National Lager Day 2021: A celebration of the greatest beverage on Earth
Friday 10th December marks a pretty significant date on our Manchester Union Brewery calendar. As we’re sure many of you devout lager lovers will already know, it’s National Lager Day.
Specifically reserved to show admiration for one of the world’s favourite alcoholic tipples, the processes behind its production and the thousands of dedicated brewers who refine it, this somewhat little known public holiday of sorts is finally gaining the recognition it deserves here in the UK, following its conception in the United States some years ago.
An awareness day unsurprisingly growing in popularity with every passing year, the exact origins of which no one oddly seems to know much about, National Lager Day also offers the chance to share the fascinating history behind what is probably the oldest fermented refreshment known to man. And so, to commemorate our own undying love for the stuff on this immensely special day, we thought we’d take on the responsibility of telling it’s tale - from its very first iteration to the crisp and thirst-quenching modern beverage we all know and enjoy today.
Travel back in time with us to Bavaria in the early 1800s. The birthplace of Lager.
Early German brewers around this time had begun experimenting with fermentation processes to create a type of alcohol that could be stockpiled for long periods of time in cold stores, and it’s from this process lager take’s its name (‘Lager’ comes from the German word ‘Lagern’, meaning ‘to store’). This lengthy period of fermentation was crucial to giving the beverage it’s high level of carbonation and it’s pale colour, although still much darker than the lagers we know today.
As the years progressed throughout the nineteenth century, so did lager. Beer missionaries from Bavaria began branching out to countries across Europe in the hopes of perfecting the brewing process, using different grains or malts during fermentation and, importantly, different types of water including soft water. Something Bavaria was without.
In 1842, it’s said a renowned Bavarian brewer named Josef Grovell travelled to a town called Plzen or Pilsen in the Czech republic. By sheer luck, he stumbled upon a lager which is still hugely popular today around the world. By mixing the town’s soft water with the local barley, he produced the first-ever golden beer, referred to more commonly as a Pilsner or Pilsner Urquell, meaning ‘Original Pilsner’.
The appetite for Pilsner across Europe was insatiable. Demand rocketed and as a direct result, large scale manufacturing of lager and beer was born. Beers were now barreled and bottled and shipped off to consumers in far away lands, whilst merrymaking Bavarians enjoyed the frothy goodness in a traditional stein.
Things continued to move quickly as lager became the drink of choice. Various other European towns and cities began to craft their own products using the ingredients native to their home states, offering their own individual take on lager. Budweis is one of them (does that name seem familiar?). The rest, as they say, is history.
Fast forward over a hundred years to the present day and it’s mind-blowing to see how far lager has advanced, with commercial beer brands and craft breweries pushing to develop old and time-honoured recipes. There’s now a vast selection of Lagers to choose from, all offering a range of interesting notes and flavours - from sweet and malty Dunkel’s to the toasty aroma’s of a Bock, the clean crisp taste of a standard American lager and the light bitterness of a German Helles lager.
Even we’ve thrown our hat into the ring, taking on the challenge of bringing new ideas to an already hugely popular formulae (See our Scenes Helles Lager, our Manchester Union Bock and our Manchester Union Porter).
Wherever you are or whatever your plans on Friday 10th December, be sure to make time to celebrate this exquisite beverage. Get down to your local boozer and support the publican trade, meet up with friends and enjoy a delicious pint or two, or head out and enjoy a few post-work jars when the clock strikes 5 pm. Just be sure Manchester Union is on the menu, wherever you end up.