Ah, cold, crisp, refreshing lager! Whether cut with glacier-fed Rocky Mountain spring water or New Jersey’s Wanaque Reservoir, bottom-fermented beer remains the people’s choice, with 90 percent of worldwide boozers habitually swilling it.
And yet! In America, at least, the days of the Bud-Coors binary are fast evaporating. With overflowing options from craft brewers, and malt monopolies now frantically diversifying to recoup market share, there’s no reason—absolutely none—why modern lagerphiles need drink pisswater.
For three years running, the organizers of Portland’s LagerFest have proved this point. This Saturday, that means a sweeping lineup of 50+ lagers, pilsners, and porters. Here are six local brews for which we’d gladly forsake the ale:
- Buoy’s “Helles.” Astoria’s new kid on the block previously wowed us with a mellow, bready Czech Pilsner that rolled across the tongue with a delicate hint of spice. Buoy’s take on the traditional Munich Helles style makes its debut this summer, promising “the palest, softest celebration of high quality German Pils Malt.”
- Upright’s “Engelberg Pilsner.” Rarely found outside Portland city limits, this smoothly classic, delicately floral brew is definitely not made from the same stock as, say, Rolling Rock (head brewer Alex Ganum uses a yeast strain from his homebrewing days).
- Coalition’s “Bulletproof Tiger.” At eight percent alcohol, this golden India Pale Lager, brewed with melon-forward New Zealand hops and a hint of rye, takes normally sessionable Coalition out of the cage. Says owner Elan Walsky: “we wanted to play around with the idea of nice and light for the heat, but higher octane. It’s a little ferocious.”
- Commons’s “Baltic Porter.” The Commons is releasing its last kegs of the hybrid style (somewhere between an English porter and Russian stout) for a LagerFest first. Roasty, chocolatey, rich, a porter may not sound like a go-to summer quaff, but brand manager Josh Grgas promises that clean finish lagering delivers.
- Airways’s “Pre Flight Pilsner.” What did beer taste like before Prohibition, when local breweries abounded and a cold one contained no carrageenan, dextrose, or caramel color? Possibly like this fuller-bodied brew from Kent, Washington—decidedly spicy with Old World hops like Hallertauer and Saaz.
- Laurelwood's “Dos Excelente.” The Vienna-style lagers that cropped up along the Mexican border in decades past weren’t brewed, like the Pacificos and Coronas of today, with corn; Laurelwood brewmaster Shane Watterson ups the quality with traditional malts and toasted barley for flavor. Lest you think he’s being pretentious: “I definitely invite you to throw a lime in it.”
The 3rd annual Portland LagerFest takes place Saturday, July 11, at the White Owl Social Club. For more information, visit lagerfest.com.