A lager is a type of beer that is recognized by its high carbonation level and light color, though some modern varieties are darker in color and may even be black. This type of beer was originally developed in the 19th century. During this time, brewers in Bavaria commonly stored their beer in cool places to allow it to mature. In order to aid in the brewing process, the brewers created a type of yeast that was cable of helping cold beer mature properly. This yeast is still used today to make lager beer and is referred to as bottom-fermenting yeast.
The name is derived from the German word lagern, which means “to store.” This name hearkens back to the early methods of creating this beer by storing it in places such as caves. Unlike the modern lager, however, the early beverages were dark in color because the water used to make them was quite hard. Today, softer water is used to make it, which has resulted in the beer's distinctively light color.
The process of storing lager beer in a cool area results in a clean taste, because certain flavors and particles are removed during the process. The most common type is the pale lager, and there are many types of beer that fall into this category, including pilsner, helles, and dortmunder export. Most pale lager beers are very light in color and tend to be bland in taste, though modern examples can have a bitter or sweet taste. This difference depends on the water used, the storing process, and other ingredients added to it.
The pilsner was the first pale lager beer to be created. With its hint of bitter taste, it was an instant success when it was developed in 1842. Modern examples include Dommelsch and Heineken.
The dortmunder export type of pale lager was not introduced until 31 years later. Helles is very similar to pilsner, except it has more malt and less hops. Examples include Lowenbrau and Augustinerbrau.