Home Beer 8 lager-only American breweries you need to know

8 lager-only American breweries you need to know

America is finally coming (back) around to flavorful lagers. Here are eight breweries leading the charge.

Courtesy of Metropolitan Brewing

Courtesy of Metropolitan Brewing

Making lagers well can be like designing minimalist architecture; flaws show when there’s no ornamentation to hide behind. The attention to detail required means many breweries devote themselves primarily or even entirely to this category of beer. Here are eight leading the charge.

Red Oak: Outside of Greensboro, N.C., in the town of Whitsett, Red Oak brews its all-Bavarian lager lineup that includes its flagship amber and Hummin’ Bird Helles. Look for seasonal, draft-only bock releases like Black Oak doppelbock and Big Oak bock-strength Vienna lager.

Chuckanut: The Bellingham, Wash., brewery was named Best Small Brewpub of the Year at GABF in 2009, the first all-lager brewery to win the title. Since then, it’s continued to put out consistently award-winning beers, including a kölsch, pilsner and Dunkel lager.

Sudwerk: Brewers of German-style lagers since 1989, the Davis, Calif., brewery has recently turned its attention to redefining the humble American lager. The Dock, a 12-gallon pilot system and taproom, serves as a hub for innovation as well as a gathering spot for curious drinkers.

Gunpowder Falls: A German-trained brewer is behind this central Pennsylvania brewery, which brews all of its offerings according to the Reinheitsgebot, a German beer purity law that states that only water, malt, hops and yeast may be used in brewing.

Metropolitan: The all-German, primarily lager brewery cranked out its first batch in 2009; this year, it’s expanded distribution into Wisconsin, a state whose German history makes it no stranger to a tasty copper lager or Oktoberfest. Keep an eye out for the sporadi- cally released local favorite Heliostat zwickel lager on tap around Chicago.

Heater Allen: The predominantly German- and Czech-style lager brewery from McMinnville, Ore., has expanded in its eight-year history, but it’s still tiny at an annual output just over 1,000 barrels. This year it plans to bottle its kölsch, a popular draft-only beer that debuted in 2014.

Orlison: Bucking the hop-forward ale trend that’s dominated Pacific Northwest brewing, this Washington state brewery is proudly lager-only. Lighter styles include a year-round pilsner, Havanuther light pilsner and Clem’s Gold pre-Prohibition lager, as well as darker hybrid styles including the subtly roasty Brunette brown lager and Underground stout lager.

Jack’s Abby: Three brothers founded this lager-only brewery in 2011 in Framingham, Mass.; since then, they’ve racked up awards for their not-so-traditional lagers, including a double India pale lager, a spiced wheat lager, a Berliner-style lager and a seasonal pumpkin lager. Construction is currently underway on a new downtown brewpub, which will increase capacity and allow for new packaging.


Kate Bernot is DRAFT’s beer editor. Reach her at kate.bernot[at]draftmag.com.

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  • Parker Hall says:

    Article called “lager-only breweries” and then admits many of the breweries don’t only brew lagers? Also specifically highlights Heater Allen Kölsch, which is an ale…

    Loved the article, and all of the breweries I have had beer from that were highlighted—will be on the look out for the rest, for sure. But for the love of my OCD please call it Eight Lager-Focused Breweries next time. Lord knows the world has enough people who think Kölsch is a lager already.

    *gets off high horse*

  • RobertV says:

    I have to agree with Parker. A true Kolsch is brewed with a top fermenting Ale yeast and then happens to be cold conditioned like a lager. Kind of ironic that the article highlights lager only breweries that actually produce beers that are not lagers.

    In any case, I think it is awesome that there are some craft breweries focused on brewing high quality lagers. You would think with the overwhelming demand for lagers that more craft breweries would want a piece of that market. It’s a shame that most in the U.S. still have to rely on InBev and Coors to satisfy this massive end of the market.

  • […] anecdotal evidence, see this collection of lager-focused American breweries highlighted by Draft Magazine. Three of the breweries produce an averaged rating of their rated beers on Beer Advocate that fall […]

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