Classic Lagers

November 19, 2009

Lager beer was developed in Southern Germany around the 16th century. The use of a yeast strain adapted to cold temperatures and notable because yeast cells remain at the bottom of the wort gave rise to the term “bottom fermented.” Extended cold-aging produces a smooth, clean flavor profile emphasizing both malt and hops.

Pale Lagers

This family of beers share a pale color and lager heritage, but differ in their hop/malt balance and in the qualities of the aroma hops used. US craft versions tend to be similar to the original styles, but can be slightly bolder in flavor. The first pale lager was developed in the mid-1800s in Pilsen, Czech Republic, from which the name ‘pilsner’ was derived. Still popular today, the Bohemian pilsner is characterized by hints of caramel balanced with aroma and bitterness from the distinctive native Saaz hop. Mimicking this crisp style, the Germans created the German pilsner which is similar to the Bohemian version but with a less-pronounced hop character. The use of German noble Hallertau hops accounts for the difference.

  Beer COLOR

The range is shown by graduated color in glasses.

  HOPS

The size of the green dot indicates the intensity of hop bitterness and/or aroma.

  BODY

The size of the gray dot indicates fullness and/or sweetness.

 

 

FLAVOR

ABOUT

QUALITIES

WINNING EXAMPLES

Bohemian Pilsner

Bohemian (Czech) Pilsner

Fresh maltiness, hints of caramel, plus plenty of aroma and bitterness from the spicy Czech hop, Saaz.

The first pale lager, now widely imitated around the world.

h5
b4

ABV: 4.0-5.0

GLASS: Classic Pilsner Flute

  • Titletown Brewing Co., Boathouse Pilsner,
    2010 Gold GABF Bohemian Style Pilsner
  • Gordon Biersch Brewery, Gordon Biersch Czech Pilsner, 2009 Silver GABF Bohemian Style Pilsner
  • Otter Creek Brewing, Vermont Lager,
    2009 Gold GABF Bohemian Style Pilsner
German Pilsner

German Pilsner

Clean, bready maltiness balanced and perfumed with German noble hops like the herbal Hallertau.      

Crisp, austere pale lagers widespread across Germany and now worldwide.

h6
b2

ABV: 4.0-5.0

GLASS: Classic Pilsner Flute

  • Trumer Brauerei Berkeley, Trumer Pils,
    2010 Gold GABF German Style Pilsner
  • Chuckanut Brewery, Pilsner,
    2009 Silver GABF German Style Pilsner
  • Troegs Brewing, Sunshine Pils,
    2009 Bronze GABF German Style Pilsner

Dortmunder Export

Dortmunder Export

Clean maltiness evenly balanced by dry hoppiness. Crisp finish, sometimes with mineral notes.

A slightly stronger pale lager now all but vanished in its homeland.

h3
b4

ABV: 5.0-6.0

GLASS: Classic Pilsner Flute

  • Snake River Brewing, Rolling Thunder Dortmunder, 2010 Bronze GABF Dortmunder or German-style Oktoberfest
  • Capital Brewery, Capital Bavarian Lager,
    2009 Bronze GABF Dortmunder or German-style Oktoberfest

Berliner Weisse

American-Style Light Lager

Light in body, color and flavor, these lagers are very crisp and aggressively carbonated.  Minimal to no malt sweetness or hop bitterness and aroma.

This style of beer is known for its refreshment and is traditionally served very cold. Often adjuncts, such as corn or rice, are used as an additional fermentable.

h1 b1

ABV: 3.2-4.0

GLASS: Classic Pilsner Flute

  • Miller Brewing Co., Miller Lite,
    2010 Gold GABF American-Style Light Lager
  • AB-InBev, Budweiser Select,
    2009 Gold GABF American-Style Light Lager

 

Amber Lagers

This category encompasses a number of specialty beers, most emphasizing malt over hops. Amber lagers are especially versatile beers to pair with food. The first amber lager was produced in Austria and is known as the Vienna style. It has a malty aroma and light body with a slight hint of hop aroma and flavor. The evolution of the amber lager continued in Munich when King Ludwig I of Bavaria wanted to celebrate his wedding with a hearty ‘festbier’ for his subjects. The resulting beer and celebration was christened, ‘Oktoberfest.’ This beer is richer and higher in alcohol than its Vienna cousin, with a malty aroma and a slight caramelly taste. Märzens are another of the amber lager styles. These beers are traditionally brewed in the month of March—from which the beer gets its name and lagered (aged) until September. This is a, maltier beer than the Vienna lager and has a toasty finish. American craft brewers created an amber lager style of their own style with more hop flavor and aroma than the traditional German versions.

 

                                                         

 

 

  FLAVOR

ABOUT

QUALITIES

WINNING EXAMPLES

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

Clean malt, modestly caramelly, just barely balanced by a touch of noble hops. Some Oktoberfests are still authentic Märzens (darker, heavier).

In Germany the use of this name is limited to breweries in Munich. Growing paler in recent years, per public taste.

h1 b2

ABV: 5.0-6.0

GLASS: Handled Glass Stein

  • Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, Oh! Fest!,
    2010 Silver GABF German-style Marzen
  • Flying Dog Brewery, Dogtoberfest,
    2009 Gold GABF German-style Marzen

Marzen

Märzen

Rich, creamy maltiness barely balanced by hops, with a smooth  but slightly toasty finish.

