A lager is a mild and refreshing beer style. With a simple flavor, minimal bitterness, and low alcohol, lagers are easy to drink and popular with a wide range of people. The great thing about drinking a lager is that they are actually refreshing. You can enjoy a lager on a hot day, or with a meal. It quenches your thirst and pairs well with most foods.
This raging popularity means that there is no surprise that lagers have their own celebratory day. National Lager Day is the one day of the year when beer lovers should skip on their IPAs, stouts, or ambers and crack open a lager. Celebrated on December 10th, this national day gives light to one of the most popular beer styles in the United States.
History of Lagers and National Lager Day
Lagers don’t often get a lot of attention. They aren’t hoppy or fruity. They are the result of careful brewing using the basic beer ingredients; water, barley, hops, and yeast. Despite being so basic, there are over 9,000 different lagers produced in the world.
The lager has a fairly recent history, even if it isn’t well documented. The first lagers are thought to have been brewed by Benno Scharl, in the town of Plzen in what is now the Czech Republic. Scherl is often considered the father of modern brewing. He made his first lager in the 19th century. The style did not gain wide popularity until around 1840.
By this time there were other brewers in Europe that were experimenting with the lager brewing style. By the end of the 19th century, Germany in particular had around 135 breweries producing lagers.
The word “lager” is based on the German word for “storage”. In this case, the word “lager” is used to describe the cold, or cool fermentation of the beer, using specific yeast species, to create the crisp and bright flavor. The process of cold-fermenting a beer takes more time than fermenting an ale, so it had to be held in storage for longer. This is how the name is believed to have come about.
As Germans begin to immigrate to the United States, they brought the lager brewing style with them. The first American lagers were produced by Miller and Anheuser-Busch starting in the 1870s. These beers are hallmarks of the US beer industry and are the largest-selling brands in the world today.
While there is a distinctive difference between American and German lagers, these are just two of the distinctly different lagers on the market. The adventurous beer lover can spend years trying different lager styles. Examples include:
- The Kölsch – another German lager that is fruity, cloudy, and slightly bitter.
- The International Pale Lager – think of Heineken, or Corona for this lager style.
- The American Pale Lager – examples of this beer style include Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz, and Hamms.
- The Hoppy Lager – this beer style is as it suggests. It’s a lager with more hops.
- Dark Lagers – there are a number of beer styles in this group including amber lagers, Schwarzbier, Dunkel, Marzen, and Bocks, to name a few.
Celebrating National Lager Day in 2023
In the United States, National Lager Day is celebrated on December 10th. During this celebratory day, look for local breweries that feature their newest experiment with lager brewing. Dark lagers are often popular on National Lager Day, as they are a bit heavier in flavor and color, making them a nice wintertime drink.
Celebrating National Lager Day in 2024
In 2024, as in other years, National Lager Day will be celebrated on December 10th. Your local breweries will likely find a new way to celebrate this day. Look for lager festivals, lager tastings, food and beer pairings, and breweries that offer a full line of lagers of different styles.
What to Drink on National Lager Day
Obviously, on National Lager Day you will want to enjoy a lager. This beer style, if you have not experienced it, is one of the most popular beer styles in the world. It is also one of the most varied styles.
With many different lager options, you may be wondering which style or brand is the best to enjoy on National Lager Day. To help you with this, I have put together a list of lager styles that you should give a try on National Lager Day.
The hallmark of the American lager is its pale color, light flavor, and diverse grain bill. Many American lagers use corn or rice in their brewing process, which adds to the mild, grain-forward flavor of this beer style. Budweiser and Coors Banquet are two of the best examples of the American Lager.
While the word “lager” brings to mind light-colored beers, there are a wide variety of dark lagers to explore. These lagers incorporated dark malts into the brewing process, giving these beers a stronger flavor and a darker color.
Despite the dark color and robust flavor, these beers are still light and crisp. They do tend to have a higher ABV in general. A good dark lager to try is Warsteiner’s Dunkle lager.
If you want to try a traditional German-style lager, the helles is your pick. These beers are a little higher in alcohol, with a typical ABV ranging between 4 and 6%. Helles beers are mild and sweet, with no obvious bitterness. Helles lagers are a bit darker in color than a pilsner, but they are still light and crisp.
India Pale Lager
The India pale lager is a fairly new lager style. A favorite in the craft scene, the India pale lager, or IPL is a crisp and light beer that uses a similar style and quantities of hops as an IPA. The result is a higher alcohol, lightly flavored, but hop-forward beer.
Pilsners originated in the region that is now the Czech Republic. These lagers are light, straw-colored beers with a delicate bready flavor, a bitter hoppy finish, and an ABV of around 4 to 5 %. These lagers tend to have more aroma than others. A good Pilsner to try on National Lager Day is Pilsner Urquell. This is a traditional Czech lager, and one of the oldest in the world.
Vienna Lagers are a typical German-style lager brewed with darker malts. This beer style has a rich amber color, little bitterness, and a sweet and bready flavor. This beer originated in Austria, but one of the most popular Vienna Lagers is Sam Adams Boston Lager.
National Lager Day – FAQ’s
When is National Lager Day?
National Lager Day is celebrated in the United States on December 10th of each year. On this day, many breweries, bars, and restaurants offer unique beer selections, food and beer pairings, and drink specials to celebrate this most popular of beer styles.
What is the Difference Between a Lager and an Ale?
The difference between a lager and an ale lies in the way the beer is fermented. They both use the same types of malts and grains, which are steeped in warm water to produce wort. The wort is boiled with hops for flavoring and then cooled. Yeast is then added to the cooled wort for fermentation.
Ales use a top-fermenting yeast that performs best at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F). Lagers use a bottom-fermenting yeast that is most efficient at colder temperatures (35˚–50˚F). Besides impacting the flavor and texture of the beer, lager yeasts also take longer to ferment, due to the cold temperature.
Lagers are a very popular beer style around the world. With over 9,000 different lagers on the market today, you can travel just about anywhere and enjoy a delicious lager.
For the lager enthusiast, the best day of the year is December 10th. National Lager Day is the perfect time to enjoy a lager with your friends at your favorite watering hole.