Beer Style 5A: German Leichtbier
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.
5A German Leichtbier
German Leichtbier, or “light beer” is one of the lowest selling beers in the whole of Germany. You see, German palates apparently don’t follow American trends. They don’t care that Bud Light is the best selling name in beer. Well, they might, but that doesn’t make them want to fork over their hard earned Euros for a pint that hovers just above the non-alcoholic threshold.
Alright – so 2%-3.5% is significantly above .5%, but you get the idea. By the way, in case you were wondering, it’s pronounced LYSHT. Lie and sht – like you’re telling your yappy dog to cork it Cesar Millan style.
German Leichtbier was originally brewed as the working man’s beer. The guys that hacked at crops all day. The factory workers who spent 12 hours stamping out steel rivets and forming flaming hot beams into railway tracks. The kind of work that makes part time pirates such as myself desperately try to justify their smooth hands as being “just well taken care of.”
The boss man felt so bad for you that he kept it on tap and didn’t charge you a dime. Those were the days! Thirsty work demanded something you could drink like water.
Leichtbier also kept (and still keeps) its drinkers from packing on the pounds. One of the lowest carb counts in the business means it’s the diet soda of the beer world. If you’re watching your waist line, you could do much worse.
And in the taste department? A bit more malt and hop than its American counterpart, but still lacking in anything that really grabs your attention. You may have come across a few commerical examples in your travels: Beck’s Light or maybe even Paulaner Münchner. If you see some pick it up. It’s worth trying to say you’ve had it.
Here’s the vital stats, straight from the BJCP Style Guidelines.
Overall Impression: A pale, highly-attenuated, light-bodied German lager with lower alcohol and calories than normal-strength beers. Moderately bitter with noticeable malt and hop flavors, the beer is still interesting to drink.
Aroma: Low to medium hop aroma, with a spicy, herbal, or floral character. Low to medium-low grainy-sweet or slightly crackery malt aroma. Clean fermentation profile.
Appearance: Straw to pale gold in color. Brilliant clarity. Moderate white head with average to below average persistence.
Flavor: Low to medium grainy-sweet malt flavor initially. Medium hop bitterness. Low to medium hop flavor, with a spicy, herbal, or floral quality. Clean fermentation character, well-lagered. Dry finish with a light malty and hoppy aftertaste.
Mouthfeel: Light to very light body. Medium to high carbonation. Smooth, well-attenuated.
Comments: Marketed primarily as a diet-oriented beer with lower carbohydrates, alcohol, and calories. Pronounced “LYESHT-beer.” May also be known as a Diat Pils or Helles, this style is in the schankbier gravity class. Other variations of Leicht class beers can be made from Weissbier, Kölsch, and Altbier; those beers are best entered in the Mixed-Style Beer category.
History: Traditional versions existed as drinks for physical laborers in factories or fields, but modern versions are more based on popular American products in the same class.
Characteristic Ingredients: Similar to a German Pils or Helles, continental Pils malt, German lager yeast, Saazer-type hops.
Style Comparison: Like a lower-alcohol, lighter-bodied, slightly less aggressive German Pils or Helles.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.026 – 1.034
IBUs: 15 – 28 FG: 1.006 – 1.010
SRM: 2 – 5 ABV: 2.4 – 3.6%
Commercial Examples: Beck’s Light, Bitburger Light, Mahr’s Leicht, Paulaner Münchner Hell Leicht, Paulaner Premium Leicht
Tags: session-strength, pale-color, bottom-fermented, lagered, central-europe, traditional-style, pale-lager-family, bitter, hoppy