Since meeting Tom Fennel in 2011, he has started a new adventure into the world of craft beers! Based in North Georgia, his company Fannin Brewing Company has become a staple in many North Georgia bars. When I asked him to write a guest post for this blog about Lager Style Beers he was so excited! He said “Of course! Lager’s are my favorite and my passion.” Although the process is lengthy he brews a classic style lager called The Blue Ridge Lager and if your in Northern Georgia, your can check their website to see if there is a bar in your area that has it on draft. Here’s what he had to say about the classic German favorite, the Lager!
Lagers. What makes them different, unique, and so incredibly tasty? There are two beer styles in the world: ales and lagers. If you have been lucky enough to travel to Germany you ere in the home of lagers. Lager means, roughly translated, “to store” in German. Centuries ago the Germans would brew their beer in the cooler months and then store them in caves and cellars throughout the hot summer. When they brought them out in the fall they found them to be much better than if they made them in the summer. At the same time they were developing a strain of yeast that would create the smooth, silky feel of a lager. On a hot day there is nothing like a lager. Crisp, refreshing and lightly hopped… it is what we think of when we imagine a beer in our minds. There are many different styles of lagers that capture this taste sensation. Helles, Schwarzbier, Marzen (commonly called Oktoberfest), Maibock, Doppelbock, the list goes on and on. Like all German beer they developed in different parts of the country. Helles, meaning light in German, dominated Bavaria. Rachbier, which uses smoked malt, is found in Bamberg. What lagers all have in common is the way in which they are brewed. Different then ales, lagers are cold fermented and go through three temperature changes. The initial fermentation is at around 52 degrees and lasts longer than ale fermentation. Typically it takes two weeks to complete the fermentation but for higher alcohol varieties it could take as long as four. Then the beer is warmed up to around 68 degrees to eliminate an off flavor called diacetyl. This is a naturally occurring flavor produced during the fermentation that tastes a bit like apple cider. For a long time this flavor was considered acceptable, but in more recent times it is eliminated by the raising of the temperature. Then, in keeping with its name, the beer is cold crashed at 38 degrees for as long as a month. This is what gives lagers their smooth, easy drinking flavor and truly separates them from ales. Most craft brewers find this lengthy time too much for their small brew houses. But the difference in taste and the appreciation of a fine lager is something everyone will enjoy. Try some craft beer lagers that focus on German styles. You will appreciate the simplicity of a lager that when done correctly creates a perfect harmony between malt, hops and the brewers skill and patience.
Tom Fennell is the owner and head brewer of Fannin Brewing Company in Blue Ridge Georgia. Examples of Fannin lagers are Blue Ridge Lager, Black Bear Lager and Rare Helen Oktoberfest. See more at fanninbrewing.com.
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