Podcast Episode 352: Chris Lohring of Notch Wants You to Brew More Distinctive Lager

For years, Notch Brewing in Salem and Brighton, Massachusetts, has been spreading the lager gospel through refined yet characterful iterations of Czech- and German-inspired beers. His challenge to American brewers who want to follow that path: Ditch the 34/70, rethink your mash and fermentation schedules, decoct with intention, and embrace concise flavor over “crispness.”

Jamie Bogner Mar 29, 2024 - 6 min read

Podcast Episode 352: Chris Lohring of Notch Wants You to Brew More Distinctive Lager Primary Image

Chris Lohring at Notch in Salem, Massachusetts. Photo: Joe Stange.

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Notch founder Chris Lohring loves the fact that more craft brewers are embracing lagers—but he has some strong opinions about the best way to brew them.

“‘Crispy boys’ don’t exist,” he says. “Lagers aren’t dry. Clean lager yeast is boring to me.”

Refinement and distinction are his goals, not minimalism, and he and his team use all the tools in the brewer’s toolbox to achieve them—such as adjusting mash schedules and malt bills to build body in low-ABV beers; moving lager mid-fermentation from quasi-open fermentors to conicals before later moving to horizontal tanks; reducing and timing decoctions to fit the goals of individual beers; and considering the impact of mash rests on fermentability, among many other things. It’s not one thing, after all, that makes a lager distinct—in his words, “there’s no magic bullet.”

In this episode, Lohring discusses:

  • why Czech pale lager is a category, not a style
  • how variable processes in the cellar lead to different expressions of diacetyl
  • manipulating a mash schedule to build body and character with more expressive lager yeasts
  • what decoctions do and don’t do for lagers
  • using small percentages of crystal malt in Czech-style pale lagers
  • fermenting with no head pressure, and skimming to optimize flavor and hop character
  • the difference between černé pivo and tmavé pivo
  • using American hops in Czech-style lager

And more.

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