name of the brewery before the Frankenmuth name, and it made lagers.  It was a small regional, and since that part of Michigan has strong German heritage, the locals drank lagers.  The Frankenmuth brewery survived a fire in the '80's, but a tornado did it in 1996.  Check out the history and photos here.  
http://www.frankenmuthbrewery.com/history.aspx

I take it you don't like, or are not familiar with some of Bell's lagers?

Edit:  How could I forget!  I am a charter mug club member of Wolverine Brewing Co.  Their main beers are lagers, with a few ales thrown in.  Oliver makes some good beers (some may not fit into strict style guidelines).  I predict that they will need more lagering tanks soon.

http://wolverinebeer.com/home.php
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: toddhert on December 20, 2010, 03:41:24 AM
I've only had Bells "Lager of the Lakes" and while I thought it was decent, it wasn't something that I would not go out of my way to find. And believe me, I go out of my way if I like it!

I lived in France and Germany for a while and truly long for the German beers. So much in fact, that I go back to Germany every year or two JUST to visit brewerys!!!  There are some good American lagers for sure, but I have found nothing that compares to an Augustiner or Andechs helles, Wurzberger pils, a or any of the dozens of Kellerbiers in northern Bavaria! I even drive to Chicago (a 3 hr trip) every so often to purchase these beers (they don't import them here in Michigan). Problem is, they are quite old and don't taste the same as to taste them fresh. I just wish I could buy a comparable Michigan beer! I'm working on brewing some lagers, so maybe I can make what I like one day!
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: gmac on December 20, 2010, 03:47:57 AM
It's interesting to read this because my two favourite micro's here in Canada both only produce lagers. 
Creemore Springs makes a nice dark lager and occasionally seasonal bock (I believe that it was recently purchased by Molson so we will have to see if new ownership means a change in product but it was very good when it was independent).  Steam Whistle prides themselves on brewing only one lager beer which I think is quite good and is my go-to summer beer.  So, it can be done.  I know turnover equals profit but there are niche micro's here in Ontario making good lagers and they appear to be successful.  Neither of them are cheap and they won't compete against Coors Light and Bud in terms of price and I don't think that they really want to.  They're premium products at premium price for consumers who appreciate the product.  Not everyone wants to drink Bud.  I know I don't.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: hopfenundmalz on December 20, 2010, 04:06:18 AM
I've only had Bells "Lager of the Lakes" and while I thought it was decent, it wasn't something that I would not go out of my way to find. And believe me, I go out of my way if I like it!

I lived in France and Germany for a while and truly long for the German beers. So much in fact, that I go back to Germany every year or two JUST to visit brewerys!!!  There are some good American lagers for sure, but I have found nothing that compares to an Augustiner or Andechs helles, Wurzberger pils, a or any of the dozens of Kellerbiers in northern Bavaria! I even drive to Chicago (a 3 hr trip) every so often to purchase these beers (they don't import them here in Michigan). Problem is, they are quite old and don't taste the same as to taste them fresh. I just wish I could buy a comparable Michigan beer! I'm working on brewing some lagers, so maybe I can make what I like one day!

The Oktoberfest is excellent some years.
I lived in Germany for a while, and know what you are saying.  We make trips to Bamberg, as that is the best brewing town in Germany in my opinion. 
You can make excellent lagers at home.  You just have to try, and work on the process.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: toddhert on December 20, 2010, 04:46:18 AM
Gmac, I've had the Creemore pilsener and I thought it was excellent! Yes, that is a fine example of a North American brewer making good European style lager! Really true to the original!


Bamberg is a GREAT brewing town. Last time I was there I think there are still around 12 brewerys in walking distance! Yet, the tiny villages around it and even monastaries or mom n pop run places in the middle of the forest produce excellent lagers! Every time I go there I wonder why Americans are so obsessed with Belgian beers and IPAs. Both great no doubt, but the 300 plus brewerys in Franconia are virtually unknown by most Americans! It's almost like this dirty little secret I keep when I go there. Every time I go back (this year will be my 6th trip) I still get to explore new brewerys that I've never tried. All in the space of about the size of West Michigan. Oh well, our fortune eh!

By the way, I never go to Oktoberfest, not that I'd be against it, but I'd rather go when there are fewer tourists.


Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: skyler on December 20, 2010, 06:19:31 AM
The only brewery here in Davis, CA brews almost exclusively lager. Their Helles is the best American-made pale lager I have had. That being said, when they try to brew American-style beers, they come up short.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: beveragebob on December 20, 2010, 10:55:28 AM
I carried all of their lagers in my cafe before in N. Cali. They were all stellar but, Sudwerk also made some kick-a$$ IPA's that we carried also. I don't remember but, I think their brewhouse is actually geared for lagers over ales. i.e. rakes and tines in the mash for step/decocts etc. If you live in the area drop by and see what's going on.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: majorvices on December 20, 2010, 12:18:37 PM
This is probably just a matter of opinion and I'm sure that I'm influenced by the area I live in, but why do you think that micro-brewers virtually ignore lagers?

You did not say where you are.  In PA they have many craft lagers of high quality.  Prima Pils or Troegenator Doppelbock are excellent, in my opinion.

+1 - some great small lager breweries in PA.

