This isn't a fully-fleshed-out idea or anything, but I wanted to get your opinion on things. I'm not a fan of light lagers, or as we Americans call them "Lite" lagers. They don't really do much for me. And, I suspect, they don't really do much for most dedicated craft beer drinkers, either.
Think, for a minute, about what your "swill" beer is. Probably a lite lager. And then think of the craft beer you drink. Probably not a lite lager. In fact, very few craft brewers make proper lite, or we'll switch back to "light" now, lagers. I mean, you have a handful of cream ales (Lake Louie, New Glarus) and a few wheat beers (Island Wheat), but very few light lagers: helles, dortmunder, export. We have munich and vienna lagers out the wazoo. But not a lot of light lagers.
I think there's two and half basic reasons for this: 1) the competition is pretty much over on light lagers - the big guys make them and we're never going to dent their market share, so let's just capture all of the non-light-lager drinking instead; 2) they aren't that exciting and the corollary, 2b) they aren't easy to make.
I mean, think about it, you are going to tie up your fermenters for at least four weeks. For what? For a beer that is not particularly easy to make. For a beer that no one will appreciate your making. For a beer that in order to compete you have to sell in, at least, cases for a decent price.
Well, I had an Augustiner Edelstoff over the weekend and I'm starting to change my mind. It was such a clean, crisp, beer. It made me think about Joe's "conventional wisdom" about how modern American craft brewers mash at higher temperatures which leaves a higher final gravity, and, hence an overly-sweet malty profile. The Edelstoff was clean, crisp, dry, but lightly bright in finish - a sturdy but light body. It was a supremely drinkable beer and I can't think of a single American craft lager that even comes close to it. Even Great Lakes' Dortmunder Gold is more malty and not as dry with a more pronounced hoppiness to it.
But the Edelstoff was worth every penny; and at 5.7% ABV, it's sessionable while still giving a good bang for the buck. So much so that a friend of mine has declared that he will be buying it by the case and it is now his go-to beer. Which is fine, except that it's also A) very hard to find (Woodman's West sometimes has it and they are the only place in Madison, I've seen it) and B) it's pricey - $10.99 for a six.
So, there's the kick too - at the end of the day, how many people will, or can, spend $10.99 for a six-pack of a light lager. Well, if you want to drink six of them at a time, it makes for a mighty expensive barbecue.