| Alex Andrews

The Art of Lagering

The old English term 'keeper' described a beer, which was stored to be consumed at a later date. This term has now fallen out of use in favour of its German counterpart 'lager,' which roughly translates as "storage."

To 'lager' a beer implies that it has been cold-conditioned to create a crisper, more refreshing drinking experience, compared to other styles of beer like ales.

Whether you count yourself a lager drinker or not, we recommend that you watch our video below to understand the art of lagering and learn about the rich history of the world's most popular beer style.


It has been estimated that as much as 90% of beer consumed globally today is derived from the Pilsen style, which gets its name from the Czech city of Pilsen, where it originated in the 1840s. However, the understanding of cold storing beer to improve its flavour, clarity, and shelf life is much older.

The world's oldest known brewery was recently unearthed in Egypt. Archaeologists have dated the fermentation vessels to over 5,000 years old. What's fascinating about this discovery is that these earthenware vessels appear to be thermally insulated, indicating that the ancient Egyptians understood that a stable temperature is crucial to happy fermentation.

A happy, healthy fermentation is crucial to good beer. There's a well-known saying amongst brewers: "Brewers only make the wort, the unfermented beer; it's the yeast that makes the beer itself."


Yeast is an opportunistic organism. It tucks straight into the natural sugars produced earlier in the brewing process and converts them into all manner of metabolic products, such as fruity esters and buttery diacetyl, which has a similar flavour to butterscotch.

After about a week of vigorous warmer fermentation, any traces of sugar have been mopped up, but flavour-wise, we're still a long way off lager. At this stage, the brewer's skill is required to determine the correct time to cool down - or ‘lager’ - the fermenting beer.

During this secondary stage of fermentation, the yeast quite literally cleans up its act, re-metabolising the products of its initial warmer fermentation and converting them into alcohol. This leaves a cleaner, crisper taste and mouthfeel, resulting in the most refreshing drink known to man.


The past century has seen a commercialisation of the brewing process which has resulted in huge improvements in quality, consistency, and shelf life. The demand for lager has put pressure on brewers to reduce their lager times in order to improve their yields.

The largest commercial breweries today are able to produce a lager in as little as five days. By comparison, our small beer we lager for a minimum of six weeks for maximum flavour. Since we made the video above, we now have have 12 fermenting vessels in our Small Beer brewery in South London.

We designed our fermenters to allow us to capture the natural carbon dioxide produced as a result of the fermentation, a process called ‘spunding.’ This reduces our environmental impact and results in a smoother tasting, more natural beer.

We've brewed our Small Beer Lager true to style, building upon flavour profiles, which have been tried and tested over centuries of brewing tradition, and yet our signature Small Beer tweaks make it a joy to drink.