Beer Style 1A: American Light Lager
There are dozens of beer styles and we know it can get a little confusing, so each week we profile a particular style of beer in the Devil’s Peak Beer Guide. We’ll outline styles from the 2015 BJCP guidelines, offering both a technical and somewhat anecdotal overview of the dozens of beer offerings from around the world.
First up – 1A American Light Lager!
Ah, the American Light Lager. You know all those American movies with the college kids drinking out of red cups? If it was beer, chances are they were sucking down BJCP Style 1A. Having spent significant time in the US university scene, I can tell you that most college students are after “whatever is cheapest” when it comes to beer at big events.
Don’t get me wrong, we frequented craft beer bars (also known as “bars”) and drank double, imperial, oak aged, brett infused etc etc etc, but that was when one was flush with cash . . . which wasn’t very often. Natural Light or “Natty Light” was often the go to, though now I’m a bit ashamed to admit it. One loses a bit of cred when consuming vast quantities of adjunct lager.
That said, like all beers, American Light Lager has its place. And I’ll freely admit to tossing back a Bud Light on occasion . . . if for nothing more than old time’s sake. Believe it or not, you can too! If you’re up for a bit of a hunt, Bud is available in SA.
A bit light, maybe a bit watery, and probably full of rice and corn, but still a truly American beer experience.
Here’s what to expect, straight from the BJCP Style Guidelines.
Overall Impression: Highly carbonated, very light-bodied, nearly flavorless lager designed to be consumed very cold. Very refreshing and thirst quenching.
Aroma: Low to no malt aroma, although it can be perceived as grainy, sweet, or corn-like if present. Hop aroma is light to none, with a spicy or floral hop character if present. While a clean fermentation character is desirable, a light amount of yeast character (particularly a light apple fruitiness) is not a fault. Light DMS is not a fault.
Appearance: Very pale straw to pale yellow color. White, frothy head seldom persists. Very clear.
Flavor: Relatively neutral palate with a crisp and dry finish and a low to very low grainy or corn-like flavor that might be perceived as sweetness due to the low bitterness. Hop flavor ranges from none to low levels, and can have a floral, spicy, or herbal quality (although rarely strong enough to detect). Low to very low hop bitterness. Balance may vary from slightly malty to slightly bitter, but is relatively close to even. High levels of carbonation may accentuate the crispness of the dry finish. Clean lager fermentation character.
Mouthfeel: Very light (sometimes watery) body. Very highly carbonated with slight carbonic bite on the tongue.
Comments: Designed to appeal to as broad a range of the general public as possible. Strong flavors are a fault.
History: Coors briefly made a light lager in the early 1940s. Modern versions were first produced by Rheingold in 1967 to appeal to diet-conscious drinkers, but only became popular starting in 1973 after Miller Brewing acquired the recipe and marketed the beer heavily to sports fans with the “tastes great, less filling” campaign. Beers of this genre became the largest sellers in the United States in the 1990s.
Characteristic Ingredients: Two- or six-row barley with high percentage (up to 40%) of rice or corn as adjuncts. Additional enzymes can further lighten the body and lower carbohydrates.
Style Comparison: A lighter-bodied, lower-alcohol, lower calorie version of an American Lager. Less hop character and bitterness than a Leichtbier.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.028 – 1.040
IBUs: 8 – 12 FG: 0.998 – 1.008
SRM: 2 – 3 ABV: 2.8 – 4.2%
Commercial Examples: Bud Light, Coors Light, Keystone Light, Michelob Light, Miller Lite, Old Milwaukee Light
Tags: session-strength, pale-color, bottom-fermented, lagered, north-america, traditional-style, pale-lager-family, balanced
(Image Source: Natural Light)