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American-style lager: Wikis


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American-style lager beer is a common variety of beer, a type of pale lager, traditionally made and consumed in North America. It derives ultimately from the Czech Pilsner, but is characterized by a much lighter color and body and the frequent use of rice or corn as adjuncts. Worldwide, the best-known example is likely Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, though prominent brands are also made by Coors Brewing Company (United States), and SABMiller (South Africa/United States/United Kingdom). The American-style lager is the predominant choice among America's largest brewing companies, and is also commonly found in microbreweries throughout the USA.



The style is categorized by a light-gold or straw color, moderate alcohol content (4-6% abv), and muted to nonexistent hop character (carried to an extreme in dry beer). Malt flavor is generally rather light, with a very light-bodied mouth feel. Due to their extremely light body and flavor, combined with a distinct lack of character, modern American-style lagers are sometimes criticized as being bland or watery.[1]

One belief of the use of rice or corn as adjuncts seems to stem from the high protein content of American six-row barley, which can be more difficult to clarify than European two-row, the standard for most European beer styles; the use of the adjunct therefore dilutes the protein haze from the six-row barley as well as lightens the body of the beer. The use of rice in particular has an effect similar to the use of candi sugar in Belgian brewing, allowing the brewer to increase the alcohol content of the beer without changing the flavor or mouthfeel of the beer; the use of corn, on the other hand, gives a detectable flavor of corn that is not always desirable, though sometimes it is specifically sought out (especially in examples meant to emulate pre-Prohibition American beers). It is often the case that such adjuncts are used to reduce the production costs of the beer as well; in addition, hop additions have been decreased in mass-market beers over the years due to a desire to make a product more acceptable to a large number of people.

The primary reasoning for the use of rice in the domestic market is for its ability to reduce the cost of production. Rice in the brewing process destroys the subtle flavors of hops and barley present in most American lagers. Rice gained popularity in the domestic brewing market during World War II due to grain rationing on the home-front. Most breweries were unable to afford the necessary amounts of barley required for production and so began using rice as a filler. This also had the added benefit of lightening the flavor of beer making it more appealing to the new female workforce. After the war, the process was not changed and as a result the style changed as a whole, losing many of the subtle flavors that had characterized the style.

Some "premium" beers made in this style use only barley malt, with no corn or rice at all, though they are considered more or less the same style.

Related styles

  • Malt liquor -- a high-alcohol variant of the American lager.
  • Ice beer -- A beer that has been partially freeze-distilled to concentrate flavor and alcohol. The technique is based on that used to make Eisbock, but the two styles share no stylistic similarities (apart from both being lagers) otherwise.
  • Light beer -- A beer made with reduced alcohol and/or carbohydrate content. Though the term is not limited to American-style beers, many of the best known light beers are in fact American lagers.
  • Dry beer -- A Japanese style based on American lager; the yeast is encouraged to consume more fermentables, resulting in a crisper finish and an unusually subtle hop flavor.

Ice beer

The process of icing beer involves bringing the temperature of a batch of beer down to or below the freezing point of water (32°F or 0°C). Because water freezes at a higher temperature than does alcohol, the frozen portion of the mixture contains a higher concentration of water, and the liquid remaining therefore has a higher concentration of alcohol. Because of this, a layer of ice can be skimmed from the surface of beer (hence the name "ice" beer). This creates a concoction with a higher volume ratio of alcohol to water and therefore creating a beer with a higher alcohol content by volume. The process is known as "fractional freezing".

The first ice beer marketed in North America was Molson Ice [1] which was introduced in April 1993, although the process was patented earlier by Labatt, instigating the so-called "Ice Beer Wars" of the 1990s. [2]

In the USA Miller introduced Icehouse under the Plank Road Brewery brand name at that time, which is still sold nationwide; Budweiser introduced "Bud Ice" (5.5% ABV) in 1994 and it remains one of the country's top-selling ice beers, Bud Ice has a slightly lower alcohol content than Natural Ice and other competitors and it claims it retains more of the character/flavor.

Many lower-end beers such as Busch Ice (5.9% ABV) and Natural Ice (5.9% ABV) also use the freezing process.

American pilsner

The American pilsner or "classic American pilsner" is a direct forerunner of the American lager, but is brewed in a distinct fashion. The technique was developed in the 19th century by German immigrants in response to the barley that was available to them in the United States. American six-row barley had a higher tannic acid and protein content and had greater husk per weight than the continental European barleys. In addition, the Tettnanger and Saaz hops of Europe were not available. Therefore, the grain mixture was adjusted by adding up to 30% corn to the barley malt mash. However, the beer was brewed to full-fledged European strength and to the practices of a pale lager style. The result was a full-bodied and slightly sweet beverage that can be immediately distinguished from its less flavourful antecedent. The style was commercially destroyed by Prohibition, and when beer production resumed in the USA, it was a lighter, thirst-quenching style with up to 50% corn or rice content that came to dominate the market.

Currently, the only large-scale representative of the pre-Prohibition lager style in the United States is D.G. Yuengling & Son with its Traditional Lager and August Schell Brewing Company with its Original; in recent years a number of smaller American breweries have also reintroduced it, such as Victory Brewing Company and Scrimshaw Pilsner North Coast Brewing Company from northern California. (Throwback Lager) and Full Sail Brewing Company (Session Lager). Several Canadian brands, such as Labatt's Blue, remain widely available throughout Canada and in some regions of the United States.

See also


  1. ^

External links


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