Beer Style 2A: International Pale 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.
2A International Pale Lager
You might not have heard of this style, but you’ve most certainly had at least one pint in your drinking career. Surprisingly, beer empires have been made on the back of this unassuming style.
On the beaches of Mexico, it takes on the form of Corona Extra (often enjoyed with a wedge of *actual* lime.) On the streets of Bangkok, Singha Lager Beer. In pubs around the world, the Dutch megalith that is Heineken (which is sold in a staggering 170 countries and is often one of the only beers available on international airlines).
So what should you expect from an International Pale Lager? A combination of factors that has made it such a wildly popular style. First, they’re exceptionally drinkable. It’s an “every man’s” beer (shocker – it’s a lager). Expect well balanced flavours with no stand outs. Served cold, it’s often punted as a thirst quencher. Adjuncts will more than likely be present, but it shouldn’t be a corn bomb.
Refreshing, highly carbonated and the perfect choice for a hot summer day, the International Pale Lager has earned a place in many a beer fridge. You can pick up all of the above in SA – with Singha being a personal favourite of mine.
Here’s the full rundown, straight from the BJCP Style Guidelines.
Overall Impression: A highly-attenuated pale lager without strong flavors, typically well-balanced and highly carbonated. Served cold, it is refreshing and thirst-quenching.
Aroma: Low to medium-low malt aroma, which can be grainy-malty or slightly corny-sweet. Hop aroma may range from very low to a medium, spicy or floral hop presence. While a clean fermentation profile is generally most desirable, low levels of yeast character (such as a light apple fruitiness) are not a fault. A light amount of DMS or corn aroma is not a fault.
Appearance: Pale straw to gold color. White, frothy head may not be long lasting. Very clear.
Flavor: Low to moderate levels of grainy-malt flavor, with a crisp, dry, well-attenuated finish. The grain character can be somewhat neutral, or show a light bready-crackery quality or up to moderate corny or malty sweetness. Hop flavor ranges from none to medium levels, and often showing a floral, spicy, or herbal character if detected. Hop bitterness at medium-low to medium level. Balance may vary from slightly malty to slightly bitter, but is relatively close to even. Neutral aftertaste with light malt and sometimes hop flavors. A light amount of DMS is not a fault.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium body. Moderately high to highly carbonated. Can have a slight carbonic bite on the tongue.
Comments: International lagers tend to have fewer adjuncts than standard American lagers. They may be all-malt, although strong flavors are still a fault. A broad category of international mass-market lagers ranging from up-scale American lagers to the typical “import” or “green bottle” international beers found in America and many export markets. Often confusingly labeled as a “Pilsner.” Any skunkiness in commercial beers from being lightstruck in a green bottle is a mishandling fault, not a characteristic of the style.
History: In the United States, developed as a premium version of the standard American lager, with a similar history. Outside the United States, developed either as an imitation of American style lagers, or as a more accessible (and often drier and less bitter) version of a Pilsner-type beer. Often heavily marketed and exported by large industrial or multi-national breweries.
Characteristic Ingredients: Two- or six-row barley. May use rice, corn, or sugar as adjuncts, or may be all malt.
Style Comparison: Generally more bitter and filling than American lager. Less hoppy and bitter than a German Pils. Less body, malt flavor, and hop character than a Czech Premium Pale Lager. More robust versions can approach a Munich Helles in flavor, although with more of an adjunct quality.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.042 – 1.050
IBUs: 18 – 25 FG: 1.008 – 1.012
SRM: 2 – 6 ABV: 4.6 – 6.0%
Commercial Examples: Asahi Super Dry, Birra Moretti, Corona Extra, Devils Backbone Gold Leaf Lager, Full Sail Session Premium Lager, Heineken, Red Stripe, Singha
Tags: standard-strength, pale-color, bottom-fermented, lagered, traditional-style, pale-lager-family, balanced
(Image Source: Singha Beer)