A few times now we’ve been asked, or seen others being asked, to recommend a single great book that tells the story of lager. Unfortunately, as far as we know, no such book yet exists.
Last time our answer amounted to a short reading list — this article, that book, this blog post — which made us think that it might be useful to put this together in a single place. That is, here. Partly because it’s fun, and partly to add a bit of weight to the idea, we’ve decided to think of it as a virtual anthology.
Where we have been able to identify free-to-access sources we’ve provided links and in the cases of material you have to pay for we’ve tried to suggest free alternatives.
What we really wanted to find but couldn’t was something to act as a foreword — a rip-roaring, passionate ‘In Praise of Lager’ piece. Most we dug up were either too dry, too specific (Czech beer, German beer) or laced throughout with digs at IPA and craft beer culture. If you know of the perfect piece, mention it in the comments below or drop us an email: email@example.com
The Origins of Modern Lager
Of Spaten and Sedlmayrs
A good summary of the part played by one Munich brewing family in the creation of lager as we now know it, with Anton Dreher (above) in a supporting role.
Brewer and Distiller International, December 2007 (PDF)
On the Founding of Pilsner Urquell
The best account of how the golden lager we know today came into being in the Czech town of Pilsen, with myths and misconceptions busted throughout.
beerculture.org, August/September 2012 Part I | Part II | Part III
Emil Chr. Hansen and the Yeast Revolution
Lars Marius Garshol
A snappy telling of the story of how scientific advances in the late 19th century made the mass-industrial production of clean, consistent lager possible.
larsblog, September 2017
German-American Brewers Before Prohibition
The story of how lager came to America from the 1840s onwards along with mass migration from Germany, and how it spread outward from the eastern seaboard as the century wore on, leading to the total domination of American beer by lager in the 20th century.
Serious Eats, October 2011
The single most comprehensive account of how lager came to Britain covering an early false start in 1835, the rise of lager brewing in Wales and Scotland, and the fits and starts with which it grew to popularity through the late 19th and 20th centuries.
In the book Amber, Gold & Black, 2010.
A Czech Influence on Belgian Brewing
These days, on the other side of the craft beer revolution, ‘Belgian beer’ has come to mean something strong, strange and unique. This article reminds us that lager is also a core part of Belgian beer culture and has been for more than a century.
beerculture.org, May 2016
A Short History of Beer in Hong Kong
This is a case study in how lager became the dominant style beyond ‘the West’: “The end of the 19th century, however, seems to have witnessed a complete change in Hong Kong’s tastes, with British ales and stouts being replaced by lagers from other lands. As early as May 1876 Lane, Crawford was advertising Danish beer from the Tuborgs Fabrikker’, Tuborg then being just three years old.”
Brewery History Society, Winter 2013 (PDF)
Lager in the Modern World
“You Have to Think About Growth”
This substantial chapter of Ambitious Brew whizzes through several decades of beer history from the end of prohibition to the birth of ‘craft beer’, explaining how the American palate evolved to crave lighter, blander beers, and then just as the brewers had the got the hang of that, began to demand the opposite.
Ambitious Brew, 2006
Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis: how lager (eventually) conquered Britain
As a former advertising executive Pete Brown has acute insight into how lager was sold to British drinkers and what this account lacks in footnotes it makes up for in entertainment value and verve.
Man Walks into a Pub, 2003, pp.237-268
How Brazil’s Favourite Beer Arrived from Scotland
The story of Carling, SKOL and the birth of the multinational lager brand.
zythophile.co.uk, May 2012
The Trouble with German Beer
In this informed opinion piece Ron Pattinson, who lives on the Continent and knows Germany well, not least because that’s where he met his wife, sets out why he believes German beer is not what it ought to be in the 21st century. “Around 99% percent of beer styles disappearrd in the 50 years before the First World War. Compared to the current choice of pils, pils or more pils, the diversity of styles pre-1850 is dazzling. ”
European Beer Guide, c.2001
Skyscraper Brewer: 30 Years of Jim Koch and Sam Adams Beer
The author of The Audacity of Hops reflects here on the legacy of Boston Lager: “The recipe, legend has it, came via an ancestor who was a brewer. Koch’s father, Charles, had been a brewer, too, though he grew disenchanted with the consolidating industry that was dominated after World War II by the sort of fizzy bastardized pilsner his son would one day describe to me as ‘alcoholic soda pop.’”
tomacitelli.com, January 2014
Why the Busch Family Mattered
In 2008 the firm behind Budweiser ceased to be in any sense a family firm when InBev acquired Anheuser-Busch to create AB-InBev. Here Dr Ogle, the author of Ambitious Brew, a book-length study of the history of American brewing, reflects on this moment in the grand scheme of history.
Modern Brewery Age, October 2008 (PDF)
Renaissance of British Craft Lager
Published in 2010 before Camden came on the scene and before Meantime was taken over by a multi-national, this piece captures a moment in time when only a handful of British breweries were dabbling in lager.
allaboutbeer.com, September 2010
* * *
We’ll keep an eye out for more and will aim to add to and update this list as we go.