In mid-February, Ninkasi Brewing Co. recently announced their new Prismatic Series of rotating lagers. James Book, Ninkasi Marketing Director, gave me some insights into this new series.
Your new Prismatic Series is a rotating lineup of lagers. Is this Ninkasi’s first foray into lagers?
James Book: No, we released Schwag Lager back in 2007, people still ask for it!
Without getting into top and bottom fermenting yeasts, how would you describe the differences between ales and lagers?
JB: Lager fermentation is a slower process than with ale yeast so they tie up tank space resulting in more limited in availability.
Full Sail is one of the few larger Oregon breweries that offers a lineup of lagers. Ninkasi is known for hoppy ales. Why did you launch Prismatic?
JB: We have these and other beers (lagers) we have been wanting to make on a larger scale. However, it has been a matter of what our production infrastructure can facilitate. With the brewery growing so quickly, it has been fun to be able to see those kinds of hopes come to fruition!
Helles Belles, the first in the series, will be launched in April. What can you tell me about the style?
JB: Helles Belles is fairly true to the traditional German beer and very sessionable. We are trying to book “Hells Belles” the band for it’s release celebration in Portland in mid April. Should be fun!
From a production perspective, how do lagers differ from ales? Homebrewing a lager takes months v. weeks for an ale.
JB: Yep, you said it--the difference is “a few weeks” for Ales compared to many weeks for lagers
Most macrobrews are lagers and the majority of craft brews are ales. Any thoughts about why this is?
JB: German light lagers have traditionally been the most popular varieties in the world (not to mention the most advertised in the US). With Miller Coors and AB now under foreign ownership, it's great to see an unprecedented amount of American craft brewers pushing bounds in their approaches.
To see AB and InBev answering suit by buying up craft share and producing all manner of pseudo-craft beer is quite a spectacle! The human palate is king and people simply want more variety and flavor profile and different beers readily available these days. If you brew it, they will come!
You’ve planning three lager releases in 2012. Do you expect Prismatic to continue into 2013?
JB: Since our original posting, we may have paired it down to “two” (darn tank space) this year but we will see…lagers have been brewed at Ninkasi since the beginning--this year, next, and forward. You can’t have too much of any one beer. We will keep making beers we love, if you keep enjoying them!
So keep your eyes peeled for Helles Belles in mid-April. It will be available in 12 oz. six-packs and draft. If you attended the 2011 Oregon Brewers Festival, you might have already tasted it!
What do you think about Ninkasi’s Prismatic Series? What about lagers, in general?