With over 50 lagers on offer at Snallygaster 2022, around an eighth of all beer available, you’d be hard pressed to find a bad one.
There’s lager from Germany, the United Kingdom, and some high quality lager brewed right here in D.C. To me, some of these are more comforting than others. When I say comforting, I don’t mean lager aged in whiskey or spirit barrels, though those are on offer too (Hello Sierra Nevada’s Barrel-Aged Superfest, a Bourbon-Soaked Oak Barrel-Aged Festbier at 12.0% alcohol by volume). What I mean is that the following lagers (completely subjective to my own bias) are of great comfort to those who, like me, favor beer-flavored beer. In addition, they’re all 4% or 5% alcohol by volume.
We hear you. Internally, at DCBeer we’ve had conversations and our group text is bumping with the 4, 3, and even 2% ABV beers we’ve been impressed by (looking at you Good Word Brewing & Public House’s 2.7% ABV smoked porter). Earlier in the week someone tweeted to us, referencing Snallygaster 2022: Fun With Untappd “Seems like everything with a high-rating is also very high ABV. Looking forward to your power rankings, and I hope I’ll see lower-ABV picks.”
To me, great lager is a lot like a great meal. Is there a meal from your youth that comforts you? For me, these dishes are foods I lean on in times of uncertainty. Lager provides a similar safety blanket where I feel comforted by the return to the quality beer I know I find myself counting on in an uncertain world.
Of the 50+ lagers available Saturday, I’ve shrunk down the list to about a tenth of its size. Lagers I’ve had, and lagers that I’ve yet to try that come highly recommended.
If you’ve never had Schönrammer lager, you absolutely must try Schönram Helles Lager and Schönram Pils. Found at the Nessie tent, Schönram Helles Lager, and Pils, both 5.0% ABV, are absolutely necessary to sample. These lagers are the security blanket to my Linus.
Traunstein Dunkel Lager may be the only dunkel lager at the festival. At 5% ABV, this beer is a beautifully rounded testament to the power of balance. Chocolate-like, but not sweet. Dry, but not too thin. It’s another beer to try before you sample smoked marzen, imperial stout, or any mixed fermentation, or spontaneously fermented beers. Though this lager is remarkably easy drinking, it contains multitudes. While mildly sweet at the start, it finishes dry. The sweetness is cut with a slight bitterness that is far from the roasty notes you’d expect in a 5% porter.
If comfort food is what you’re after, consider Ms. Frank, what Suarez Family Brewery calls their Kellerbier. Think about this beer the way you’d think about a hot dog, or a grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of tomato soup. This is lager, but it’s darker than the vast majority of pale lager sold in America. It has a pleasant bitterness, but certainly a more delicate one than American pale ales. This beer satisfies the way a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup and Kraft single slices on Wonder bread satisfies. But it also has a zesty hoppiness and a bready malt character that could dress up even the most satisfying comfort food. Tomato soup will do, but this one is reminiscent of heirloom tomatoes grown in volcanic soil punching up an otherwise simple soup. An all-beef frankfurter from a 24-pack of hotdogs would scratch the comfort food itch, but the way Suarez Family is executing lagers, this beer can be as contemplative as you’d like. Yes, it’s lager. Yes, it’s highly digestible and very “moreish,” but if you pause to consider the ways in which Ms. Frank is not a macro pale lager, you might liken it to an organic beef and free-range pork hotdog with a proprietary blend of butcher’s spices. At 4.7% ABV Suarez Family Ms. Frank Kellerbier scratches that comfort food itch.
We’ve been lucky to have Dutchess Ales Ketzer Helles Lager in our market for a little over a year. The 4.8% ABV beer really fires on all cylinders and walks a fine line bridging the gaps between America’s insatiable thirst for hops and the German drinking public’s desire for a balanced, malt-forward lager. It’s malty, but not overly so. It’s hoppy, but not as bitter as classic German Pils. Most of us who love lager but grew up in the largest aroma-hops growing country in the world will immediately understand this beer, and the balance therein.. I get soft bready malt, very inviting, but also the German classics I’ve come to love: Perle, Hallertau Mittelfrüh, and Saphir hops.
I won’t have a stein in hand, but join me for a lager on Saturday.