Exploring the World of Lager

A bottle of rice lager, Nico Lager, and 24hr party pilsner all on a table outside in front of some green trees

A Guide to Helles, Pilsners, Kölsch, and Beyond

At Orbit Beers, we’re known for making award-winning European-style lagers. Predominantly our flagship Lager Nico (a Kölsch-style beer), but also for our White Label Series of one-off specials. Over the years, these have included a Helles in collaboration with Leng Records, a Rice Lager brewed with Hakata Ramen in Bermondsey, our Czech Pilsner (24hr Party Pilsner), Schwarzbiers, Rauchbiers, Kellerbiers, and Lentebocks. You name it, we’ve made it!

Understanding lagers and their variations can enhance your appreciation for this refreshing and versatile type of beer, so in this post, we'll explore what lager beer is and take a closer look at key distinctive styles: Kölsch, Helles, Pilsners and lesser-known styles.

Two pints of Nico Lager in Orbit beers glasses alongside a bottle of Nico outside on a blue barrel

What is Lager?

Lagers are generally considered to be one of the two main types of beer, the other being ales. The key difference between them lies in the fermentation process. Lagers are fermented and conditioned at lower temperatures compared to ales, typically between 45-55°F (7-13°C), using bottom-fermenting yeast. This process, along with the longer conditioning or ‘lagering’ (from the German verb meaning ‘to store’) time, results in a clean, crisp taste with a smooth finish, making lagers exceptionally refreshing and one of the most popular beer choices worldwide.

Types of Lager:


Helles, meaning "pale” or “light" in German, is a traditional pale lager hailing from Bavaria. This style is characterized by its bright golden colour and a malty, slightly sweet flavour profile. Helles lagers are less hoppy than Pilsners, allowing the malt character to shine through. They are smooth, with a subtle sweetness and a mild bitterness, making them highly drinkable and perfect for any occasion.

Flavour Profile: Malty, slightly sweet, with a mild, balanced bitterness.

 Beers to try: Augustiner Helles

three bottles of Orbit Beers' Helles Lager, a Leng records collaboration. Bottles are on the bar at Orbit Taproom


Pilsners are perhaps the most recognizable type of lager, originally brewed in the Czech city of Pilzen. There are two main styles of Pilsners: Czech (or Bohemian) Pilsners and German Pilsners. Czech Pilsners are known for their rich, complex malt character and a pronounced Saaz hop bitterness, while German Pilsners tend to be lighter in colour and crisper, with a sharper hop profile. Both styles offer a refreshing, slightly bitter taste that has made Pilsners a favourite for beer fans.

Flavour Profile: Crisp, clean, with a prominent hop bitterness.

Beers to try: Orbit Beers’ 24Hr Party Pilsner, Vinohradsky Pivovar 12 Czech Golden Lager

Two bottles of Orbit Beers 24hr Party Pilsner in front of a stack of vinyl


Originating from Cologne (Köln), Germany, Kölsch is a unique hybrid style that combines features of both lagers and ales. Despite being fermented with ale yeast at temperatures slightly warmer than most lagers, it is conditioned at cooler temperatures like a lager. This hybrid process yields a light, straw-coloured beer with a delicate balance of malt sweetness and subtle hop bitterness. Kölsch is known for its clean, slightly fruity flavour and a crisp, dry finish, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a refreshing yet flavourful beer.

Flavour Profile: Light, crisp, balanced, slightly fruity, with mild hop bitterness.

Beers to try: Orbit Beers’ Nico Köln Lager, Früh Kölsch

A tray of Kolsch in stanges within a 9 glass kranz carrier

Lesser seen Lagers in the UK:


Schwarzbier, or "black beer," is a dark lager with roots in Germany. Despite its dark colour, Schwarzbier is surprisingly light in body and smooth in flavour. It features roasted malt flavours reminiscent of chocolate or coffee, balanced by a mild hop bitterness. Unlike heavier stouts or porters, Schwarzbiers are lighter and crisper, making them an excellent choice for those who enjoy dark beers without the heaviness.

Flavour Profile: Roasted malt, hints of chocolate and coffee, with a mild hop bitterness.

Beers to try: Orbit Beers’ Schwarzbier

Orbit Beers Schwarzbier on a barrel in a half pint tulip glass alongside the bottle

Rice Lagers

Rice lagers are a popular style of lager, particularly in East Asia, with notable examples from Japan, China, and Korea. These lagers incorporate rice in the brewing process, which lightens the body and flavour of the beer, resulting in a crisp, clean, and highly refreshing profile. The use of rice imparts a subtle sweetness and a very smooth finish, making rice lagers an excellent choice for pairing with a variety of foods or enjoying on a hot day. Orbit’s rice lager includes a Japanese hop called Sorachi Ace which adds subtle flavours of coconut, lemongrass and dill to the beer.

Flavour Profile: Light, crisp, clean, with a subtle sweetness.

Beers to try: Orbit Beers’ Rice Lager

Orbit Beers rice lager in a bottle next to a Japanese tasting menu at Hakata Ramen Bar


Rauchbier is a distinctive style of lager that hails from the Franconian region of Germany, notably the town of Bamberg. The hallmark of Rauchbier is its smoky flavour, achieved by drying malted barley over open flames, typically from beechwood. This process imparts a rich, smoky character to the beer, balanced by a robust malt backbone. Rauchbiers are an adventurous choice for those looking to explore unique and bold flavours.

Flavour Profile: Smoky and malty, with hints of caramel.

Beers to try: Schlenkerla Rauchbier

Close up of a pint of lager being poured into an Orbit Beers glass

Lentebocks / Maibock

Lentebocks (Dutch)/Maibocks (German), or "spring bocks," are seasonal lagers traditionally brewed in the Netherlands and Germany to celebrate the arrival of spring. This style is a lighter and fresher take on the traditional bock beer, featuring a bright golden colour and a slightly higher carbonation. Lentebocks are known for their sweet malt profile with hints of honey and fruit, balanced by a gentle hop bitterness. They are typically released in early spring and enjoyed during the warmer months.

Flavour Profile: Sweet malt, hints of honey and fruit, with a mild hop bitterness.

Beers to try: Ayinger Maibock, Hofbrau Maibock.



Kellerbier is a traditional German style of lager that translates to "cellar beer." This name reflects its historical method of storage and aging, often in cool cellars. Kellerbier is an unfiltered and unpasteurized lager, which gives it a unique, naturally cloudy appearance and a rich, complex flavour.

Flavour Profile: Fresh, full-bodied taste. It often has a malty sweetness, balanced by a mild to moderate hop bitterness. The yeast remaining in the beer can impart subtle fruity and spicy notes, adding to its complexity.

Beers to try: St Georgen Brau Kellerbier

Lagers come in all kinds of flavours and styles, from the light and fruity Kölsch to the dark and roasty Schwarzbier. At Orbit, we pride ourselves on crafting high-quality lagers that showcase the unique characteristics of each style. Be sure to try any of these different types of lagers when you come across them and discover which style you prefer.

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