Craft Beer & Brewing Episode 339

Podcast Episode 339: Ashleigh Carter, Jeff Bagby, and Ryan Brooks Dissect Mexican Lager and More

This week's episode is a panel discussion on lager brewing, recorded in front of a live audience late one night on the patio of Cerveza Fauna after a full day of judging for the Copa Baja beer festival in Mexicali, Mexico, in late 2023. Joining the discussion are three prominent lager brewers—Ashleigh Carter of Denver's Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Ryan Brooks of San Diego's SouthNorte, and Jeff Bagby (who, earlier this week announced that he was joining Green Cheek Beer as they acquire Bagby's brewery in Oceanside, California).

The location in Mexico provides the perfect backdrop for diving into Mexican, Mexican-style, and adjunct lagers, and the discussion also focuses on dark lagers. Along the way, they cover creative and technical points such as:

  • the challenge of brewing great lager in smaller batch sizes
  • understanding other brewers' commercial approaches through lab analysis
  • priorities for gear and process
  • techniques for brewing better lager on systems designed for single-infusion ale
  • understanding the impact of water on lager brewing
  • selecting yeast for Mexican-style lager
  • approaches to natural carbonation
  • brewing with corn via cereal mash versus pre-gelatinized products
  • making specialty beer with popcorn
  • clever approaches to building color without intense dark malt flavor

    And more.
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    Bierstadt Lagerhaus
    Helles

    Many types of lager have really taken off in our state, but for some reason, helles has lagged a bit. Some point to the difficulty in brewing the style, but that hasn't stopped breweries across the country from brewing new (to them) styles before. Colorado has no shortage of region-specific styles, either. It remains a mystery to me.

    The lack of top-shelf examples makes me appreciate the helles at Bierstadt even more, as have my trips to Munich, Germany, where you ask for a beer and receive a helles. Bierstadt's holds up to the homeland varieties, and I even prefer it to many of the German ones — it's a little less round and has a touch more spritzy carbonation. Bierstadt manages to thread the fine needle of crafting a supremely dry beer that still comes off as malty. It's versatile — great for drinking all day or perfect for the first of a variety of beers, plus it's wonderful with just about every type of food. The fact that it's always immensely fresh doesn't hurt, either; I've never had a bad pour of this beer over the years.

    For all those reasons, and despite loving Slow Pour Pils, and the German pilsner style above all else, I find myself consuming helles more than any other beer at Bierstadt.

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