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Old 12-06-2012, 02:19 PM   #21
May 2012
Raleigh, NC
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I've heard that too, but it isn't very convincing. It certainly doesn't explain the worldwide popularity of pale lager. It also doesn't account for the fact that the temperance movement had basically moved ALL beer to be weak and low alcohol even before prohibition.

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Old 12-06-2012, 02:19 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by billl View Post
Light lagers aren't an american phenomenon. They are popular around the world.
You are right, but most these countries have learned of light lagers from American brewing. I remember in Korea OB Beer was an attempt to replicate Budweiser. It's not that these are the best tasting, or--one could argue--the most liked, but that they are seen as representing American tastes.

I also think that many of these countries who have no beer culture of their own, know only what they see being consumed in America because of business and cultural interaction. It is kind of like people here who think of beer as only being BMC. How many of these same cultures think of McDonald's as the quintessential hamburger simply because they've had no others?

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Old 12-06-2012, 02:28 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by filmman03 View Post
What's the point of drinking a "light" or "low calorie" beer.. IMO mine as well drink a girly drink.
Right. I love "girly drinks", like IIPAs and hopped up American red. I'm sure that's what you meant?

I think that if you define "big breweries", you'll get different answers depending on what you mean. If you mean the mega-corporations (both of them) that own Stella Artois, Budweiser, Beck, Goose Island, Rolling Rock, Blue Moon, Miller, etc, they make those because that is what sells for them. They are trying to break into the craft beer market by making up "fake" new brands that seem to be craft beers.

But if you define it as "new big American breweries", like Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada, which are big by microbrew standards, then they make many more craft beers that are great.
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Old 12-06-2012, 02:35 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by abstractreasoning View Post
It can't be for the flavor.

Seems that lagers take longer and require more resources to produce than ales.

So why are all the main breweries concentrating on these?
Contrary to what you might believe, it IS the flavor. Just because you don't like it, or think you have better tastes than the average beer drinker, it is exactly what people seem to want.

Or ELSE they wouldn't be doing it, would they?

America like most of the world had quite an extensive array of beers available prior to the German Invasion of brewer's which later introduced the light lager. They pretty much had the "brewing culture" of all the countries that people immigrated from...Most English beer styles..you know Porters, Stouts, Partigyles, stuff like that. As well as mostly heavy German Styles of beer. Not to mention people from Scotland, Ireland, Russia and other places where beer was drank.

Remember up until then, beer was food.

In fact thew whole history of the light lager is the American populace's (not the brewer's) desire to have a lighter beer to drink, which forced the German brewers to look at adding adjuncts like corn and rice...not as the popular homebrewer's myth has been to make money by peddling and "inferior commercial product" by adding adjuncts, but in order to come up with a style of beer that the American people wanted.

Maureen Ogle proved that in Ambitious Brew it actually made the cost of a bottle of Budweiser cost around 17.00/bottle in today's dollars. Gee I've paid 17 dollars for a bomber of beer before...not too much difference there, eh?

Ambitious brew is much more historically accurate than that silly beer wars beersnob propaganda. I encourage folks to read it and learn a little more about the truth.

When AH released Budweiser with it's corn and rice adjuncts in the 1860's it was the most expensive beer out there; a single bottle retailed for $1.00 (what would equal in today's Dollars for $17.00) this was quite difference when a schooner of beer usually cost a nickel.

This is the part that blows the "cost cutting" argument out of the water. In order to use those adjuncts you have to process them separately from the rest of the mash, and then add it to the mash. You either have to do a cereal mash to pr-gelatinize them or you have to roll them with heat to make them flaked...either way, besides the labor and energy involved to grow and harvest those plants, you expend labor and energy to make them usuable. You have to boil them in a cereal mash. That's another couple hours of labor and energy involved in the cost of the product. Same with making the HFCS ad rice syrup solids they use today....It still has to be processed before it makes it to the beer.

It wasn't done to save money, it was done because heavy beers (both english style Ales and the heavier Bavarian malty beers) were not being drunk by American consumers any more. Beer initally was seen around the world as food (some even called it liquid bread), but since America, even in the 1800's was a prosperous nation compared to the rest of the world, and americans ate meat with nearly every meal, heavy beers had fallen out of favor...

And American 6-row Barley just made for heavy, hazy beer.

The American populace ate it up!

The market WAS in a sense, craving light lagers...The German brewers didn't want to make the switch. They were perfectly happy with their bocks and all those other great heavy German Beers. But the rest of us weren't into it.

So, what, they were just supposed to claim superiority by sticking to those styles until they went out of business? It wasn't until after the second world war, when GI had returned from eating the foods of the world that "gourmet culture" as we know it began......There wasn't really a "craft anything" market yet.

Bush and other German Brewers started looking at other styles of Beers, and came upon Karl Balling and Anton Schwartz's work at the Prague Polytechnic Institute with the Brewers in Bohemia who when faced with a grain shortage started using adjuncts, which produced the pils which was light, sparkly and fruity tasting...just the thing for American tastebuds.

