Josh Arnold, owner of Josh’s Taps Caps in Snohomish, relaxes with a glass of his Wayfinder Party Time Pilsner. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Josh Arnold, owner of Josh’s Taps Caps in Snohomish, relaxes with a glass of his Wayfinder Party Time Pilsner. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Old-school lagers, freshened for the craft-beer generation

Beer lovers asked for elevated versions of the brews their dads drank, and Snohomish County beermakers answered

By Aaron Swaney / Special to The Herald

Lagers are cool again.

For much of the craft beer revolution, lagers were relegated to the back row, too closely associated with American-style lagers like Budweiser, PBR and Coors Banquet Beer. They were a second-class craft beer cousin to the cooler IPAs, stouts and wild ales that dominated the craft beer scene throughout the past decade.

But after years of the industry skewing toward big and bolder, craft beer fans are starting to ask for classic German- and Czech-style lagers. Josh Arnold, owner of Josh’s Taps & Caps bottleshop in Snohomish, has seen the shift up close.

“I feel my customers are moving away from hazy IPAs and going back to drinking more lagers,” Arnold said. “Lagers are clean and not as filling.”

Lagers take patience. Lager yeast thrives at lower temperatures than a typical aleFermentation also takes longer, often an additional couple of weeks in the tank. The result is a refreshing yet complex beer.

For Arnold, the perfect lager has a few key characteristics: “It has to be clean and bright, with notes of citrus and a bready, solid head on the pour.”

Even IPAs have gone lager. Rebranded as cold IPAs, India Pale Lagers (IPLs)have made a huge comeback over the past year, Arnold said. They are made with lager yeast and then cold crashed to lager fermentation temps, which clears up the brew and improves clarity. Cold IPAs are clean and bright, like a west coast version of its ale cousin but less filling.

Arnold says the approachability of Czech-style lagers makes them best sellers at the bottleshop, but he loves the variety of lagers: Vienna lagers, rauch beers (toasty, smoked, malty), dunkels (a dark German lager), helles (a pale German lager), bocks (full-bodied, malted, strong). “The list goes on,” Arnold says.

Oktoberfest runs from Sept. 17 through Oct. 3 in Munich, though you can find beer-centric events throughout Washington this fall, including the Edmonds Rotary Oktoberfest Family Festival from Sept. 23-24.

Check out Arnold’s advice on picking out the best lagers:

Find your Way: “We always like to carry any Wayfinder lagers we can. The Portland brewery is an expert at all things lager. Their Dunkel is exceptional, along with Party Time, their Bavarian lager, and Hell helles-style lager.”

Get festive! “Festbiers — deep amber lagers made especially for Oktoberfest — are always popular in the fall and we will have many on hand. My favorites are from Skagit’s Chuckanut Brewery, Oregon’s pFriem Beers and Seattle’s Reuben’s Brews.”

Don’t forget the OGs: “Great imported German lagers are easier to find now than ever. My go-to is Weihenstephaner Original Helles. So good!”

Head south: “Whenever I’m at a Mexican restaurant, I order a Negra Modelo. It’s a solid example of a dunkel and pairs well with spicy food.”

Keep it light: “Light and drinkable, pilsners are a great beer if you’re in the mood for more than a few pints — or steins. I love Zoiglhaus’ Zopo Italian Pilsner and Skookum’s Brumation. If you’re looking around your local grocery store, go for Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pilsner.”

Cold IPAs: “Wayfinder is a trailblazer in this world and their Cold IPA is excellent. If you want to go with an IPL, Ballast Point’s Fathom IPL is good.”

Josh’s Taps & Caps is located at 1800 Bickford Ave. #210, Snohomish. It’s open seven days a week and carries a varied selection of lagers.

Sound & Summit

This article is featured in the fall issue of Sound & Summit, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to soundsummitmagazine.com for more information.

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