The basic idea behind a hoppy lager is pretty simple: a beer that mixes the best of a lager with the hoppy-quality often associated with something like an IPA. This creates a beer that is light, refreshing, and easy to drink like a lager, which makes it perfect for Texas, with a more distinctive and complex flavor thanks to a stronger hops presence. We find that our hoppy lager is easy to drink with a level of bitterness that is strong for a lager, but not quite as robust as an IPA.
A good hoppy lager presents a middle way between a traditional lager and something with more bitterness to it. It drinks a little like each, but ultimately has a personality all its own.
The Heart of a Lager
Since the idea behind a hoppy lager is to add a bitter twist to the traditional lager formula, it is important that such a beer begin essentially as a lager. Although there are many different types of lagers out there, and a nearly endless supply of breweries making them, the essential aspect of a lager is one simple thing: cold. In pretty much every instance, a lager (including a hoppy lager) is cold-brewed rather than brewed in warm conditions.
Cold brewing means that fermentation happens in cool conditions of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, as opposed to warm fermentation that occurs in temperatures around 60 degrees F and above. This is very important for these types of beers, since the temperature impacts what kind of yeast can be used in fermentation. Cool fermentation produces a different taste because different yeast is used.
Historically, cool fermentation was possible only during cool weather, and it was common for German brewers to make this kind of beer in cellars or holes dug underground. They would plant trees to shade and protect the buried vats for fermenting and then serve the resulting lagers at these locations. That is where the first beer gardens developed: in the shade of these trees.
A Bitter Twist
The term “lager” simply refers to the fact that these beers are stored in cool temperatures after their cool fermentation is complete. To make a hoppy lager, however, you have to go beyond the basics of what a lager is. Cool fermentation creates a clean flavor that a lot of people enjoy, and this clean flavor is the perfect foundation to build other flavors on – typically through the use of malt.
With a hoppy lager, we focus on the use of hops instead to paint upon that clean canvas and make something truly unique and different. Hops are an important ingredient in other types of beers – particularly more bitter varieties such as the very popular India Pale Ale. With a hoppy lager, you can use hops to add more bitterness and a more complex flavor overall to the clean and otherwise very simple flavor of a lager.
Flavor and Aroma
As you might expect, a hoppy lager has a stronger aroma to it since the hops are the star of the show. In general, the hoppiness is typically not as intense as you find with an IPA, but certainly more pronounced than a standard lager. Most lagers have a very subtle aroma to them, while a hoppy lager has a pronounced scent of hops and a much greater richness.
Hops also dominate the flavor of a hoppy lager, as you might expect. The exact nature of this flavor depends on the type of hops used – with American hops lending a more citrusy flavor and aroma to such beers, and European hops having a more pronounced floral or herbal aroma and taste. A blend of different hops, and controlled use of them during brewing, can make for a very complex and unique taste that is more rich and complex than a standard lager, but not as intense as an IPA.
A hoppy lager usually looks much like any other lager, with a pleasing, golden coloration. While the typical lager is pale in color, dark lagers are also possible, which means a hoppy lager could also be made with a darker appearance. Since a hoppy lager usually strives to exist between an IPA and standard lager, however, it is usually going to be pale in appearance.
Alcohol by Volume
One of the reasons lagers are generally so popular is due to their low amount of alcohol, so they are easy to drink and do not hit a person very hard while being enjoyed. A hoppy lager is often a bit stronger, due to how it is made, but still not overly powerful. Standard lagers usually fall somewhere between 3% and 4% ABV; while a hoppy lager might have more than 5% ABV, but still fall short of the stronger types of beers.
Serving a Hoppy Lager
A hoppy lager is typically served in either a flute glass like a lager or in a tulip glass like an IPA. This all depends on personal preference and the nature of the beer itself, whether it leans more toward a standard lager or an IPA. With a flute glass, the beer is able to sparkle and form a stronger head while being enjoyed, though a tulip glass better allows the drinker to appreciate the hoppy notes and stronger flavors.
Due to the stronger flavors of a hoppy lager, it is often enjoyed with foods that also have strong flavors that will not be overpowered by the beer. Rich cheeses and meats are quite popular, as is anything with strong garlic flavors. Sumptuous desserts that work well with the citrusy and floral qualities of hops are also a great pairing, such as cheesecake or anything with chocolate.
Come and Enjoy a Border Shift
At Fort Brewery & Pizza, we are committed to being a significant part of the community by serving up the best food and drinks in town. Our roots run deep in Fort Worth and it is our pleasure to feed our friends and neighbors and brew up the most refreshing beverages we can. Food and drink are something everyone can come together and enjoy every single day, which is why they are so important to us.
All of our crafted beers are created to be refreshing and unique. With our hoppy lager, Border Shift, we use a blend of American and German hops that give it a complex and rewarding flavor built on the clean foundation of lager yeast. Come and try the Border Shift for yourself, or one of our other craft beers, and taste something you won’t find anywhere else.