I brewed my first lager a few months ago. It was a Munich Helles and it is delicious. I used to think I mainly had a taste for ales, but after trying some recent fresh lagers from both homebrewers and local commercial breweries, I did a 180 on that one. The key word in the last sentence is 'fresh'! The main reason I wasn't impressed by most supposedly world-class lagers in the past was that they are almost always stale by the time they reach the average drinker here.
Take Spaten as an example.They are an absolutely classic German brewery. In this case, they pretty much invented the Helles style when trying to imitate early Czech Pilsners in an attempt to capitalize on the growing light lager drinking trend that swept through Europe at the time. The average bottle of Spaten Premium Lager purchased here in the Midwest will have traveled for weeks or longer on a boat in a poorly temperature controlled environment, then waited months or more in a distributor's warehouse (again, sadly, often with complete lack of temperature control,) and finally waited on a store shelf or bar fridge, in some cases for weeks or months, before it reaches you. The beer you drink could easily be over 6 months old. For a light, delicate beer packaged in a green bottle, this means you will most likely find not-so-subtle notes of cardboard and skunk.
Enter homebrew and commercial craft beer. The first time I tried a Victory Prima Pils (a US brewed take on German Pilsner,) my initial thought was something like, "This is way too hoppy! It tastes like a pale ale!" Then it hit me. I'd never had an actual fresh German pilsner before. Aha! This is what these beers are supposed to taste like! I've had similar experiences with many homebrewed lagers in the last year or two as well.
The fact of the matter is most Americans will never taste a fresh lager in their entire lives, even if they are avid commercial beer drinkers. Now that I have, I want more! When I started homebrewing I never thought it would lead me to lagering. As a matter of fact, that was probably my area of least interest. Yesterday I brewed my second one and there will definitely be more to come. After my initial Munich Helles, I brewed a Dunkel this time. I've judged some great ones at local competitions, and this brown lager with it's toasted breadcrumb flavors gets high marks in my book. I stuck with a pretty simple recipe.
brewed on: 5/9/11
IBUs: 24 IBUs
mash temp: 153F (I overshot a bit and then brought it down.)
expected color: 18.5 SRM
5 lbs Munich malt (10 L)
5 lbs Vienna malt
6 oz Carafa II
Hops (all loose pellets):
1.8 oz Hallertauer @ 3.9% - 60 minutes
0.25 oz Hallertauer @ 3.9% - 20 minutes
WY 2206 Bavarian Lager yeast. - 2 liter starter, decanted, followed by another 2.5 liter starter, decanted and pitched at 52F.