A BRIEF history of lager:
500 Years of the world's favourite beer
Shortlist for the André Simon Drink Award 2019
How did golden refreshing lager become the world's most popular kind of beer? In this mix of history and narrative non-fiction, A Brief History of Lager looks at how lager was born as a dark, sweet beer in dark, cold cellars somewhere in Bavaria and how it later came aboveground and turned into a light, refreshing beer. It looks at the importance of monks, kings, scientists and a soap maker in St Louis in the development of lager, as well as the impact of ice, wars, wasps, sport, sunshine and television in turning us all into lager drinkers. It sees how lager was able to travel around the world becoming simultaneously the most global drink and also the most local drink. And the most misunderstood.
The story starts somewhere in north Bavaria over 500 years ago and in the book we look at what those early lagers were like and the unique conditions needed to create what we now call lager. We’ll learn about the Reinheitsgebot beer purity law. We’ll join some beer riots and go to Oktoberfest. We’ll learn how the production of lager created beer gardens and how Bavarian brewers built beer palaces. We’ll meet the Great Grandfathers of Lager. Not just four old dudes but four of the world’s most important brewers (helped by a wide supporting cast) who modernised lager production in the 19th century and developed a more consistent and more delicious-tasting beer. From there we follow German emigres as they settled in North America and started to brew beers like they'd drunk a home, in doing so they were able to change the drinking culture of an entire country, arguably pioneering the archetype of lagers that we’re so familiar with today. Into the 20th century and it’s the story of how the world became lager drinkers and how post-war domestic and social changes had a huge impact on consumer habits, with home refrigeration, car ownership, growth in supermarkets and the emergence of television and mass-marketing all having significant impact. Finally we look at the future of lager and what craft brewers are doing with lager today, whether it’s renewing old lager brewing traditions or making up new rules.