What’s in Lager – The Beer You Never Knew
Beer, to one degree or another, has been part of our culture (almost every culture) for centuries. We find ourselves enjoying a pint, or seven, of our favorite beer when the mood strikes us. The two most popular “types” of beer are Lager and Ale. But, what’s in lager? What makes it the most consumed beer on our planet?
In these next carefully crafted sentences (see what I did there?) we’ll explore Ales vs. Lagers, what goes into crafting the perfect Lager, health benefits, curling pounders and other such fun facts!
So, pop a cold one and read on! (Might want to use a koozie for that beer, BTW)
“Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Albert Einstein
What’s in Lager? Lager 101
History of Lagers First things first: History!! Beer has been brewed and consumed by us humans since the middle ages. We’re talking pre-1500’s here. (Just before the first i-Phone was released, I think.) However, it took centuries before any beer would be given the designation “Lager.” Why is that? Well, all beer is made with yeast, and there are thousands of strands of yeast that yield different tastes when fermented, or brewed.
The particular yeast that is the staple for Lagers is Saccharomyces Eubayanus (Say that 3 times fast.. Or at all). The crazy thing about this strand of yeast is that it didn’t exist when we humans began brewing our “happy juice,” rather it evolved over time after mixing different strains of yeast, and a lot of trial and error, to help us get to Lager status.
It wasn’t until 2011, well after the internet was created (thanks Al Gore), that researchers were able to determine the exact strand of aforementioned and verbally abused yeast used in ALL Lager beers. Say it with me; Saccharomyces Eubayanus. Nevermind.
Even though there are many types of Lagers being brewed on our blue planet, they all start out the same: The right amount of the Lager yeast and Cold brewed. Before refrigerators and flat-screen TV’s we humans would dig into the earth and create beer caves to cold brew our, well, beer.
Certain climates could brew only during the colder months and it would take the entire season for the yeast to do its job. I bet you can guess which month the beer was ready for consumption in Germany. (That would be October, Genius.)
Oktoberfest, celebrated in September, was a fest to drink the leftover beer from the previous season and prepare for the new batch the following month. Hopefully, the brew-master made enough for the townsfolk to enjoy until next year’s Oktoberfest. If not, I’m guessing that town had a fresh grave and an ad on Craigslist’s job section.
Lager vs. Ale
All beer falls into one of two categories. Either it’s a Lager or an Ale.
But what’s the difference between the two? Let’s start with just about everything. Except for water. They both use water. Glad we got that cleared up.
Lager is cold brewed with what’s called bottom-fermenting yeast. Because Lagers are cold-brewed at 40-50°F they take significantly longer to brew than Ales do. Ales brew warmer, relatively speaking, at 55-77°F, and use top-fermenting yeast.
This temperature differentiation might not seem significant to you, but to yeast, it’s the difference between a January snowball fight in Minnesota and high noon in Florida. (Pick a month).
It’s no surprise, then, that we consume these two types of beer at different temperatures. (Get your thermometers handy. No, not THAT one!!) Lagers are best consumed between 42-48°F, where Ales are best consumed, you guessed it, a little warmer at 44-52°F (Isn’t science fun!) The real trick is how to keep your favorite Lager or Ale at its optimum temperature throughout the consumption process. Maybe Tony Stark can help us with that conundrum.
What’s in Lager? Health benefits!
OK, whatever, with a little research you’ll find that with a healthy diet and exercise regimen you wouldn’t need the health benefits beer can offer. Screw that noise, we’re not talking about all that hard work, are we? For those of us who do drink beer, which based on global beer sales is everybody and their mother, the good news is it’s not all bad news for your body.
The fact is, research into the medical reasoning for the health benefits of beer is vast and encompassing.
Among other super-natural substances in your beer that boost your health are called flavonoids. Flavonoids are basically clusters of antioxidants that have all sorts of health benefits: Decrease the risk of heart disease, release free-radicals from your body’s cells, release toxins, lower blood pressure and the list goes on and on with every new study. (You just added more beer to your shopping list and recategorized it as “health food,” didn’t you?)
The fact is, research into the medical reasoning for the health benefits of beer is vast and encompassing. It’s the results, or rather the presentation of such results, that gets weighed down by moral implications. For example: Could you imagine a highly reputable health organization, such as the “Mayo Clinic,” telling you to put down that kale-chop and organic peanut butter smoothie and, instead, tear up a 40 of Miller High-Life? Not gonna happen, sister.
Beer, no matter if it’s an Ale or a Lager, is not a “super-food.” We’ll leave that to guacamole.
“Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares. If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.”- Ernest Hemingway
Fitness and Beer. 12oz of BS!
We’ve all heard these: Working out and Beer don’t mix. Beer before or after your workout negates your hard work. Beer will only give you a “beer-Belly.”
Let’s set the record straight: There is study upon study that dis-prove every one of these claims. Sure, if you hit the gym and then down a 12 pack of your favorite sudsy goodness over a bowl of Cheetos, you might not get the results you’re looking for from all that iron pumping action.
The best person to listen to when it comes to 12oz curls and picking things up and putting them down is: YOU!
And I think there’s a very good point here. Beer, oftentimes, opens the “door” to devouring junk food. Whether that’s because of where you’re consuming your beer (let’s face it, bar food isn’t known for its waste-slimming recipes) or that beer helps lower our inhibitions; we tend to let our diet go out the window while we drink. This is the prominent reason Beer gets a bad wrap when combined with exercise.
Fact is, there are several studies which show those who enjoy beer routinely, actually make it to the gym more often than those that do not drink. Is this a psychological trick the brain plays on us? “Go to the gym, ‘earn’ those beers.” Perhaps. Or maybe beer just levels certain personality types out and it gives routine purpose. (Totally just made that up).
No “old wives tale” will replace this simple biological fact: Whatever you put into your body, you have to burn. If you don’t burn it all, your body will store it as fat. If you burn more than you put into your pie-hole, your body will burn the excess fat. PERIOD.
The best person to listen to when it comes to 12oz curls and picking things up and putting them down is: YOU! If you drink a few Beers and it negatively impacts your workout, change something! Workout at a different time, drink less (yeah, right), change the type of beer you drink.
Personally, I was a little overweight. I really enjoy my “beer time” and running really isn’t my thing. (The shoes are too expensive). My change? I went from drinking predominantly stouts, to Pilsners. Why would that matter? Well, there are significantly fewer calories in Pilsners than stouts. (Mind blown, right?) This little adaptation helped me lose the weight and keep it off. I still enjoy my stouts from time to time, but with moderation.
Drink up, buttercup!
I’ll leave you with this: What’s in Lager? Choices. Information. Culture. Health. Whatever beer you enjoy, enjoy it knowing that centuries of painstaking brewing went into every last sudsy drop. It was brewed to be enjoyed but ended up as a tool to break barriers, build nations, define cultures, and to help people live better lives. Sure, all alcohol has its demons, or at least it brings out the demons in some people. Trust me when I say that those demons aren’t what the brewers had in mind while digging cold rooms to brew their beer in.
Now, I’ll drink to your health as beer does have some health benefits, and as we all try to find someone named “Moderately” to drink with, rest assured your beer cares about your well-being. It’s a symbiotic relationship, after all.