Lager - All Business and No Bull.

By far and away, the Lager is the most popular style of beer in the world. Unlike ales, lagers are brewed at low temperatures. Lager is a German word for storage, which would make sense when you know that lagers take longer to ferment and condition than ales. These brews produce a wider range of alcohol levels than other styles. Another property of lagers that separates it from other styles is the ingredients, primarily the use of adjuncts, or non-malted cereals. This enables brewers to produce beer with higher ABVs because of the increased amount of sugar in non-malted barley. Yeast consumes sugars to live and produce alcohol as a by product of metabolic processes. Lagers vary considerably in color, strength and bitterness. Pilsners, Pale Lagers, and Dortmunders round up the top sub-styles in the Lager family, and are enjoyed in many regions of the world.


Like various ales, certain lagers will require to be served in special glasses, but most adjunct based brews will serve well in a traditional pint glass or Stange. Taller glasses are used to bring out sweet malt and bitter hops in more delicate beer.

Styles of Lager

The Pale Lager is a well attenuated, golden colored, moderately carbonated, and lighter tasting beer that can contain varying levels of malts, noble hops, and alcohol content. These are very stable and long lasting beers originally derived from early brewing practices from Bavaria and Bohemia. The relatively low cost of production, long shelf life, availability of necessary ingredients, and lighter taste made the Pale Lager an instant success. Today, it is the most produced, and most widely consumed style of beer in the world. Adjuncts are sometimes used, but typically, the main ingredients of pale lager include water, pilsner malt, and noble hops. In rare cases, corn and rice are used to create a lighter bodied beer.

Pilsners are the most widely consumed form of Pale Lager in Europe. They differ from traditional lagers in that they utilises partially malted barley, which reveals no smoky or roasted notes that were the common trend in Germany at the time. The first pilsner was brewed with saaz hops. The style is named for the city of Pilsen, in Bohemia (the Czech Republic). The style was first produced in 1842 as a bottom fermented beer, out of dissatisfaction from the locals in regards to top fermented ales. The "Pilsner Beer" was registered as a brand name in Pilsen in 1859, and Pilsner Urquell, the original brewer of Pilsner, trade marked their brand in 1898 as being the first brewer of pilsner.

First brewed by the Dortmunder Union in 1873, this pale lager was a preferred choice among German industrial workers, and has been on the decline with the moving of heavy industrial jobs out of Germany. It is gold colored with moderate bitterness from the use of noble hops. It is well attenuated, with high amounts of sulfate and crisp carbonation.

Kolsch beers are specialty versions of German lager. They are warm fermented and cold conditioned, similar to the brewing style of altbiers. They are clear with a bright yellowish hue, with moderatly prominent hoppy notes. It is less bitter than standard pale lagers. It was originally brewed in 1906, and was nearly rendered extinct during the devastation of WWII. Fortunately, many breweries managed to get back into business and in 2005, over 240 million liters of Kolsch was produced. It is served in tall and thin .2 liter Stange glasses at 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bocks are a stronger form of German lager. There are many substyles of Bocks. Bocks are darker, malty, lightly hopped beers which were originally brewed as ales. Munich brewers adapted the recipe to lager styles of brewing in the 17th century. Alcohol ranges between 6.3 and 7.2% by volume with lower bitterness ratings. Aromas reflect malt ingredients. Tastes are sweet with toasty notes. Traditional bocks are moderately carbonated and moderately to fully bodied.

This is a Bavarian style of beer brewed since the late 1400s. It has a medium-full body with a very malty flavor and a dry finish. These can be pale or dark in color depending on the style of malt used. Helles Marzens are the most popular style of beer in Austria. These beers were traditionally brewed during the fall to spring months. This was due a Bavarian ordinance in response to the increased danger of fire during dry summer months. The beer was kept in the cellar during the summer, and served during Oktoberfest.

These are Marzen style lager beers originating from Germany for the annual Oktober Fest. This is a 16 day festival held in Munich in late September and Early October. It is the world's largest fair type event (attracting more than 5 million people from around the world). Beer served has to comply with the traditional Reinheitsgebot law and has to be brewed within the city limits of Munich.

