Taste: Spirits: Lager Heads

Our microbreweries ­produce some of the country’s best lagers

Craft brewers generally favor ales over lagers because they’re intensely flavored and quick to brew in small batches. But Pennsylvania, with its strong German heritage, is nationally recognized for premium micro-­lagers, from hoppy pilsners to rich doppelbocks.

Ale and lager are two types of brewing yeast. Ale yeasts ferment hot and fast, releasing broad malt flavors and a slight “doughy” taste, while lager fermentations are cool and slow, retaining crisp, toasty grain flavors and minimizing yeastiness.

Our micro-lager heritage was founded by the visionary Stoudt’s brewery in Adamstown. From the beginning, Stoudt’s brewed classic Munich styles in voluntary observance of Germany’s Beer Purity Law. Stoudt’s “Gold” is balanced and elegant, while the high-toned, bitter finish of the racy “Pils” is ideal with spicy foods. Seasonal “Oktoberfest” is an amber beauty, toasty and nutty in all the right places. Stoudt’s “Blonde Double Mai Bock” turns heads with honeyed opulence.

Downingtown’s Victory Brewing Company has followed the micro-lager lead. Its powerhouse “Prima Pils” packs a healthy hop kick, and the nut-brown “Dark Lager” is deceptively quenching. Look for two lagers on tap this winter: pale, sunny “St. Boisterous Hellerbock” and dark, luscious “St. Victorious Doppelbock.”
Other Pennsylvania brewers aren’t far behind. Harrisburg’s innovative Tröegs makes delightful lagers, like crisp “Sunshine Pils” and rich, malty “Troëgenator Doublebock.” Penn Brewery in Pittsburgh produces  understated lagers in the old-world tradition, especially the lean “Penn Pilsner.”

Marnie Old discusses wines, beers and spirits at marnieold.com. She may consult for some of the businesses she writes about. E-mail: mail@phillymag.com.