Hey Nashville, are you thirsty for some traditional German lagers? Of course you are! Middle Tennessee is seeing a brewery explosion but most are only brewing ales. Of all the new developments in the Nashville beer scene one of the most exciting and interesting is Little Harpeth Brewing and their focus on lager beers.
A few weeks ago we stopped by the pilot brewery to hang out with Steve, Michael and Robert and had a blast sampling their beers and talking about how they make them. Brewmaster Steve has been homebrewing for nearly 20 years and is ready to bring his beers to a broader audience. Most homebrewers only brew ales but Steve told us a story about how every homebrew club needs a lager guy. So, when the Music City Brewer’s lager guy moved away, he took up the mantle. You’ll be glad he did once you taste the Little Harpeth lagers!
So, what’s the difference between lagers and ales? Both are beer, but ales are fermented with a top-fermenting yeast that work best in a temperature range of 60-75 degrees. Ale yeast hang out near the top of the fermenter working hard for a couple days to turn sugar into alcohol and CO2. At the warmer temperatures, Ale yeast produce esters that give ales fruitiness and complexity. Lagers are fermented much slower and colder, between 45-55 degrees for a couple weeks using a bottom-fermenting yeast. Lager yeast “cleans up” the beer and give it a clean, crisp character. Lagers really let the malt and hops take center stage, whereas Ales usually showcase the yeast’s impact on the beer. Also, traditional lagers are more complex to brew because of decoction mashing, as opposed to the simple single infusion mash of most ales. Little Harpeth will be doing traditional multi-decoction mashes to make their lagers the same way they’ve been making them back in the old country for centuries.
But enough of the beer lesson, let’s talk about the Little Harpeth beers we tried. We started with the Chicken Scratch, a true American Pilsner that’s everything an American lager should be. The beer finishes clean, with just a hint of white corn sweetness. If you’ve got friends or family that you want to introduce to craft beer, this is the perfect way to do it!
Next we sampled the Upstream San Francisco Lager, a California Common style beer. You may not have heard of that style before, but you’ve probably heard of “steam” beer. Same thing (but Anchor has trademarked Steam). The beer has the woody hop character from the Northern Brewer hops typical of the style.
Then we tried the Stax, a black lager that was created for and named after Steve’s brother. Don’t let the color fool you. It’s a very light, crisp, easy drinking beer that will make you want another. Dark beers scare a lot of folks away, but we think this will be a top seller. It’s very refreshing!
We moved onto the High Water Dunkel Lager, a dark, malty lager. Dunkel is German for dark, and true to style, High Water has a rich brown color, with a spicy noble hop presence and strong malt backbone. This traditional Munich style was the common beer of Bavaria until light lagers like Helles came on the scene.
We finished the night with a Double Paddle Doppelbock. It’s a big beer at 10%, but doesn’t taste like one, so be careful! It’s very smooth and goes down way too easy for it’s strength. If you have a few of these, make sure you get a safe ride home. Dopplebock is the original “liquid bread” and was brewed by Franciscan monks to drink during their fast from solid food. That’s a fasting regimen I might be able to do!
We’re really looking forward to the opening of the new brewery and taproom in East Nashville, which will be a short walk from the Titan’s stadium at 30 Oldham Street. There’s no date set yet, but stay tuned and we’ll let you know as soon as the opening is announced. Whenever Little Harpeth opens, it can’t be soon enough! Until then, please follow Little Harpeth on Facebook and Twitter.