World’s Best Lagers

best lagers in the world - pilsner urquell pivo pils palatine pils suarez family prima pils augustiner helles

Lager is the most popular type of beer in the world. When most people think of beer, they think of a refreshing, fizzy yellow drink served ice cold – a pale lager. While pale and light lagers can be delicious, the world of lager beer has a lot more to offer.

In the last few years, craft breweries have started to dedicate more time, money, and tanks to brewing lager. While German and Czech brewers paved the way, breweries around the globe are producing amazing quality lagers. In this article, we list our top 10 lagers that will quench your thirst and please your palate. Prost!

What Is A Lager?

Lagers are a family of beers that use a bottom-fermenting yeast at cool (48-55°F) temperatures. After primary fermentation, lagers are usually moved to a conditioning tank to age for 4 to 6 weeks. In fact, the word ‘lager’ comes from the German word meaning ‘to store’. The flavor profile of lagers becomes smooth and clean with extended cold conditioning.

Fermenting beer at cooler temperatures with lager yeast suppresses esters. These compounds cause fruity flavors and aromas which are not desirable in lager. The cool fermentation produces a very clean beer with minimal yeast-derived flavors. Quality ingredients and high attention to detail are required to make a great lager. Any flaw in the process is accentuated due to the clean nature of the fermentation and yeast profile.

Within the category of lager, there are many different styles of beer and a wide range of flavors.

Popular Lager Styles

Pilsner

Probably the most popular lager style, Pilsner is light in color and effervescent. Noble hops, such as Hallertauer Mittelfrüh and Tettnanger are used to give the beer a fresh and herbaceous character with a firm bitterness. Traditional examples come from the Czech Republic and Germany. Czech pilsners are lighter in alcohol, very aromatic, and hoppy. German pilsners have a distinct bitterness and herbal hoppiness balanced with bready malt.

Helles

Originating in Munich, Germany, Helles beers are pale lagers, but with less hop character and bitterness than pilsners. Helles relies on delicate malt flavor and balance with a super clean and refreshing finish.

Vienna Lager

Light caramel flavor and moderate bitterness define the amber-hued style of Vienna lager. These originally come from Vienna but are brewed worldwide today. Interestingly, Mexico produces some of the best versions of Vienna lager. Due to a brief period of Austrian reign in the 19th century, thousands of Austrians immigrated to Mexico.  They brewed and popularized their lager throughout the country.

Dark Lager

Many traditional lagers from Germany and the Czech Republic are dark in color. Dunkel and Schwarzbier are brewed with dark malts that give a roasted or chocolatey taste that pairs well with the clean lager character.

American Light Lager

We’ve all had them… 4% ABV, straw-colored and flavor deficient, American light lagers tend to be watery and thin bodied. They can be refreshing on a hot summer’s day but we’d recommend sticking to a well-made pilsner or Helles to quench your thirst.

Here are some of our absolute favorite lager beers that you should try:

Pilsner Urquell, Pilsner Urquell Brewery

source: Pilsner Urquell

In the late 19th century, Bavarian brewer Josef Groll brewed what would become the gold standard for pale lagers worldwide. Using pale malts, Saaz hops, and the local soft water of Pilsner, Czech Republic, Pilsner Urquell was born. 

This quintessential Czech lager comes in at only 4.4% ABV. Its distinctive aroma of Saaz hops is amplified due to it’s lively carbonation. A huge, frothy head sits atop this beautiful golden beer and doesn’t dissipate until the last delicious drop.

Where To Buy: Drizly

Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle, Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus

source: PUNCH

Certain beers feel like time machines. Rothaus Pils takes you back to the fundamentals of brewing. German pilsner, in its purest form, is lightly bready, bitter, and super clean. Rothaus Pils is the benchmark of the style. 

Made with local pilsner malt, aromatic German hops, and Black Forest spring water, this beer is complex yet ultra refreshing.

Where To Buy: Drizly

Augustiner Helles, Augustiner-Bräu

source: Hop Burns & Black

Beer in Bavaria is sacred. We’ve all heard of Oktoberfest and the Reinheitsgebot – we know the Bavarians take beer seriously. Intricate brewing practices and quality ingredients are used in brewing the classic styles of Bavaria. Each brewmaster seeks stylistic perfection. Well, perfection exists and it comes in the form of Augustiner Helles.

Pale gold with a frothy, tightly bound egg-white head, Augustiner is clear and feverishly carbonated. On the nose, sweet malt is accentuated by a subtle Noble hop character. Flavor-wise, this Helles brings to mind a crackery bread crust with a lightly sweet finish. Simply put, one of our favorite lagers available.

Where To Buy: Drizly

Palatine Pils, Suarez Family Brewery

source: Bon Apetit

Suarez is a small brewery along the Hudson Valley in New York. They’ve made their mark in the craft beer world brewing world-class lagers, Saisons, and sour beer. It’s no surprise that their co-founder and brewer, Dan Suarez, got his start at Hill Farmstead. Both breweries share the same quality-driven and creative ethos.

