Lager is the beer for all seasons. It has a fairly average ABV — usually four to five percent — which lands it squarely in easy summer sipper territory. It’s also full-bodied, thanks to solid levels of malts and hops, making it an excellent fall beer for all your Oktoberfest “prost!”-ing. Hell, even in the depths of winter there are going to be times where a super heavy stout feels like a little much and you opt to drink lager by a crackling fire. Winter, spring, summer, or fall it’s never out of style.
But for all their versatility, lagers aren’t the easiest to make — even if they seem “simple.” Lager yeasts that settle to the bottom of the fermenter require a high level of brewer know-how, while the storing or “lagering” of the beer requires a commitment of time and money from breweries. Which explains why you really didn’t see too many craft lagers out there until recently. Brewers felt far more comfortable with over-hopped IPAs that could hide their shortcomings.
All of that’s changing of late. Craft beer in America continues to grow and brewers are constantly widening their skill sets. Meanwhile, the appreciation of beer aficionados for lager techniques is increasing.
The 12 lagers below are unique expressions of the style from all over America’s beer scene. These are the crowd-pleasing and ultra-refreshing brews that you can drink a sixer of without feeling drunk or bloated. Some of these picks will be easily available in your corner beer shop, others you’re going to have to hunt down or maybe even travel for. Trust us, they’re well worth the effort.
HOUSE BEER PREMIUM CRAFTED LAGER (CA)
House Beer is for the beer drinker who wants to go local and still drink a beer that’s 100 percent quaffable. The beer pours amber with a light edge. There’s a dry cracker note to the malts with refreshing spring water base. Hops linger in the background and offer an ever-so-slight bitter finish.
SAMUEL ADAMS BOSTON LAGER (MA)
Samuel Adams Boston Lager is the granddaddy of craft lagers, and your best friend at every airport bar around the nation. The Vienna lager opens with a fizzy nature next to hints of bubblegum sweetness. Citrus cuts through the sweet as a caramel base builds towards an earthy and slightly floral hop bitterness on the backend.
BROOKLYN LAGER (NY)
It’s hard to argue with the depth and tastiness of Brooklyn Lager. The amber lager opens with rich caramel maltiness and real heft in the body. The hops come in fast and hard with bold florals and brisk bitterness that carries the sip to a dry finish.
UPSLOPE BREWING COMPANY CRAFT LAGER (CO)
Upslope’s Craft Lager is a marrying of barley malts, hops, and Rocky Mountain snowmelt. The beer opens with a sweet-ish cracker dryness to the malts that are built upon by a piney hop presence. It mellows to a slightly grassy nature as the dry, full finish beckons you back for more.
PFRIEM FAMILY BREWERS MEXICAN LAGER (OR)
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Our pFriem Cerveza Negra is a nod to the unique beer created by Austrian settlers in Mexico. With notes of mole, Nutella, raisins, and cinnamon, it’s a velvety, fluffy beer perfect for your weekend of festivities. Now on draft – 4.7%, 15 IBU. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #pfriembeer #cervezanegra #happycincodemayo #cincodeymayo #hoodriver #oregonbeer #craftbeer #lagers
pFriem’s Mexican Lager transports you form the grey skies of Oregon to a bright Mexican beach with each sip. The beer opens up with hints of roasted corn next to bready malts. Notes of orange from the hops cut through and tie the sip together. Finally, the fizzy end arrives with a hint of sea salt, adding great depth to the brew.
SIERRA NEVADA SIERRAVEZA EASY-DRINKING LAGER (CA)
Sticking with Mexican lagers, Sierra Nevada’s Sierraveza sticks the landing by adding a hint of wheat to bring a spicy edge to the sudsy beverage. The sip opens with clear malty sweetness with a light cracker briskness. The hops come in with floral flourishes and hints of citrus. Finally, a tinge of wheat pepperiness comes into play on the refreshing finish.
FAMILY BUSINESS BEER CO. DUNKEL MUNICH-STYLE DARK LAGER (TX)
Heading over to the dark side of lagers, Family Business Beer Co. down in Texas is killing it with their Dunkel. The heavily roasted malts bring out notes of dark chocolate, buttery pastry, and funky pumpernickel bread. The earthy hops kick in with a resin note as the whole sip ends with a big-yet-light effect.
CREATURE COMFORTS BREWING CO. CLASSIC CITY LAGER (GA)
Athen’s Creature Comforts Brewing hit it out of the park with their Classic City Lager. The beer has a light edge that’s not thin. The malts are akin to a sweet cracker with a wisp of green pepper spiciness. The hops echo earthy grass, bitterness, and a modicum of lemon zest.
BIERSTADT LAGER HOUSE HELLES (CO)
Bierstadt’s Helles was all the rage at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. The lager opens with a slight honeyed-nature over freshly baked bread. The grassy hops lean towards lemon, which absolutely works with all that honey. This is a masterful rendition of a classic German lager.
MACRO PICK: RAINIER BEER (WA)
Seattle’s Rainier Beer is a classic easy-drinking beer that fits any time of year. The sweet, bready malts carry thin lager through with a not-too-fizzy nature. Distant echoes of hoppy bitterness linger on the backend and add just enough depth to make this a very sippable beer at a crazy affordable price (expect to pay two to three dollars for a tallboy can at a bar).
INT’L PICK: BREWDOG LOST LAGER (UK)
BrewDog’s Lost Lager goes big on the hops without overdoing it. The malt base has a clear cracker feel to it. The hops come in hot-and-heavy with floral notes leaning towards stone fruit orchards and lemon trees. “Crisp” comes to mind on every sip of this beer with just enough interesting nuances to keep you going back for more without getting overwhelmed.