Giant brewing conglomerates have done a great job selling tasteless beers to the masses. A majority of these beers are brewed with the Lager yeast, or “Saccharomyces Pastorianus”.It is named after Louis Paster. His research demonstrated that fermentation is caused by the growth of micro-organisms coming from outside sources, as spores on dust, rather than spontaneously generated within the sugar base food product. As we all know, this has led the breakthrough research about microbiology and disease prevention with the Pasteurization process.
In 1920,Prohibition, ironically acted as the viral infection that nearly killed the dominating lager beers. German immigrants did wonders with limited U.S resources to craft quality beers. Once the liquor ban was lifted 13 years later, the few family owned breweries that survived, slowly got back to full production and with the help of industrial refrigerated distribution, lager beers were made available to the thirsty American public. These select monopoly allowed for one of the most destructive period in the U.S history of beer making. With mass production on the rise, the quality was sacrificed to meet quotas and compete amongst some of the most powerful brewing empires in the world. Short cuts were taken starting at the mill.Large amount of American native corn were used to substitute expensive imported malted barley from the old world. The rest is history.
Years later, craft beer revolutionaries are mashing hard to move forward and reinvent lager beers. I can think of countless passionate brewers crafting absolutely amazing lager beers all over the U.S. Yet one sticks out of the pack for me that live in Los angeles CA.
Jonathan Porter from Smog City Brewing exemplify this epic lager beer renaissance we are fortunate to experience. Little Bo Pils is his bottom fermented Czech Pilsner love child. Smog City is serious about brewing with a strong Classic Styles mentality. Below is Porter with his two horizontal lagering tanks refurbished from BJ’s Brewery.
The creative nature of most brewers is personified in John Porter. He experiments with all the dry hopped versions you can imagine. Many fruit additions in stainless drums or oak barrels inoculated with happy bugs and other wild yeast are slowly expending the already solid draft lineup. His work is a testament to craft beer past and future combined. Smog City can proudly hold the title of only LA & Southern California brewery that uses traditional horizontal lagering tanks. Some examples of Little Bo Pils include Double Saaz, Falconers flight, Meridan, and Citra. Look out for Little Bo Pils original version around Sothern California now that Stone Distribution is spreading the beer love. For all of Porter (as most people call Johnathan) original experiments you absolutely have to make a trip to the tap room in the brand new Torrance brewery.
I had to jump on this opportunity to find out more about Porter’s brewing mind.
BC: Porter, why choose traditional Lagering tanks when most U.S small craft brewers go vertical and conical all the way?
Porter: I saw an opportunity to distinguish our brewery from the competition – especially because no one in L.A., let alone So Cal, is making a lager/lagers full time.There are a few though.
BC: Do you think there are specific advantages in using the Horizontal tanks vs the typical vertical conical?
Porter: The biggest problem with lagering in a conical fermentor is that it ties up one tank for a very long time. We can ferment our Little Bo Pils in 10-14 days then transfer to the lagering tanks- which do help with the clarity- where they condition for 3 weeks. This frees up the conicals for beers that have a quicker turnaround time.
BC: I understand the shape of the vessel used to ferment has a strong impact on the flavor profile the yeast contribute to the finished beer. Matt Bryynidson from Firestone Walker Brewing in Paso Robles has demonstrated successfully the great flavors than can be achieve by Fermenting Ales in Oak barrels (almost extinct British traditional fermentation technique that uses oak barrels fermentors or “Burton Unions”, allowing a specific yeast flavor profile to develop during primary fermentation).
How does the horizontal tanks affect a lager, and more precisely Little Bo Pils?
Porter: The shape of a fermenting vessel definitely has an impact on the flavor of the beer. I feel like we get a more rounded and complex yeast profile by using the lagering tanks.
BC: Brewing techniques apart, any other reason Smog City Brewing closed the deal on these 2 sweet looking tanks when Laurie and yourself were planing the new facilities in Torrance CA?
Porter: Aside from the process driven decision, the lagering tanks we have were bought used and were a bargain. I also saw that as an opportunity to make a traditional beer and not tie up our conicals at the same time. We would have had to buy more conical FV’s to make Pilsner all the time.
Bottom fermented Lager Beers made with quality ingredients and care on a crafty scale has given this style a second chance for U.S consumers. Little did we know, a new lager hybrid would emerge from Prohibitions ashes and blend two of the most popular beer styles brewed to this day, IPA and LAGER beers.
I can remember the first time I had my first IPL (Indian Pale Lager)like it was yesterday. The day, moment, place in time is ingrained in my memory like no other beer. The surprise of this being a lager vs. ale and the incredible aroma floating above my glass had me stunt and salivating as I sat in a hop cloud. The nose hanging over the rim of my glass, I was in love. The first sip was a revelation. I like to compare it to taking a bite of freshly baked bread crust covered with orange blossom honey, and grapefruit resin hop jam. Unbelievable, I thought to myself. I quickly picked the drinks menu and scrolled back up to the “Hoppy” section. My eyes wide open I mumbled in my beard, “Humulus lager from THE BRUERY?”….
TO BE CONTINUED…