Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Independence brews up a lager in time for Independence Day weekend

Arianna Auber

When the brewers at Independence Brewing realized their 3,000 batch of beer would be rolling out this year, they wanted to make it something special to mark the milestone. They had always wanted to attempt a lager — a category of beer that requires extra time and lower temperatures to ferment — but didn’t have the tank space to age it.

“The guys had been giving us grief about doing a lager,” co-founder Amy Cartwright said. “So we finally said, ‘hell or high water, we’re making it.’”

The end result, the Hell or High Lager, is debuting on Saturday at the brewery’s First Saturday tour and tasting event, where people can stop by for a pint glass and three free pours (this time, by the way, the glass is Fourth of July-themed), and it’ll also be available on draft in bars around Austin, Houston, College Station and San Antonio until the kegs run dry.

Independence’s version of a lager has the crispness you’d expect from a beer of this type, but to put a distinctive twist on it, the brewery added Mosaic hops post-boil as a way of accentuating their tropical aroma. The “exotic blend” of lemon, mango and other tropical fruits you’ll catch on the nose isn’t typical of many lagers (which tend not to be as aromatic as ales), a deliberate tweak Independence made, Cartwright said, to highlight Mosaic. It’s a hop the brewery loves but uses mostly in firkins.

“On the malt and yeast side, Hell or High Lager has the flavor of a classic German-style lager, like a pilsner, but with Mosaic hops, all late additions, we kept it very aromatic,” Cartwright said. “It doesn’t have a high degree of bitterness, but it does pick up all the beautiful nuances of Mosaic. Sort of citrusy, with a tropical fruit element.”

Making a lager, she noted, takes a fair degree of patience because of the longer length of time it needs to ferment, thanks to a yeast strain that does its work in colder temperatures. (That yeast strain versus the yeast used in ales is the fundamental difference between the two types of beers.) It also takes up tank space, although thanks to a much larger brewhouse installed earlier this year, that’s less of a problem than it once would’ve been.

One other chance to try sessionable Hell or High Lager is at Independence’s big 10-year anniversary party in October, where an equally big, boozy brew will be released to celebrate the landmark year. Before that, keep an eye out in stores and bars for the Independence Pale in cans. That’ll arrive soon with a makeover: a new label, name and taste.

“People who’ve had the pale in the last three to six months will recognize it, but if you have someone who was a fan of the beer two years ago when it had a higher, more intense (bitterness) would notice it’s lighter on the hops,” Cartwright said. “But we wanted to take it back down to a classic, easy drinking pale ale.”