The difference between an ale and a lager is all in the yeast. Top-fermenting ale yeast thrives at a warmer temperature, while bottom-fermenting lager yeast likes it cold. Lagers tend to be clean and refreshing with relatively light hops--just the thing as we transition into fall. They are relatively new on the brew scene, if you consider the 15th century as relatively new. Here are three worthy examples, all in cans:
Hopworks Urban Brewery HUB Lager, $2.49-$2.99
This beer pours a bright straw with a two-finger head that collapses quickly but leaves a nice lacing. You get dusty grain on the nose, backed by lemon butter, biscuit and the softest kiss of hops. The palate is very user friendly and leads off with whole wheat cracker, followed by lightly sweet malt, subdued hops and a touch of lemon zest. It's an organic brew that comes in a generous 16-ounce format.
New Belgium Brewing Shift Pale Lager, $1.39-$1.79
In the glass, this brew is a light amber with a porous, bone-white head that's thin but persistent. The aromas open with bright-but-light hops, biscuity malt, dried citrus and green tea. The hop presence is surprisingly forward for a lager, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's definitely not overly aggressive, and it's nicely balanced by sweet malt and floral citrus flavors. This beer is an appealingly different take on the style.
Payette Brewing North Fork Lager, $1.39-$1.79
My first experience with this brew was a week or so ago, coming off a float down the Cabarton Run of the Payette River. Maybe it was the time and place, but it was delicious. Follow-up encounters have proved every bit as good. It's a hazy, light lemon pour with a decent egg-white head. Lemon-laced, fresh bread dough aromas lead off, colored by light hops. This nicely balanced brew goes down oh so easily, with smooth hops, soft grain and a refreshing finish.