Craft Beer Goes Light (Lager)

Craft Beer Goes Light (Lager)

Light lager from a craft brewery? Although craft beer is associated with strong hop flavors, beards and flannel, many breweries have recently launched “light lager” beers that depart from their traditional craft styles.

The light lager style has historically dominated the overall American beer market, with macro-brewers such as Miller and Anheuser-Busch competing to offer the “lightest” product that appeals to the masses.

You know the beers: hop-neutral and marketed to be less-filling than the competition. They’re generally lower in alcohol, calories and carbohydrates compared to a brewery’s other beers. Big names such as Bud Light, Coors Light and even the intentionally misspelled Miller Lite have filled tailgate coolers for the past 50 years.

But craft beer loyalists don’t have to abandon their favorite local brewery just to enjoy an easy-sipping brew while canoeing down the river.

“There’s a time and place for every beer,” says Mark Henderson, co-owner of Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, one of the south’s most successful craft breweries who has offered their light lager “KMG Gold” since 2016.

Lucky Town Light Beer - McLaughlin PC
Lucky Town in Jackson, Miss., has their own take on an American Light Lager.

Lucky Town Brewing Company in Jackson was next in line to release their light lager, Lucky Town Light.

Southern Prohibition Brewing Company soon followed by launching their light lager simply called “Light” which is sold in 18-packs alongside the mass-market stuff. Any of these crisp, clean lagers are perfect to help unwind after cutting the grass. It’s also a smart business decision to jump into the light lager category.

Light lagers appeal to a wider audience who haven’t, or may never, venture into IPA territory. Some craft breweries have adopted the mentality “if you brew it, they will come.” Rather than attempt to change consumer preferences, these brewers are making products that are similar in taste and cost to the beer they’ve bought since college.

Southern Prohibition Light - McLaughlin PC
Southern Prohibition in Hattiesburg offers “Light” as their American Lager.

“If you’re not meeting consumers where they’re at, you’re losing sales,” says Henderson. With the right packaging, shelf placement and a good recommendation from the bartender, many beer drinkers will try a local brand that they never would have considered.

Some breweries are evolving into a regional brewery model that provides a full-spectrum of products to a geographic area. They become the “go-to” brand for beer drinkers who wouldn’t consider buying the beer made across the river.

This concept of “support your own” fuels the European beer market and is slowly catching on in America. This brand loyalty is achievable for US breweries if they offer products that more consumers enjoy, hence the expansion into light lagers.

It’s time to graduate to your local light lager. Buy it from the local brewery that actually has a presence in your community. Fill up your cooler and introduce your friends to a light beer that actually tastes good and was made around the corner.

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