Podcast Episode 149: KC Bier's Karlton Graham and Steve Holle Brew Lagers with Reverence

From ingredients to decoction to spunding, Kansas City Bier Company is essentially a Bavarian brewery dropped into the Midwest.

Jamie Bogner Aug 21, 2020

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For KC Bier Company Founder Steve Holle and Head Brewer Karlton Graham, the goal is to make lagers that just “taste right.” As students who’ve been through German brewing programs and traveled widely through the country—tasting beers and picking brewers’ brains—they set about to recreate that German beer experience in their hometown market. Their precision and devotion has won them accolades and fans who appreciate their attention to detail in ingredient selection and process.

In this lager-focused episode, the two discuss how they build just enough character into their delicate lagers. From dialing in ideal gravities to reducing trace notes of vegetal character by using type 45 hops, they’ve found small ways to make the beers better. They decoct, of course, and spund tanks for natural carbonation—all part of today’s standard lager playbook.

However, they offer a vivid reminder that lager brewing isn’t about making beers disappear, it’s about that precarious balance between flavor, simplicity, and drinkability. Their home state is known for its large-scale production of American light lager, but don’t confuse their helles for one of these minimally flavored domestic lagers.

“There’s such a mindset that a pale lager has to be really light in body—people compare it to a domestic lager, and there’s something wrong with it if it has any flavor at all,” says Holle. “But helles is my favorite beer that we make, and I like it because it’s a malty beer. It’s pale malt, and a pale beer can be malty and round and full and flavorful.”

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Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].

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