The Bavarian copper-colored export-strength lager.

h1 b5

ABV: 5.3-5.9

GLASS: Handled Glass Stein

  • Clipper City Brewing Co., Heavy Seas Marzen, 2010 Bronze GABF Vienna-Style Lager
  • Dry Dock Brewing Co., Reines Marzen,
    2009 Silver GABF German-style Marzen

Vienna

Vienna

Malty aroma with modest body and clean crisp finish, hints of hops. Lighter than Oktoberfest/Märzen.

The original amber-colored lager, created in Austria, but uncommon there now.

h1 b2

ABV: 4.8-5.4

GLASS: Handled Glass Stein

  • Chuckanut Brewery, Vienna Lager,
    2009 Gold GABF Vienna-Style Lager

American Amber Lager

American Amber Lager

Big, caramel-accented flavor balanced by plenty of noble hop aroma.

Craft-brewed versions of classic full-flavored all-malt lagers.

h6 b4

ABV: 4.8-5.4

GLASS: American Shaker Pint

  • Del Norte Brewing Co., Manana,
    2010 Gold GABF American-Style Amber Lager
  • Durango Brewing Co., Durango Colorfest,
    2009 Gold GABF American-Style Lager

Dark Lagers

This small family of malty lagers includes beer of varying caramel/toasty/roasty profiles and subtle hopping. Dark lagers were much more popular a hundred years ago although they still have a following. The original Bavarian-style lager is known as the Munich dunkel, or “dark”. This is a smooth, soft and malty beer with a full body and gentle, roasty finish. Schwarzbier is a roasty-malty lager that many consider a German version of the porter. The style features a pleasant roasty nose, moderate body, and an enjoyable chocolaty bittersweet finish.

 

                                                                

FLAVOR

ABOUT

QUALITIES

WINNING EXAMPLES

Munich Dunkel

Munich Dunkel

Smooth, soft and malty lager, with a big, sweetish body and a gentle roasty finish, with very little hops.

The original Bavarian-style lager beer. Dunkel simply means “dark.”

h1 b2

ABV: 4.5-5.0

GLASS: Handled Glass Stein

  • Chuckanut Brewery, Dunkel,
    2009 Gold GABF European Style Dunkel
  • Gordon Biersch Brewery, Dunkles,
    2009 Silver GABF European Style Dunkel
Schwarzbier

Schwarzbier

Nice roasty-malty nose, moderate body and an enjoyable chocolatey bittersweet finish.

Famed in the towns of Kulmbach and Köstritz, this roasty-malty lager is in many respects a German version of Porter.

h6 b5

ABV: 3.8-5.0

GLASS: Handled Glass Stein

  • Redrock Brewing Co., Redrock Black Bier, 2010 Gold GABF German Style Schwarzbier
  • Chuckanut Brewery, Schwarzbier,
    2009 Silver GABF German Style Schwarzbier
  • Titletown Brewing Co., Dark Helmet,
    2009 Bronze GABF German Style Schwarzbier

Bock (Strong Lagers)

These strong, springtime lagers were said to have been produced, initially, as a way to sidestep fasting by German monks. Bocks are strong and malty, and often fairly sweet. Maibocks are an amber colored strong lager with a smooth, malty flavor profile. Traditionally brewed in May, this is the most common type of bock. The ruby colored version is simply called bock. It has a strong malty aroma and flavor with roasty flavors. A doppelbock (or double-bock) is characterized by a massive caramelly aroma and toasty bittersweet finish. Breweries traditionally name their doppelbocks with an “ator” at the end, such as Salvator.

HellerBock

Heller Bock or Maibock

Strong amber lagers with a smooth malty flavor profile, and sometimes a hint of hops as well.

An amber-colored strong lager, now the most common form of bock.

h5 b5

ABV: 6.0-8.0

GLASS: Stemmed ‘Pokal’

  • Ram Restaurant & Brewery, Maibock,
    2010 Bronze GABF Bock
  • Gordon Biersch Brewery, Gordon Biersch Golden Export, 2009 Bronze GABF Munich Style Helles

Bock

Bock

Super malty aroma and flavor nearly balanced by roastiness and a tiny touch of hops.

A deep ruby-colored strong lager. Less common than the Maibock.

h1 b8

ABV: 6.3-7.5

GLASS: Stemmed ‘Pokal’

  • Pug Ryans Brewery, Hellats Good Beer,
    2010 Gold GABF Bock
  • Backcountry Brewery, May Bock,
    2009 Silver GABF Bock
  • Piece Brewery, Fornicator,
    2009 Bronze GABF Bock

Doppelbock

Doppelbock

Massive caramel aroma, often with a gentle toasty bittersweet finish.

An extra-strong dark lager (although blonde versions exist).

h2 b11

ABV: 6.0-8.0

GLASS: Small Tulip or Snifter

  • Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co., Carbonator,
    2010 Gold GABF German Style Doppelbock or Eisbock
  • Avery Brewing Co., The Kaiser,
    2009 Gold GABF German Style Double Bock or Eisbock
  • Boston Beer Co., Samuel Adams Double Bock,
    2009 Silver GABF German Style Double Bock or Eisbock

  Beer Color

The range is shown by graduated color in glasses.

  HOPS

The size of the green dot indicates the intensity of hop bitterness and/or aroma.

  BODY

The size of the gray dot indicates fullness and/or sweetness.