Bia ho'i
A traditional Vietnamese light lager which contains about 3% ABV and sells for a fraction of the cost of international lagers locally (usually about 16 US Cents per 12 oz). This is a draft served beer and is brewed daily for bars on street corners. Delivered in plastic jugs, the production of this beer is very localized, informal, and not monitored by any health agency in the country.

This is a German style of dark beer "black beer" that share some similarities with British porters and stouts. The style uses almost no roasted barley and lager yeast strains. Alcohol content typically lies around 5%. The opaque, full bodied, beer uses roasted dark malts other than barley. Schwarzbiers are noted for their coffee or chocolately like taste.

This is a traditional beer of the Kulmbach region of Germany. This is brewed like American ice lager in that the beer goes through fractional freezing, which removes excess water to concentrate flavors and alcohol content. For this reason, Eisbocks are typically the strongest syles of Bock, usually ranging between 9 to 13% alcohol. Very intense aroma with no hop presence. Full bodied and smooth with a definite alcohol taste. Rich and sweet taste with toasty notes and hints of chocolate, which is balanced by the strong alcohol content.

As the name implies, this style pertains to specifically lagers in the United States. The American Pale (a relatively unchanged version of the European Pale Lager) is the best selling, and subsequently, the most widely consumed style of beer in the US. Every large-scale brewery in the US manufactures its own version of Pale lager, most of which is in the form of light lager. Examples include every beer that is advertised during the Superbowl.

Light lager is a beer for people who can't afford to drink better beer, both in terms of the size of their wallets and the size of their waist. Light lager is a version of Pale Lager where the end result is a beer with decreased amounts of carbohydrates, alcohol by volume, and Calories. The preferred choice for the college student on a budget. Most of these beers will contain about 70 - 120 calories per 12 oz serving and make up roughly 3-4% ABV.

Malt Liquor
The Malt Liquor is a moderately high ABV lager produced in North America (both the US, and Canada, usually containing at least 5% alcohol and bottled in 40 oz (1.14 L) bottles. The term malt liquor was used in the late 1600s as an alternative word for ale. The modern version comes from the Canadian government as a beer using improved brewing styles. 40 oz bottles are particularly popular among inner city consumers and college students. It is a common practice to use 40 oz bottles of Malt Liquor for the popular drinking game Edward Fourty Hands, a game where bottles are duct-taped to the participant's hands and can only be removed once all of the beer has been consumed.

These brews are pale lagers which go through varying levels of fractional freezing, a process used to separate two liquids with different melting points from eachother by freezing only the liquid with a lower melting point. This process is used in Eisbocks as well. Ice crystals of a diluted water/alcohol mixture are filtered out of the more heavily alcohol concentrated liquids in order to raise overall alcohol levels. These beers' typical low retail prices and higher alcohol content makes them favorites among many college students who enjoy the advantages of liquid confidence, regardless of the taste.

These are light colored beers brewed in Munich that typically share brewing and product similarities to Marzen style beers.

These are dark colored beers brewed in Munich, and yes, they are Marzen-like beers that use roasted (dark) Munich malts.

Dry Beer
The Dry Beer originated in Japan as a fully attenuated pale lager, first brewed by Asahi Breweries of Tokyo in 1987. Michelob Dry and Bud Dry by Anheuser-Busch are two American examples of dry beer. The term fully attenuated means that nearly all of the sugars are converted into alcohol over the course of a longer fermentation process, which results in a clean, crisp flavor.

This is more of a marketing term than anything, but it is usually applied to all-malt beers with about 5% alcohol. Moderate gravity and moderate carbonation. These are full-bodied and bittersweet, lightly spiced with German hops.

These are helles lagers brewed to bock strength, but different from traditional bocks in color with more bitter tastes due to a higher usage of hops. They are less malty with drier, bitter, and spicy flavors. Alcohol content is similar to traditional bocks (6.3 to 7.4% abv). Maibocks have higher concentrations of carbonation and foam.

