Friday, March 6, 2009

The Session - Love Lager? Sometimes.

Lager's a safe bet, isn't it? Even the slightly fuller flavoured ones are acceptable to the non beer enthusiast if nothing else is available. For my part I started drinking mass produced Irish ale when I became legal, it rot my innards and I was a one man bio reactor the next morning so at some point I migrated to Heineken. A step up? Hard to say, but the gastrointestinal issues resolved themselves only to be replaced with neurological ones. I don't go for all that chemicals in the beer stuff causing hangovers; ethanol is the most dangerous chemical in beer and it is the diuretic effect and nasty metabolic by products that cause your brain to shrink from your skull and tug rather painfully on the nerves in your cranium. So, lager is not nasty, even the mass produced stuff. Sure, it doesn't taste of much and in many cases I rather go without than chug down a few bland beers, but the common view that the most popular lagers in the world are full of 'chemicals' just isn't accurate.

Almost every country in the world that brews beer produces a lager of some form. It is usually very light in colour and tastes of not much at all, but that doesn't matter because if you are visiting that country you are likely at your leisure and there is a very good chance it is hot and if you are Irish it is a great deal hotter than Ireland. That's almost certain, and in my experience my tolerance for light flavoured lagers served bone chillingly cold goes up quite a few notches in that environment. In many cases I would go so far as to say it taste good. This is all part of the beer drinking experience and might go some way to explain why light lager is so very popular.

From the point of view of the consumer, mass produced light lager's appeal comes from its easy going nature; it doesn't ask much of you and if it is brewed with care it'll hit the spot rather well. The curious thing is that for the brewer it couldn't be more different. Lager, particularly a light one, is very unforgiving of bad practice in brewery. There is nowhere to hide the funk of a bad fermentation or sub standard conditioning, alterations in colour are as easily detected as a change of hue in a glass of water and complicated equipment is required to use the adjuncts that us craft brewers so readily harry them about. In short, it hard to brew good lager but consumers love it. The demand for mass lager is so great that the expense and effort put in pays off many times over.

There is the old adage that it is better to drink the beer in a country with a questionable municipal water supply than the stuff from the tap because no known pathogenic organisms survive the brewing process. This is solid advice because the pathogens living in tainted water would make my Irish ale induced sufferings look very insignificant indeed. I suppose the most fearful place we might think of for this kind of problem is Africa. I have never been, and have never tried an African an beer until now, but it should be little surprise that lager is available on the Dark Continent. Bell Lager of Uganda surprised me somewhat because I anticipated that if would have grain other than malted barley in its make up; but no, it is an all malt, very refreshing, lightly effervescent lager with a nice dash of hops and a classic European nose. The label gives me gives me pause for thought with respect to my earlier words on chemicals in lager though; it states that the beer contains 'permitted stabilisers and correctives'. Hmmmm, what exactly are they and who has permitted them?

5 comments: said...

Good blog.

Bionic Laura said...

It's true that it's harder to brew a good lager. I often wonder why big brewers go to so much trouble to brew something with the taste taken out.

It's true that as a beer nerd I often dismiss lager but there are some good ones out there.

An fear bainne said...

Sometimes you just can't beat a nice cold one.

Anonymous said...

@Bionic Laura: They brew it because people buy it. People buy it because they like it. It's no big mystery.

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