A Lager Fest? Yes, a Lager Fest!
On Saturday, June 25th, Reuben’s Brews hosts its Lager Fest to showcase what it and some other local brewers do with various styles of lager. At the Reuben’s Brews Ballard location, that means a nearly complete tap takeover. (That’s a lot of taps.) The event takes place at the brewery’s taproom in Seattle and also at the pop-up taproom in Portland (read about that). The list of guest breweries, as it exists thus far, includes some of the Northwest’s best.
Not long ago, such a thing was unheard of. So how did we get here? While IPAs of every ilk still dominate taplists, it’s hard not to notice the recent increase in lagerism.
The Rise of Lagers
I looked at the beer list from the 2018 Washington Brewers Festival and discovered that the word lager appeared just 28 times. There were 100 breweries at the event and they poured nearly 500 different beers. I looked at the same list from the 2022 Washington Brewers Festival where nearly 100 breweries poured about 450 beers. The same search of that list revealed that the word lager appeared 78 times. That’s nearly a three-fold increase in just four years.
There was a time not too long ago when craft-brewed lagers seemed token efforts. Often, they were cursory beers created to appease the reluctant taproom guests who were dragged in by their craft-drinking friends. The “I usually drink light beer” customer. In part, those early craft lagers suffered because the brewers weren’t exactly jazzed about the styles and because the real craft beer audience was not asking for lagers. Whatever the case, the standard was set pretty low for craft-brewed lagers.
A decade ago, craft breweries that excelled at creating lagers were outliers. Lager-focused breweries like Chuckanut Brewery and Heater Allen Brewing were far and few between. (Both of those pioneering NW breweries opened about 14 or 15 years ago, BTW.) Thankfully, a lot has changed and today there is nothing anomalous about breweries that create great lagers.
Nothing changed about the process. Brewing lagers did not suddenly become easier or cheaper. The time it takes to go from the brew kettle to the can is still a lot longer with a lager than an ale. So what changed? I think that the general increase in lagerism was driven by craft beer consumers. Breweries are in the business of brewing the beers we want to drink. And, somewhat suddenly, we want to drink lighter-bodied beers.
Collectively, my fellow craft beer enthusiasts, I think our palate has matured. We should be proud of ourselves. We’ve arrived. I am a pretty close observer of such things and it seems that where we once needed to get walloped across the face with a bracing slap of bold flavor of any type, we have now learned to appreciate nuance and subtlety. Where once we wanted something that tasted entirely different than big-brand, fizzy-yellow beer, we now desire something that is better, not just different.
Not too long ago, lager was a term associated with the huge brewing entities that stand in complete opposition to craft beer. Those big brands like Bud, Miller, and Coors were exactly the reasons some people turned to craft beer. For some of us, fizzy-yellow beer was the enemy. An entire generation of beer drinkers required reprogramming to escape preconceptions and learn to appreciate lagers.
At the same time, an entirely new generation of beer drinkers arrived, a generation raised on craft beer. They didn’t need to wash away any of the old notions and preconceptions. All the newer generation cares about is flavor, quality, and the character of the company that produced the beer.
Reuben’s Brews Lager Fest
All that being said, I guess that in 2022 it isn’t really surprising that someone stepped up to dedicate an entire day and nearly all of its many taps to lagers. Here’s the initial announcement. Keep an eye on Reuben’s Brews’ social media channels to stay informed about the updated taplist.
Join us on June 25 to celebrate the crispy, crushable world of lager!
Brewing is thirsty work, and at the end of a shift our production team most often reaches for a fresh, clean lager. In light of this fact, we decided to create a festival for some of our favorite styles.
On Saturday, June 25 we’re highlighting our lager program with a near-complete tap takeover at the Taproom in Ballard and our pop-up Portland. The draft list is still a work in progress, but you can expect to find the following at both locations:
Pilsner, our Czech-style Pilsner
Westport, a Pre-Prohibition lager
Apropils Italian-style Pilsner
Světlé, a Czech-style pale lager
Plus, in Ballard we’ll have guest taps from our friends Chuckanut Brewery, pFriem Family Brewers, Otherlands Beer, Wayfinder Beer, and Chainline Brewing Company as well as a number of VERY SPECIAL draft lagers from Europe.
Na zdraví, prost, and cheers!
For more beer-related events around Washington, check out the Washington Beer Blog’s events page.