So the brewers brought Schwartz to America where he went to work for American Brewer Magazine writing articles and technical monographs, teaching American brewers how to use Rice and Corn...

The sad moral of the story is....The big corporate brewers did not foist tasteless adjunct laced fizzy water on us, like the popular mythology all of us beersnobs like to take to bed with us to feel all warm and elitist....it was done because our American ancestors wanted it.

Blame your grandfather for having "lousy" taste in beer, NOT the brewers themselves. Like everything in business, they had to change or die.

Maureen Ogle's book Ambitious Brew is the best and most historically accurate of American Beer History books out there. I can't recommend it enough.

It a dose of reality. I used to believe the same stuff you all did until I read it. It's kinda humbling to realize we're NOT "the pawns of an evil corporate empire" after all.


Her blog archive has a lot of material covering the imbev takeover or Anheiseur Bush as well as stuff that didin't make it into here original book, so I encourage you to dig through that as well.


It clears up a lot of stuff like this, and busts a ton of myths like this one.

Listen to this from Basic Brewing;

November 30, 2006 - Ambitious Brew Part One
We learn about the history of beer in the USA from Maureen Ogle, author of "Ambitious Brew - The Story of American Beer." Part one takes us from the Pilgrims to Prohibition.


December 7, 2006 - Ambitious Brew Part Two
We continue our discussion about the history of beer in the USA with Maureen Ogle, author of "Ambitious Brew - The Story of American Beer." Part two takes us from Prohibition to the present day.

That's why I find the arguments the "bud basher's" like to use so amusing...It's so historically inaccurate. It really is our ancestor's "fault" that BL is the most popular beer in the world.

Go ask your grampa why he didn't choose a nice Stout or an IPA. (But if stouts, or IPAs were the biggest sellers on the planet today, you bet your bippie that beersnobs would be railing against those beers instead. )

And they had choices back then as well. They didn't HAVE to drink that style, they chose too.
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Old 12-06-2012, 02:53 PM   #25
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Thanks for the history lesson Revvy, that was really interesting/informative. I'm going to take a look at that book you recommended.
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Old 12-06-2012, 02:57 PM   #26
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Oct 2008
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Originally Posted by abstractreasoning View Post
It can't be for the flavor.

Seems that lagers take longer and require more resources to produce than ales.

So why are all the main breweries concentrating on these?
The simple answer to your question is that lager is the most popular beer style on planet earth.

To comment on your statement:

It can't be flavor? Why not? I fear your definition of lager is far too narrow if you believe a lager cannot have delicious flavor. If you classify all lager into the "American Light Lager" category then you may have a point. However, this is only one type of lager that does not define the entire range of the style. In fact, these beers range from bright spicy bliss to sweat malty mania. Are you aware that the following styles are all lagers?

Bohemian Pilsner
Vienna Lager
Amber Lager
Steam Beer
and so on....

If you believe popular brands of the lager styles listed above don't have desirable flavor then I would suggest that either your pallet differs from the majority of informed beer advocates or you require a broader view (experience) of the style.

Having said that, I am more of an ale kind of guy most of the time. However, I'd happily head down to the pub with you and buy you pints of lager until we found one you like.

EDIT: Revvy beat me to the punch again. I hate it when work gets in the way of my ranting.

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Old 12-06-2012, 03:10 PM   #27
Nov 2011
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Also, network effects. Same reason we use the QWERTY keyboard, even though it may be inferior to other layouts. Yes, on the margin, ales may be cheaper, but the switching costs are too great.

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Old 12-06-2012, 03:42 PM   #28
Feb 2012
Sac City, IA
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Revvy -- Excellent post. And I think your book recommendation is going to go on my Christmas list.

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Old 12-06-2012, 04:01 PM   #29
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Feb 2011
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Originally Posted by cluckk View Post
One article I read years ago about the transition from the old pre-prohiition days of assorted strong ales and lagers to today's monkey-see-monkey-do swill (aka BMC), was a reaction to the forces that drove prohibition and kind of an "If we make this stuff will you leave us alone to make a living" kind of thing. It was argued that light lagers, because of their weak taste, thin body and low alcohol appealed to women (sorry ladies, I didn't say it, the author did). Since most of prohibition was driven largely by The Christian Women's Temperance Movement, and other largely female groups, it was thought that by making a drink the ladies would find inoffensive it would keep them off the brewers backs. It is interesting that there was a great deal of cooperation between the women's suffrage groups and the temperance groups. So see what happens when you give women the vote? You're left drinking Clydesdale whiz instead of real beer. Sorry ladies, that last was mine, but was just a joke.
You do bring up an interesting point concerning pre-prohibition vs post-prohibition. Before the 21st amendment was ratified, FDR signed the Cullen-Harrison Act legalizing the sale of beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% because it was considered too low to be intoxicating. This was the first legal beer the US could drink since 1920, and it sounds a lot like today's BMC.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:10 PM   #30
Jul 2012
Winchester, Virginia
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Thanks for the recommendation, Revvy. I've just downloaded that book to my Nook and will be reading it!

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