Forget what you think you know about ales and lagers. The line between the two styles no longer has much scientific merit. Ale yeast doesn’t work from the top down, and lager yeast doesn’t work from the bottom up. There are ale yeasts that work at lager temperatures, and lager yeasts that prefer ale temperatures. You can also find ales that are crisp, clean, and clear, just as you can find lagers that are murky and full of fruity esters. The difference between lagers and ales just comes down to preference and technique.
What does this mean? Well, it means that craft brewers, who have long limited their recipes to the ale side of the equation, can take advantage of different yeast strains, and brewing concepts to dabble in classic lagers. With more and more beer drinkers coming back around to enjoying light-bodied, easy-to drink styles, brewers are looking at ways to put clean, crisp,and clear beers on the market.
Cream Ales have been on the rise. These beers use pale malts and adjunct grains to create a very light-bodied beer. Cold conditioning is used to drop out any unwanted flavors. These ales are difficult to distinguish from pale lagers. The recent success of craft cream ale has many brewers taking a fresh look at classic lager recipes, particularly the venerable pilsner style.
You’ve seen these around. More than a few brewers have already gone there, but before 2018 is over, you’re going to see more. And as craft beer drinkers develop a renewed appreciation for pilsner, brewers will be introducing lager styles you’ve heard of.
Actual Brewing effectively led the local charge a few years ago when they released their low-cal lager, Photon.
Last year, Four String plunged into these waters with both feet by introducing Hilltop Heritage Lager—an unabashed craft-brewed take on the American Adjunct Lager.
Soon, Smokehouse will unveil an American Pilsner based on a pre prohibition recipe.
If this keeps up, 2018 will be the year of the craft lager, and there’s nothing wrong with that.