Living the Lager Life
Vienna-style lager is magnificently malty at Richmond’s East Brother Beer Company.
East Brother Beer Company co-owner and cofounder Rob Lightner hoists a Red Lager, which comes in pints, tasters, and growlers.
Photos by Pat Mazzera
Vienna was a culinary capital for centuries. And while its present-day trendiness pales besides that of Portland, say, or Oakland, the Danube-hugging metropolis has birthed more classic drinks and dishes than you could shake a Hapsburg at: Sachertorte, for instance. Apfelstrudel. Wiener schnitzel. Even croissants, which aren’t actually French, and hot dogs, which the Viennese insist aren’t from Frankfurt.
Also, lager. In 1841, pioneering Viennese brewer Anton Dreher gained fame by combining lager yeast with slightly caramelized malt to produce a bottom-fermented, copper-colored brew that he called lager, from the German word meaning “storehouse.”
And lager is one of the signature drinks at East Brother Beer Company, whose Richmond brewery was expanded this year to produce more of it.
“Our original intent for East Brother Beer Company’s Red Lager was to capture what we thought was great about the clean lagers of our younger years,” said Rob Lightner, who cofounded the company last year with his longtime pal Chris Coomber.
“Our favorite thing about those lagers was the malt, so the goal was to create a super malty/bready, crisp, clean lager.”
Making it distinctly and deliberately Vienna-style, East Brother’s Red Lager is served in pints, tasters, and go-to growlers at the industrial-chic taproom adjoining the brewery and “has just the right amount of biscuit-y flavor we were looking for,” Lightner explained.
Despite their revolutionary roots, lagers have less hipster-appeal than IPAs.
“Lagers just aren’t as sexy as ales,” Lightner lamented. “IPA is a style encompassing big hops, big flavors, and lots of experimentation, whereas lagers tend to be quieter, easy-drinking, and lower in alcohol.” Ales are also “faster and easier to make,” he added.
“But if you look at the entire beer market, lagers as a category actually comprise the majority of beer consumed in the U.S.: Bud, Miller, Coors, Corona, and other similar ‘macro’ beers are all lagers.”
Amid what amounts to a “hops arms race” currently animating the craft-beer scene, “We’re proud to be making both malty lagers and hoppy ales, because we love them both.”
East Brother Beer Company, 1001 Canal Blvd., Richmond, 510-230-4081, EastBrotherBeer.com.