Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pretty Good for a Lager

It seems that many breweries bring out their lagers for their summer seasonal, which makes sense, seeing that they are usually clean and refreshing as well as typically being lower in the ABV than their average ale counterpart. This increase in number of available lagers usually leaks it's way into craft beer drinking households, and often into the fridges of people that don't particularly appreciate them. Leading then into a flood of social media drinking that has well thought out criticisms such as "pretty good for a lager" and "this is okay."

I will say this, if you would have asked me about lagers a couple years ago - I would have told you that they're boring and I don't care for them. The word "pilsner" just made me think of the macro guys, and how much I didn't care for their beer. I was certainly a contributor to the stigma, and for that, I am sorry. I was uninformed and unfamiliar.  But, I've come around recently. And if you're a lager-hater, I hope we can get you to come around too.

Lagers are much more difficult to brew when you compare them to an ale, so you can really tell the chops of a brewery via the quality of their lagers. And not only that, but their dang tasty. I'm at the point now, in the middle of summer I would much prefer sitting outside drinking a lager than crushing a mouth bruising IPA. Both have their place, but for those lake days and tailgates - I want a lager.

With that in mind, I've put together a list of some of my favorite lagers you can pick up on KC shelves right now. Maybe you'll considering picking a few up to enjoy the next day you're drinking in 90+ degree heat. This list is by no means exhaustive, this is just what I find myself drinking in the summer. Let us know in the comments what lagers you find yourself drinking lately.

Boulevard - KC Pils

We'll go ahead and get this one on the list, since we all know it. I've commonly heard the complaint of "it's not hoppy enough" - but I disagree - I think it's a well balance beer that lets the bitterness of the floral hops shine along the sweet grain tones in the glass.

Sierra Nevada - Summerfest

This beer right here. It's a favorite of mine. If I need to go to a party and bring beer with me for everyone, this Czech Pilsner is an easy pick. Everyone always likes the smooth profile with the spicy hop flavoring coming from the Saaz hops it finishes with. I will make one note here though - I've had bad Summerfest's - and it's always been because of sitting too long on the shelf and light damage. While any beer is prone to this, Summerfest seems more sensitive. I'd recommend if you grab this beer, try to find cans of it in your store's cooler.

Firestone Walker - Pivo Hoppy Pils

If you're one of those people who finds themselves in the KC Pils isn't hoppy enough crowd, here's your beer. I love this beer as well. It's has a biscuity malt character that is super clean, and the nose from the Saphir hops blends floral and citrus flavors together that's backed by a nice hop bitterness.

KC Bier Co - Helles

I'm cheating a bit here by putting this on the list, because you can't get KC Bier Co on shelves yet. But you can stop by the brewery and grab a growler of this Helles. It has a fantastic medium body that remains easy to drink by being well balanced with noble hops. I'm a big fan of having fresh lagers available in our town.

Pilsner Urquell

This is a classic right here, something I think every "craft beer drinker" needs to have tried it even though it is a SABMiller product. Pilsner Urquell very well might have been the beer that brought me around to lagers. I had it in Prague last year, where it was freshly off a cask that had been delivered from the brewery the same day to the restaurant where we were eating. It was being served unfiltered and unpasteurized, unlike it's imported version. It was dreamy. Again, this a beer that needs a disclaimer - I hate that they ship it in green glass, as it is highly prone to skunking, so be careful about where you buy this beer.

Schlafly - Summer Lager

Another great Helles - cereal malt tones with lemon and grassy hop notes. This is a part of Schlafly can series, and as you've discovered, I'm a big fan of that. This one is another that is super easy to pick up and take to a party - everyone seems to enjoy this easy drinker.

Ayinger - Jahrhundert

I'm an Ayinger man. Everything they touch is gold. Their weizenbock was one of the first beers that knocked me off my feet, and their Marzen is one of my favorites - so it's easy to assume that I'll be drinking something from them in the summer time. And so, another style makes it to the list - the Dortmunder. I've always like them as they stand out with a character  that is a little more "extreme" than the rest. It's dry and balanced with nice medium body that carries a honey quality.

Urban Chestnut - Zwickel

There aren't enough Zwickel/Kellerbiers in this world - so I was thrilled when I found that Urban Chestnut makes one. I know for a while you could get UC beers at Bier Station, but soon I suspect they will make their way around the rest of the KC market. If you haven't had their Zwickel, keep an eye out for it. It's an unpasteurized and unfiltered full bodied masterpiece. 


  1. Nice list. I'd throw Great Divide Nomad on there too.

    Only thing about all these is that they're all complete crap if they're not fresh. To that point, I'd put my money on KC Bier Co on tap being the best on the list. KCBC also had a Pils at the Cask Ale Fest that was great. Not sure if its a regular tap though.

    And I agree about Pilsner Urquell--if you ever get a chance to try it in Czech it'll change your entire outlook on beer. It might just be the best beer I've ever tasted. Sadly, it's a pretty hopeless pursuit to get it fresh in KC.

  2. I'm looking forward to the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America 12-packs to drop soon so I can try the Sierra Nevada/Firestone Walker Torpedo Pilsner.

  3. I agreed Jay, lagers are always just so much more sensitive. I've had the Pils at KCBC, and it's great. I know it's a seasonal, but I was down there a week ago and it was on in the taproom.

  4. Lagers are pretty boring in my opinion but not as bad as Kyle 's writing.

  5. Well somebody has a man-crush...

  6. Some time last year Pilsner Urquell started express cold shipping their 12-packs, and the packs are fully enclosed, so not exposed to sunlight. I've noticed they taste a lot better, and I too have had it fresh (in Plzen at the brewery). You can also get it in cans, which surely helps avoid skunking. And to that point, Heineken in cans tastes so much better than in green bottles.

    One of my favorite pilsners not listed is Sam Adams' Noble Pils. Oh, and Left Hand's is pretty good too.

  7. I bartend in the Bier Hall at KCBC. We semi recently made another batch of pils I believe but I might be wrong. Which means we made another 28 or so barrels so it should be around for a minute. Also I would like to throw out that ALL of our biers are unfiltered and unpasteurized.

  8. I'm going to have to find some of those cans, I haven't seen them at my normal stores. Thanks James. And I agree on Noble Pils - great Sam Adams offering.