A Word on Lager in Whistler

Photo: Darby Magill

Photo: Darby Magill


By Gordon Auld

Growing up in Scotland I remember when your only options were Guinness or lager. “Guinness or Lager?” is what you would actually ask your friends if you were getting a round in. Recently I had a very young customer casually ask what our Saison was! He just assumed we had a Saison. I replied stunned —  “what century is it!?” 

 Times have certainly changed in the beer game but it has also gone full circle. In a British publican’s handbook from the 1960’s it states that a “new Lager beer” from Europe is growing in popularity and could take up to 7% of your beer sales. Since that publication Lager has Boomed in Britain along with sausages and cirrhosis.

The 60’s and 70’s were my Dad’s generation of drinkers, they loved ales, wee heavys and IPA, but not as we know them. They were simple beers, made in Scotland, with not too much hop bite and a good malt/hop balance, usually with low alcohol content. All probably come under the session ale spectrum now…3.5% to 4.8%…not a word of a lie. Honestly. Those beers were the big sellers — you could drink 52 pints and roller skate in a straight line home. It was a lot of unfiltered sediment for the stomach and I can still taste the farts in the room when we used to pick up my Dad from the Rugby Club.  

Many of the beer drinkers in the 70’s and 80’s became Lager converts. Lager was stronger, some even going over 5%! Mental! Lager grew in popularity due to the fact that it was refreshing, unoffensive and easy to drink while some pretty large marketing campaignswere created to match. It could be pretentious and blue collar at the same time, depending if you wanteda Miller or a Pilsner Urquell.It was also very drinkable, very sellable and filtered — so not as likely to cause gas. 

 In the 70’s on the back of the increasing popularity of this “lager beer”, Guinness, the inventors of beer marketing, sourced a successful German BrewMaster and flew him over to Ireland — he made Harp which became the biggest selling beer in Britain. 

 Through the 80’s and 90’s, Lager would have been the Wall Street employee’s or champion hoola hooper’s drink of choice no doubt and lager was definitely more than 7% of your beer sales by then…more like 97%. Lager sales soared, lots of import beers, Stella Artois, Bud, Beck’s and of course Harp.

This went on for a long time. Perhaps too long. Finally Lager and more importantly import lager seemed to be on the wane. Beer drinkers are buying local across the board now and have been for a while. Beer drinkers are also trying new things and want a different beer every visit to the pub. People are better educated about the benefits of supporting local breweries that support local farms that both support the local economy. And we love pouring it on Whistler’s Village Stroll.

We know that shipping beer across an ocean is bad for the environment, if only because the cost of the petroleum adds 75 cents to the cost of their pint. The two things that will affect the flavour of beer the most is movement and light. We also know that beers that are shipped long distances aren’t necessarily as fresh as the beer made by Kevin and the team down the street at Coast Mountain Brewing. Thanks Coast.  

At the Beacon we always have Lager as an option. Currently, our tap line up maintains 2 Lagers from privately owned breweries in Vancouver. Steamworks Premium Craft Lager, a relatively new Lager made by Brew Master Julia Hanlon, uses premium Canadian malt. This beer has been steam brewed and deliberately aged for 34 days to be distinctly flavourful and exceptionally easy drinking.  Julia has created a very sessionable 4.8% Lager perfect for après ski drinking…or drinking anytime really! 

Our other Lager tap at the Beacon is from Parallel 49 — Craft Lager — and is also delicious but very different. Graham With and his team make a 5% pale Lager brewed with all malted barley and local Sterling hops grown at Sartori Cedar Ranch in Chilliwack, BC. This Lager is fermented cool using traditional German Lager yeast. If you are looking for something a little more than Lager, we always have a couple of IPAs, or get adventurous with one of our rotating taps.

Lager is still king. In Whistler, it sells the most and I’m not so pretentious that I can’t enjoy a cold Pabst out of the fridge from time to time while sitting up here on my beer high horse. However, if you fancy a deliciously fresh and clean pint of Lager, something that is the perfect après ski beer — there are local Lagers here at the Beacon. Otherwise there’s always Coast Mountain Brewing’s Saison! 


To learn more about Steamworks, Parallel 49 or Kevin’s Saison from Coast Mountain:




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