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A New Beer Is Trying to Take Seattleites Back to ‘Macro-Style’ Basics

The brewers behind Douglas Lager are betting that people are getting a little tired of craft breweries’ innovation and experimentation

A beer bottle labeled “Douglas” next to a mug of beer. Douglas Lager

Puget Sound is a craft beer paradise with a hole at the center of the scene: There’s no local easy-drinking macro-style lager. Pacific Northwest staple Rainier Beer isn’t brewed or owned locally. Olympia Beer’s Tumwater brewery closed in 2003 and the beer itself was discontinued by Pabst in 2021. Drinkers who want a basic, no-frills beer have to consume something produced by a conglomerate, and bartenders have to pour those products.

If there was a locally produced lager with a Rainier-like quality, brewer Chris Smith says, bars would offer it, because both residents and visitors “like to drink local.”

Smith and his partner at Lowercase Brewing, John Marti, are setting out to fill this hole in the market with the launch of their brand-new Douglas Lager, which aims to be a beer for people who just want a beer without having to think about flavor profiles or hop varieties.

“This is everyone’s beer, for every occasion,” Smith says. “Nothing’s really driving the bus. Just a nice clean, simple beer… It is an American lager in the simplest definition.”

Preview samples shared with Eater Seattle reveal the 4.7% beer to be exactly that: simple, non-complex and refreshing. A six-pack would go well with camping or backyard hangouts. It’s not the type of beer with a flavor profile that demands discussion, and that’s precisely the point.

“It’s one of those beers you don’t think about,” Smith emphasizes.

In many ways Douglas Lager is a return to the past. “Back in the 50s or 60s, there were probably six to seven local lagers you could get at local bars,” Smith explains. The consolidation of these products under larger, non-local companies started “in the 70s and 80s,” he says.

Though Seattle now has more than its share of local beer companies, craft brewers often focus on novel flavors or surprising ingredients, a trend that is obvious when you look at the wide variety of IPAs on grocery shelves. But brewers and drinkers may be becoming a bit bored with these experiments and willing to turn back to traditional beer.

According to Beverage Dynamics, lagers and other lighter beer styles became a top trend of 2022 and 2023. “Come to the 2010s, we had glitter beer. So, there’s been a shift back,” Smith says. “I do think it’s slowly changing.”

Smith and Marti’s Lowercase Brewing in South Park specializes in lagers, but Douglas isn’t part of that brand, a decision they made in order to separate it from craft beer culture. “By bringing this outside the Lowercase umbrella, we’re making it more approachable,” Smith says.

In order to try to invite locals “in on the ground floor” and expand the beer’s reach, the brewers have launched a Kickstarter campaign that runs through Tuesday, September 19.

Everything from the financing to the ingredients is meant to be local. The malt in the beer is from Spokane while the hops and yeast are from Oregon. Even the bottling line the brewers are using to package the beer has regional roots: It’s the bottling line used by Olympia’s now-defunct Fish Brewing, which in turn contains parts from Olympia Beer’s bottling line. That’s another old-school component to Douglas Lager: It will be sold in bottles, not cans.

Smith says that the beer will just be available at local establishments to start. The brewers are working with Northwest Beverages to supply the beer at Seattle-area bars and restaurants first, with a later planned expansion throughout Cascadia.

As for the “Douglas” name, Smith explains that the choice was a simple one: “We were trying to find something that could represent the region… the Douglas fir tree is only native to the Northwest, specifically Cascadia.”

If everything goes according to plan, the beer will stay that way too.