At Heater Allen Brewing we concentrate on producing German and Czech style lager beers. In a country where most craft beers are ales and most lagers are made by large corporations, we often end up explaining to people what exactly a lager beer is.
There are three main differences between a lager beer and an ale. The main difference between the two is that a lager uses a different strain of yeast than an ale. A lager yeast will not (or at least shouldn't) add any flavors or aromas to a beer whereas an ale yeast should add pleasant aromas and flavors to a beer. The second characteristic that makes a lager different is the fermentation temperature. Lager yeast can effectively ferment beer between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and is still active at temperatures close to freezing. Ales prefer temperatures around 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit and will go dormant at lager-type temperatures. The last characteristic that differs between the two is time. Lagers take longer to ferment. Where an ale will finish fermentation in just several days, a lager will take two weeks, sometimes longer, to complete fermentation. It should also be noted that lager in German means "to store," which usually means that after a lager is finished with fermentation it will be put in a tank where it will sit until the brewer deems it acceptable to drink. Of course, ales can be stored and aged as well, but it is not always a part of production. So to answer another commonly asked query, lagers can be any color, they can be bitter or mellow, but they are usually malt driven and cleaner tasting then ales.
Pils is our signature beer, the beer that we are known for; we always have Pils available on draft and in bottle. We try to have at least one of our standard dark lagers available in bottle and/or on draft, we rotate between Dunkel and Schwarz. The other beers we make are seasonals, which we try to release when they would traditionally be released in Germany. As these are hand-made beers, they will vary (we hope slightly) from batch to batch. Our beers spend at least two weeks in fermenter and then we lager all our beers for at least four weeks - some more (some a lot more!). All of our beers are unfiltered, we feel filtering strips an pleasant element out of the beer and the yeast helps protect the beer from off-flavors. However, we go through measures to release the beer when most of the yeast has dropped out and the beer is as clear as possible. This still means that depending on how the beer is stored, etc. it may throw a slight haze from time to time, we recommend storing our bottles upright and pouring slowly to reduce the haze possibility.