As many of you may know I run a small nano brewery in Huntsville, AL and I would love to brew a MaiBock for spring or a Doppelbock for fall. But, as Gordon says, I just couldn't afford to have a bright tank occupied that long. I probably could brew a helles or pils but not sure there is much point in that since any number of large breweries would be able to beat me on price. Plus I would probably need to filter, and I don't have one.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: BrewingRover on December 20, 2010, 12:47:30 PM
Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago does nothing but lagers. They started out as homebrewers and IIRC the brewer didn't do much, if any, commercial brewing prior to opening. They have some nice beers and seem to be doing well -- they've only been open a couple of years.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: Kaiser on December 20, 2010, 03:42:24 PM
Many German breweries can brew a good Pils in under 4 weeks. However, it takes sophisticated measuring and test equipment as well as brewing staff that has a lot of experience with lagers to push the boundary on lager brewing like this.  Many micros lack this which is why their lagers don’t come out right when they try it. Sticking to ales makes much more sense.

In addition to that lagers tend to have more subtle tastes and most consumers who move from macro to micro also want to move to more intense beer flavors. There is not much to be gained for a micro brewery to make a Helles unless they can make an outstanding one.

Kai
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: dcbc on December 20, 2010, 04:47:21 PM
This was starting to happen to me on my most recent batch, to the point that keeping the boil going was in doubt.  Santa brought my a natural gas line as an early Christmas present.  Fittings just arrived this morning.  My tanks will be going back by the gas grill on the porch.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: Hokerer on December 20, 2010, 05:00:25 PM
This was starting to happen to me on my most recent batch, to the point that keeping the boil going was in doubt.  Santa brought my a natural gas line as an early Christmas present.  Fittings just arrived this morning.  My tanks will be going back by the gas grill on the porch.

"Missed it by that much" :)
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: skyler on December 21, 2010, 10:20:02 PM
I carried all of their lagers in my cafe before in N. Cali. They were all stellar but, Sudwerk also made some kick-a$$ IPA's that we carried also. I don't remember but, I think their brewhouse is actually geared for lagers over ales. i.e. rakes and tines in the mash for step/decocts etc. If you live in the area drop by and see what's going on.

I find their IPA to be one of the top 5 worst I have ever had. All of their ales are pretty awful, besides their hefeweizen. They use open fermentation for the hefeweizen, I know. My brew club meets in one of the UC Davis classrooms in Sudwerk (the brewery is used for UCD instruction).
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: Malticulous on December 22, 2010, 12:02:21 AM
I have had a really good string of lagers this season. Schwarzbier, Pils, Dunkel, Bohemian Pilsner, CAP, Dark American Lager and a then the Export I brewed yesterday. I thought the German Pils was great but the Bo Pils was even better.  I'm drinking the CAP now. It blew my socks off. Balanced but more flavorful than the others.

The weather here has had my water bath fermenting tubs staying very close to 50F for months now. Brew your own. I wish I could go to Gemany but I do have the next best thing right here at home. ;D
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: Kirk on December 23, 2010, 05:02:24 PM
Gordon Biersch majors on lagers in their Brewpubs.  I haven't been to one yet, though.  Are they good?  Do you think they're true lagers? or faux's?
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: denny on December 23, 2010, 05:05:58 PM
They're true lagers AFAIK.  In my experience, quality is variable, but usually pretty good.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: theDarkSide on December 23, 2010, 05:06:58 PM
Gordon Biersch majors on lagers in their Brewpubs.  I haven't been to one yet, though.  Are they good?  Do you think they're true lagers? or faux's?

After hearing Dan Gordon on The Brewing Network, I would bet they are true lagers.  I am still waiting to try my first GB as well.
Title: Re: Micro VS Home, Lager VS Ale
Post by: toddhert on December 23, 2010, 09:49:30 PM
Many German breweries can brew a good Pils in under 4 weeks. However, it takes sophisticated measuring and test equipment as well as brewing staff that has a lot of experience with lagers to push the boundary on lager brewing like this.  Many micros lack this which is why their lagers don’t come out right when they try it. Sticking to ales makes much more sense.

In addition to that lagers tend to have more subtle tastes and most consumers who move from macro to micro also want to move to more intense beer flavors. There is not much to be gained for a micro brewery to make a Helles unless they can make an outstanding one.

Kai


Kai, I love intense flavors and you are correct lagers do tend to have more subtle flavors. This being said, sometimes I just want a good lager that is well balanced and tasty and not an ale that is more 'in your face' for lack of a better term. I like subtleness sometimes!

As far as what is to be gained, well there are SOME brewerys making lagers that are pushing the envelope, so to speak, with flavors that could not be achieved with an ale. The Livery in Benton Harbor Michigan is doing some CRAZY lagers! I had one that was a dopplebock done with open fermentation and aged in oak. It was completely original! Besides that, it seems like SOMEONE would just want to brew a good lager that could knock out the big brewerys and steal their customers! I've had bud light drinkers at my house who also enjoyed my Wurzberger pils (I buy a keg from time to time) which I believe to be a pils of quite good quality, and that just says to me that if good lagers were readily available, people would drink it! Yes, I would even drink a good pils or helles made by Miller if it were available.