A couple of Saturdays ago I was working in the Tasting Room at Starr Hill Brewery. To cut a long story short, one of the visitors to that brewery that day was someone I went to school with in the Outer Hebrides - he was a couple of years ahead of me but it turns out we share a few Facebook friends, and he is in the USA for a few months. Needless to say I was flabbergasted, you really don't expect to meet people from South Uist when you are doing your one day a month stint behind the Tasting Room bar.
Over the weekend just gone we met up a couple of times for beer, on Friday night we went to Beer Run and then yesterday afternoon we were out at the Timberwood Grill. Naturally we talked about the beer that he liked, and the pubs he ran when he lived in London, and those conversations got me to thinking that there is a very obvious gap in the craft beer industry, non-premium lagers. Essentially, very few of the up and coming craft brewers, and even fewer of the older microbreweries make low alcohol, session lagers (interesting thing to note, the term "craft beer" meant nothing to my friend, but microbrewery was instantly recognisable).
Of course in countries like the Czech Republic, lager isn't really all that strong to begin with. Pilsner Urquell for example fits very handily in Lew Bryson's definition of a session beer, at 4.4% abv. Many of the standard everyday lagers of Bohemia and Moravia are 4%. The fact that a pale lager with less than 4.5% abv can be tastier and more satisfying than something like an "Imperial Pilsner" (a total sham concept) is only noteworthy to those who have no real appreciation of the golden drop.
So where are the craft session lagers? Samuel Adams does a reasonably drinkable light lager which weighs in at a mere 4.07% and for widely available craft lagers, that's about it really. I am not sure about the lager scene in the UK, though I believe there are a few breweries making session strength lagers.
For all the growth in the craft beer industry, and the stagnating of sales for the macros, the fact remains that the most commonly drunk beer on the planet is pale, session strength lager. Bud Light, regardless of your opinion on the taste, is the best selling beer in the US, with 16% of the market, for a comparison, Samuel Adams has just 0.9% of the market when you add together all their brands.
There is a huge thirst out there for pale lagers but where are the craft pale lagers, the craft pilsners which are less than 4.4% abv? It's all good and well to be self-congratulatory and be "sticking it to the man" by drinking your 10% imperial stout aged on your grannies corset strings or some such, but if the big boys are truly going to be afraid of craft brewers then perhaps taking flavourful pale lagers to the guys sitting in the pubs and bars is the way to go?