Palatine Pils is a German-style pilsner with a strong presence of fresh, crisp malt and herbaceous Noble hops. Unfiltered, this beer pours a cloudy straw color with an endless foam that forms stiff peaks above your glass. 

Where To Buy: Suarez Family Brewery

Luppolo, Oxbow Brewing

Oxbow Brewing Luppolo Cans
source: October

Nestled away in the forest of Maine, Oxbow has been making their interpretations of European farmhouse beers for nearly 10 years. Funky, oak-aged, and wild brews have been their focus, but their pilsner, Luppolo, is a standout.

Billed as an Italian style pilsner, Luppolo is made with European malt and hops. Dry-hopped for a super floral bouquet, this beer is crisp, bready, and refreshing. 

Where To Buy: Drizly

Trumer Pils, Trumer Brewery

Trumer Pils
source: Trumer

Based in Austria, Trumer now also has a facility in Berkeley, California. In both locations, they brew a traditional German pilsner called Trumer Pils. This beer gets its crisp character from a base of best quality pilsner malt. Czech Saaz, German Hallertau Perle, and Spalt Select hops give the beer a nice hoppy bitterness and aroma. Trumer Pils has a refreshingly dry finish and is super smooth thanks to a 6-week lagering phase.

Where To Buy: Drizly

Prima Pils, Victory Brewing Company

source: Robb Report

Based in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, Victory found commercial success in their Prima Pils. A German Pilsner with a decidedly floral and hoppy aroma, Prima Pils toes the line between tradition and American innovation. At 5.3% ABV, this beer is one of the most balanced, easy to drink, and refreshing pilsners brewed in the U.S.

If you get the chance, visit the Victory Brewing taproom for an authentic pilsner drinking experience. Every Prima Pils is “slow poured” to produce an extra dense and meringue-like head.

Where To Buy: Drizly

Pivo Pils, Firestone Walker Brewing Company

source: LA Times

Famous for their hoppy IPAs and barrel-aged beer, Firestone Walker proves their versatility with Pivo Pils. Heavily dry-hopped, this pilsner showcases the German Saphir hop with notes of Earl Grey and lemongrass.

Pivo Pils has a wide distribution in the U.S. and is one of Firestone Walker’s best sellers. Seek it out and dive into the refined complexity of this hopped-up beauty.

Where To Buy: Drizly

Dortmunder Gold, Great Lakes Brewing Company

source: Great Lakes Brewing Co

A Dortmunder is a traditional lager style from Dortmund, Germany. Dortmunters are similar to German pilsners but with a deeper gold appearance and maltier flavor profile.

Great Lakes has been brewing Dortmunder Gold since 1988. In our opinion, this version has eclipsed all German examples and takes the cake for the best Dortmunder in the world. The balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness makes this beer smooth and endlessly drinkable. 

Where To Buy: Drizly

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, Brauerei Heller-Trum

Disclaimer: This beer isn’t for the faint of heart. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen is brewed using 100% house-smoked malt. Pouring a dark brown with ruby highlights and a creamy off-white head, this beer is sweet, slightly bitter, and intensely smoky. 

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen has been brewed for centuries. It’s one of the few breweries in the world who smoke their own malt. Lagering gives this beer an unmistakable smoothness despite its smoky character. At 5.2% ABV, you can drink a few of these. According to the brewery, “the second “Seidla” (half-liter) tastes better than the first, and the third even better than the second.”

We agree.

Where To Buy: Drizly

FAQ

Where can I buy the best lagers?

With the growing popularity in craft lagers, you should be able to find a local brewery producing a version of the style. Major grocery stores are always stocked with commercial lagers but they are starting to offer craft options as well.

For the best-imported products, check with specialty beer stores in your area. You can also sign up for a subscription service such as International Beer Club which usually ships a few lagers per month.

What is the difference in flavor between lagers and ales?

Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeasts at low temperatures. Ales use top-fermenting yeasts at warmer temperatures. Because of the low temperature, lager yeasts do not produce significant fruity flavors. Plus, lager yeast tends to produce sulfuric flavors that are actually pleasant in small amounts. Ale yeast, on the other hand, can produce very fruity compounds reminiscent of banana, peach, orange, or tropical fruit.

It can be difficult to know if the fruitiness in beer is a product of yeast, hops, or actual fruit additions. Generally, lagers will be cleaner with a maltier backbone.

Is Kolsch a lager?

It looks like a lager…tastes like a lager… but Kolsch is actually an ale! A traditional pale brew from Cologne, Germany, Kolsch is fermented with very clean ale yeast. The result is a lager-like ale without the need for cold fermentation and long lagering. Craft brewers have started making Kolsch-style beers in large numbers due to its clean profile and quick turn-around.

Is Steam Beer a lager?

Steam beer, also known as California Common, tastes like an ale but it’s actually a lager. Fermented warm, around 68F, steam beer has a pleasant fruity profile. Keeping the lager strain at traditional ale temperatures gives steam beer, like Anchor Steam, a unique flavor.

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