We wanted to spend our hot Saturday afternoon in Mapua, and so, of course, we were soon enjoying a beer outside Golden Bear Brewery. We noticed pale lager after pale lager dotted across the tables, and decided we had to face the facts.
Most people drink pale lagers most of the time. They are designed for maximum refreshment and minimal contemplation, a perfect combination for many. We have a bit of a phobia, perhaps because of brushes with warm American products earlier in our drinking careers. Facing our fear, we went ahead and ordered a Hot Lips zesty lager. It was gorgeous, sparkling bright gold under a fine white head.
The pleasant aroma of mild hops and a hint of corn led to a full malt flavour with a crisp hop bite. Our German companion called it pilsner-like, and it went down quickly.
Contrary to the impression we've given some local brewers, we don't think pale lagers are inferior beers. We know it takes skill to make a good, subtle, balanced, crisp, clear 4 per cent-6 per cent abv lager. We do know a good one from a bad one; we just generally don't prefer to drink them.
Every once in a while, a very cold crisp lager is a perfect refresher, but most of the time a nice cold pilsner or pale ale does the same thing with more flavour. And, specifically, with more hops.
But 90 per cent of the beer sold worldwide is pale lager. Certainly more than half the beer drunk in New Zealand is also lager. So, most likely it's the best seller from each of our local brewers. And odds are that it's your favourite as well. You might enjoy trying various other beer styles sometimes, but even when you seek out craft beer, you are looking for a nice lager.
We buttonholed a friend at the Free House, and asked him why he chose the Mussel Inn Golden Goose. He felt sheepish, admitting that he really didn't spend much thought on the taste of beer.
He was curious, but most of the time, he scanned the board for an alcohol percentage under 5 per cent abv, then the price column for something under $10, and that usually landed him in the pale lager range. Golden Goose is good, and local, and therefore just right. For us, we found its yeasty aroma, full, slightly tart flavour and malty finish pleasant enough. But we quickly moved on to a favourite IPA.
So, you have plenty of choices if you want a locally made lager. One of the most awards winning would be Sprig & Fern's Tasman Lager. It is darker and has a bit higher alcohol than many, with a sweet floral nose and nutty flavour, and a very small level of bitterness in the finish. Other choices would include Founders Tall Blonde, Lighthouse Cheeky Little Lager, Totara Gold, Stoke Lager, and more.
Even Martin Townshend, known for his English-style real ales, has put out Te Laga, his version of a Kiwi Lager. As with many lagers, there is a hint of sulphur, a by-product of the fermentation, and then a malt-biscuit sweetness fading into a dry, crisp finish with just enough hops to tingle a bit on the tongue.
Pale lagers have a lineage that takes them back to Bavaria, home of the litre stein and gardens dedicated to quaffing on a massive scale. We would hope that the next time you find yourself in need of a cold refreshing pint, you will pause as it goes down to savour the moment. Explore a bit, and enjoy the variety of pale lagers available.