America’s hopped-out craft brew scene is now hooked on making crisp lagers and refreshing pilsners to satiate overly bittered palates. Last year, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company celebrated the rise of these bright beers by hosting Lagerville, which returns for a second incarnation on Saturday, July 13. There are 40 breweries coming this year to pour their latest lagers, so I asked three of them about the trend.
“Many folks who grew up on craft beer and have been through the various trends of huge-flavor IPAs, Belgian styles, barrel-aged stouts, and barleywines are looking for something easier to drink and lower in alcohol,” said Jonas Nemura, director of operations for Chapman Crafted Beer, which will pour their flagship Crafted Pils and Yes Chef! hoppy lager.
Despite the ease in drinking, lagers are actually quite difficult to brew. “It’s hard to hide any flaws due to the lighter body and more nuanced flavor profiles,” said Nemura, whose brewing company is in Orange, California. “Small tweaks in the production process, from water chemistry to temperatures, also make a greater impact on the finished beer.”
In agreement is Julian Shrago, a UCSB alum who is the owner and brewmaster at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach and Huntington Beach. “Lagers are some of the most technically driven beer styles out there,” said Shrago, who’s pouring two beers: Loma Prieta, a German-style pilsner, and Hayabusa, a Japanese-style rice lager. “They require a deep understanding of brewing science, and we love the challenge of making something that’s within hailing distance of beers that have inspired us for decades.”
Both also explain that lagers can take four times longer to make while taking up valuable tank time, due to the slower fermentation process. Thankfully, craft brew’s success is affording some producers that required dedication of extra time and space. “The growth of craft beer has created capacity and freedom for many brewers to make beer that takes more time,” said Shrago. “Many classic lagers, such as pilsner, have existed for centuries. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t carry forward with universal embrace.”
Topa Topa’s brewmaster Casey Harris summed it up best. “Independent beer has gone to the extreme on every spectrum — sometimes you just need a beer-flavored beer,” said Harris, who’ll bring his Dos Topas Mexican lager. “Every beer fan needs a crispy boy.”
Lagerville is Saturday, July 13, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., at Figueroa Mountain Brewing (45 Industrial Wy., Buellton). For tickets and info, visit lagerville.com.