Lagers: Beer with a backstory

written by Jeremy Storton

Once, while bartending during the Sisters Rodeo, a cowboy still covered in dirt limped up to me at the bar like he just pulled himself from under a bull. “Gimme a Buckskin,” he said. “Excuse me?” I replied. “A Buckskin,” he repeated. “What the hell is that?” I asked. He looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “Gimme a Coors” (pronounced like “Kers”). Whatever one calls the beer of our grandfathers, keep in mind one thing—craft beer would likely be nowhere without it.

In the early nineteenth century, German brewers experimented with yeast that bottom fermented and really liked the cooler temperatures of alpine caves. In 1842 (seventeen years before Oregon became a state), brewers created a beer that would eventually take over the world in a Bohemian town in the Czech Republic. That town was Pilsen. Sound familiar?

In post-Prohibition and post-Depression America, beer wasn’t much except it helped get our nation back on its feet. Lagers of old were light, delicate and perfect in a cold glass on a hot day. Nowadays, that same glass becomes downright interesting when we pour lagers such as Märzens, Bocks, Dunkels and Baltic Porters. Then there are Eisbocks, which will knock a drinker on his butt faster than he can say Saccharomyces Pastorianus.

While the craft boom has allowed us to create new beers, it has also allowed us to resurrect old styles. This breath of new life and these hot summer days are perfect to enjoy the beer of our great-grandfathers. Prost!

GREAT OREGON LAGERS TO COOL YOU DOWN ON HOT SUMMER DAYS

Heater Allen — McMinnville

Try the “Coastal” Vienna Style Lager (think Negra Modelo, but without the lime). Or try the Dunkel, because who doesn’t like a little chocolate and caramel in his lager?

Occidental Brewing — Portland

The Altbier is one of my favs. The malt is complex and balanced with spicy hops. Technically Altbiers use ale yeast, but ferment at lager temperatures.

Crux Fermentation Project — Bend

Crux Pils is like a classic German Pilsner just off the boat, without the weariness of a trip across the Atlantic.

Buoy Brewing — Astoria

Try the Helles and especially the Czech Pils. Both are far more flavorful than grandpa’s pale yellow suds.

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