I’ve never been much of a lager fan. This distaste is probably a result of too many bad beers at university, rather than an brain-washing abduction by CAMRA, but it has the same effect. Lagers are not what I readily reach for at the bar or supermarket. I have, however, been rethinking this policy lately, as I am slowly realising that lagers can be much more than the dreaded NZ Draught. Pilsners like those from Tuatara and Croucher have amazing (though subtle) flavours, while dopplebocks, like the one produced by Sprig and Fern, can pack as much flavour punch as a porter or stout.
But the taste-resources of lager only became fully apparent when I started testing recipes for the cookbook. Here, I didn’t have a choice but to drink lagers: brewers had sent me their recipes with a beer recommendation and I had to try it (it’s a hard job, but someone’s gotta do it). The first hit was Epic Lager with vegetarian tacos which had lashing of lime juice and tabasco sauce. The lime juice picked up the citrus notes that the lager has, really bringing the beer to life.* The second hit recipe, tested only a couple of days ago, was Mata Artesian Lager with char-grilled chicken and vegetables. Again, the citrus flavours (this time lemon from the dressing) worked really well with the lager, and the beer was subtle enough not to overpower the chicken.
Ah-ha! I hear you exclaim. But Mata Artesian Lager, despite its name, is brewed with a Kolsch yeast that, in the words of Mata’s brewer Tammy Viitakangas, ‘is an ale, although the flavour profile is like a lager’. And, in addition, according to the World Beer Cup guidelines, Kolsch can be brewed with an ale yeast and then bottle or cold conditioned with lager yeast. Which perfectly illustrates the point of this post – that choosing beer by ale or lager is a little silly. Unfortunately this does mean I have even more beer to try – I can’t automatically rule out a group of beers, limiting the almost overwhelming choices we have available now.
But that’s hardly a hardship now, is it?
*Yes, that sounds corny. I’m working on it.