These are stronger versions of traditional bocks, first brewed by Paulaner monks. Characterized by a higher alcohol content (typically 7-12% abv), this beer is clear, with many different colors in existence. Aroma is intense with malt and toasty notes. Some darker versions may exemplify chocolately or fruity aromas as well. The flavor is rich with noticeable alcohol strength and almost no bitterness. This beer has a large, creamy foam head.

A traditional beer brewed in Munich - typically for the annual Oktoberfest event.

This is a smoky beer with roasted malts that is bronze colored. First brewed in Bamberg, Germany, it remains the choice drink of the locals. It is brewed internationally in very limited quantities by specialty brewers.

There are many reasons why a brewer uses adjuncts, or unmalted grains. The most common is to cut costs for macrobreweries producing a flagship pale lager. Unmalted grains are cheaper than malted grain (e.g. malted barley), and also produce large foam heads, a thinner, weaker body, and golden colors. An adjunct can be any common cereal grain like barley, wheat, rice, corn, or rye, as long as it isn't malted.

Originating in Vienna, the Capital and largest city of Austria, this lager is well balanced with a fair amount of noticeable hops, brewed with Munich, Dextrin, Pilsner, and of course, Vienna malts. This style is lighter bodied, with a crisp finish, and a sweet undertone.

These are similar in style of an amber or red ale, with a sweet overtone, a more malty presence, sometimes a fuller body, and a crisp feel. As advertised, colors range from lighter amber to deep red.

A style from Japan which is taxed lower than beer, and marketed cheaper than beer, which has made it a popular beverage. Normal malts can be included, but can not exceed 67% of the fermentable sugars in the brew. Hops are fairly noticeable, and other potential ingredients include corn, kaoliang, straight sugar, rice, potato, or another form of starch.

An Eastern European (mainly Russia, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia) style made from black or regular rye bread. This is a low alcohol (0.05-1.00% ABV), flavored (with fruit, herbs, mint, raisins, and/or strawberries), cheap drink (cheaper than most other alcoholic beverages) which originated back before the year 989. It has been a commercially widespread and commonly consumed drink across all social classes in Eastern Europe since ancient times. It's lighter body, flavor, strength, and profile make it a better summer beer, but it's available year round.

Munich Dunkel
A traditional style of Bavaria, this beer is full of rich and bold malty (using Munich Malts) and has a medium to full bodied presence. These are well balanced beers with brewers using only just enough hops to balance out the otherwise sweet overtones. These are ruby dark red colored beers with a nice shine in light. Tetnang and Hallertau hops are the most widely used for this style.

This is a German smoked beer which gets its signature character from the open flame drying process used to prepare the malted grains used in the brew. Though a specialty of Bramberg, Germany, many breweries outside of Germany and even Europe are producing smoked, Rauchbiers of their own. The flavor comes from the smoke of fired (mostly beechwood) logs, producing a flavor which somewhat tastes like a cured smoke Iberian meat.

American Double/Imperial Pilsner
These are strong American pilsners which are high in alcohol, and emphasize a strong, sometimes unbalanced flavor experience. These beers can be aggressively sweet or bitter depending on the brewer, and contain good amounts of alcohol induced spicy notes.

Japanese Rice/Adjunct
These are somewhat hybrid style beers of Japan falling in between Happoshu and a normal adjunct lager, based on the malt/adjunct ratio. These beers' grist contains a large proportion of rice (but lower than a typical Happoshu), and offer a well balanced, malty and somewhat bitter profile. These beers, like most Japanese lagers, feature a very dry finish.

California Common/Steam
This is an American style of lager which originates from California in the late 1800s. These beers use a special yeast strain which thrives in warmer temperatures, which helped during an era without affordable refrigeration. These beers are amber in color with a malty flavor, mixed with some fruity notes and a fairly strong hoppy tail. The term "Steam Beer" is a trademark of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. Typical California Commons are between 4.00 and 6.00% ABV.