The German Lager Defined

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March 31, 2014 by Prost Brewing

Lager Bier

Literally, the german word “lager” translates to “storage.” So what does storage have to do with German lagers? Well, unlike their ale cousins that undergo quick fermentations with “top” fermenting yeasts, lagers are produced by storing a fermenting brew at a low temperature for extended periods of time with what are known as “bottom” fermenting yeasts.

The cold storage of a fermenting wort has been practiced since the medieval period in Germany. The future brews were left to ferment in caves where they were sure to remain cool while they ripened to maturity. Based on these historical accounts, it is no surprise that scientists speculate that the bottom fermenting lager yeasts emerged as far back as the early 15th century. Indeed, the Germans were well acquainted with beer that could be produced through “bottom” fermentation by the middle of the 16th century. At a city ordinance in Munich in the year 1551, it was stated that “barley, good hops, water and yeast, if properly mashed and cooled, can also produce a bottom fermenting beer.”

However, it was not until the invention of the refrigerator that the lager found its central place in German brewing culture. Refrigeration enabled the brewers to brew lager year round and in more environments, regardless of how warm it was. Thus, the rise of the lager is said to have “co-evolved” with refrigeration. With the proper technology the lager quickly rose in popularity, eventually leading to the need for large scale refrigeration. It was in 1870 that the first large scale refrigerated lagering tanks were developed in a Munich brewery by a man by the name of Carl von Linde.

Today German bier is often synonymous with lager bier produced through a cold fermentation. Thus, it should not be surprising that we here at Prost offer an extensive and impressive lineup of authentic German lagers that can be enjoyed year round. A few sips and you will understand why sometimes it pays to store your fermenting brew. It turns out patience may also be a virtue when it comes to making delicious German bier!


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