I like lager, nay, I love the stuff. I wasn't much of a fan when I was spotty youth back in the west of Scotland, but when you live in central Europe for a decade, it gets into your system. Czech lager got so well into my system that if someone makes a pilsner and it doesn't match up to the beers I drank back in Prague then I am afraid I am not interested. Yes, I am a lager snob.
A good pilsner is one of the beer world's great contradictions. Utterly simple ingredients, generally speaking just pilsner malt, Saaz hops, water and yeast, yet it is exceedingly difficult to make a great pilsner. Brewing a proper pilsner takes confidence. Confidence to do a decoction mash (yes I know the argument that malts are more modified these days, thus rendering decoction redundant - personally I think that is tosh), confidence to use just Saaz hops, confidence to let "product" tie up your lagering tanks for at least 30 days, 90 if you are trying to recreate Budvar.
And yet, when you look at lists of the top 50 beers in the world, there is not a single lager. Seriously, go and have a look, not a single lager makes that list. No Pilsner, no Dortmunder, no Dunkel, no Schwarzbier, no Baltic Porter, no Vienna, nothing, not one. Reading through the comments of various lagers makes me wonder if people actually understand lager at all. Seeing someone describing a beer as a "good pils" and then give it a score of 2.8/5 makes me wonder what this person wants from an exceptional pilsner (probably 8% abv and a trillion IBUs says my cynical side). Of course, the Baltic Porter gets more love than many a lager style, but that's likely because it is a strong beer.
I have heard in many a watering hole a comment along the lines of "I used to drink lager, but now I like only craft beer". Lager has become shorthand for the pale lagers churned out by the likes of AB InBev and the other multinationals, beers that have very little in the way of character. It really bugs my head when I hear that kind of comment from people who really should know better, after all are they not claiming to have a greater understanding of beer than the average Joe?
The world of lager is huge and full of interesting ingredients and flavours, and is, I fear, painfully overlooked by many in the craft beer world, in favour of the extreme beer that will rape your tongue and render you senseless to the pleasures of classic beers. That is one of the underlying reasons behind a website project I am working on at the moment focussing purely on the history, styles and tastes of lager beer around the world.
Making good lager is a labour of love, perhaps we should requite that love and celebrate lager more often.