2. International Lager

International lagers are the premium mass-market lagers produced in most countries in the world. Whether developed from American or European styles, they all tend to have a fairly uniform character and are heavily marketed. Loosely derived from original Pilsner-type lagers, with colored variations having additional malt flavors while retaining a broad appeal to most palates. In many countries, the styles will be referred to by their local country names. The use of the term “international” doesn’t mean that any beers are actually labeled as such; it is more of a categorization of similar beers produced worldwide.

2A. International Pale Lager

Overall Impression

A highly-attenuated pale lager without strong flavors, typically well-balanced and highly carbonated. Served cold, it is refreshing and thirst-quenching.

Appearance

Pale straw to gold color. White, frothy head may not be long lasting. Very clear.

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

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

IBU

18 - 25

SRM

2 - 6

OG

1.042 - 1.050

FG

1.008 - 1.012

ABV

4.6% - 6%

Commercial Examples

Asahi Super Dry, Birra Moretti, Corona Extra, Devils Backbone Gold Leaf Lager, Full Sail Session Premium Lager, Heineken, Red Stripe, Singha.

2B. International Amber Lager

Overall Impression

A well-attenuated malty amber lager with an interesting caramel or toast quality and restrained bitterness. Usually fairly well-attenuated, often with an adjunct quality. Smooth, easily-drinkable lager character.

Appearance

Golden-amber to reddish-copper color. Bright clarity. White to off-white foam stand which may not last.

Aroma

Low to moderate malt aroma which can be grainy, with a very low to moderate caramel-sweet to toasty-malty aroma. Hop aroma can range from low to none with a mildly floral or spicy character. Clean lager profile. A slight DMS or corny aroma is acceptable.

Flavor

Low to moderate malt profile which can vary from dry to grainy-sweet. Low to moderate levels of caramel and toasty-bready notes can be evident. Low to medium-low corny sweetness is optional, but not a fault. Hop bitterness is low to moderate, and hop flavor is low to moderate with a spicy, herbal, or floral character. The balance can be fairly malty to nearly even, with the bitterness becoming more noticeable but not objectionable. The bitterness level can increase if the malt character increases to match. Clean fermentation profile. Finish is moderately dry with a moderately malty aftertaste.

Mouthfeel

Light to medium body. Medium to high carbonation. Smooth; some examples can be creamy.

Comments

A wide spectrum of mass-market Amber lagers developed either independently in various countries, or describing rather generic amber beers that may have had more historical relevance but who eventually changed into an indistinguishable product in modern times.

History

Varies by country, but generally represents an adaptation of the mass-market International Lager or an evolution of indigenous styles into a more generic product.

Characteristic Ingredients

Two-row or six-row base malt. Color malts such as victory, amber, etc. Caramel malt adjuncts. European or American hops or a combination of both.

Style Comparison

Less well-developed malt flavor than a Vienna lager, often with an adjunct taste.

Vital Statistics

IBU

8 - 25

SRM

7 - 14

OG

1.042 - 1.055

FG

1.008 - 1.014

ABV

4.6% - 6%

Commercial Examples

Brooklyn Lager, Capital Winter Skål, Dos Equis Amber, Schell’s Oktoberfest, Yuengling Lager.

2C. International Dark Lager

Overall Impression

A darker and somewhat sweeter version of international pale lager with a little more body and flavor, but equally restrained in bitterness. The low bitterness leaves the malt as the primary flavor element, and the low hop levels provide very little in the way of balance.

Appearance

Deep amber to dark brown with bright clarity and ruby highlights. Foam stand may not be long lasting, and is beige to light tan in color.

Aroma

Little to no malt aroma; may have a light corn character. Medium-low to no roast and caramel malt aroma. Hop aroma may range from none to light 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.

Flavor

Low to medium malty sweetness with medium-low to no caramel and/or roasted malt flavors (and may include hints of coffee, molasses or cocoa). Hop flavor ranges from none to low levels, and is typically floral, spicy, or herbal. Low to medium hop bitterness. May have a very light fruitiness. Moderately crisp finish. The balance is typically somewhat malty. Burnt or moderately strong roasted malt flavors are a defect.

Mouthfeel

Light to medium-light body. Smooth with a light creaminess. Medium to high carbonation.

Comments

A broad range of international lagers that are darker than pale, and not assertively bitter and/or roasted.

History

Darker versions of International Pale Lagers often created by the same large, industrial breweries and meant to appeal to a broad audience. Often either a colored or sweetened adaptation of the standard pale industrial lager, or a more broadly accessible (and inexpensive) version of more traditional dark lagers.

Characteristic Ingredients

Two- or six-row barley, corn, rice, or sugars as adjuncts. Light use of caramel and darker malts. Commercial versions may use coloring agents.

Style Comparison

Less flavor and richness than Munich Dunkel, Schwarzbier, or other dark lagers. Frequently uses adjuncts, as is typical of other International Lagers.

Vital Statistics

IBU

8 - 20

SRM

14 - 22

OG

1.044 - 1.056

FG

1.008 - 1.012

ABV

4.2% - 6%

Commercial Examples

Baltika #4 Original, Devils Backbone Old Virginia Dark, Dixie Blackened Voodoo, Saint Pauli Girl Dark, San Miguel Dark, Session Black Dark Lager, Shiner Bock.

3. Czech Lager

Czech lagers are generally divided by gravity class (draft, lager, special) and color (pale, amber, dark). The Czech names for these categories are světlé (pale), polotmavé (amber), and tmavé (dark). The gravity classes are výčepní (draft, 7–10 °P), ležák (lager, 11–12 °P), and speciální (special, 13 °P+). Pivo is of course the Czech word for beer. The division into gravity classes is similar to the German groupings of schankbier, vollbier, and starkbier, although at different gravity ranges. Czech beers within the classes are often simply referenced by their gravity. There are often variations within the gravity-color groupings, particularly within the speciální class. The style guidelines combine some of these classes, while other beers in the Czech market are not described (such as the strong Czech Porter). This is not to imply that the categories below are the full coverage of Czech beers, simply a way of grouping some of the more commonly found types for judging purposes.

Czech lagers in general are differentiated from German and other Western lagers in that German lagers are almost always fully attenuated, while Czech lagers can have a slight amount of unfermented extract remaining in the finished beer. This helps provide a slightly higher finishing gravity (and thus slightly lower apparent attenuation), slightly fuller body and mouthfeel, and a richer, slightly more complex flavor profile in equivalent color and strength beers. German lagers tend to have a cleaner fermentation profile, while Czech lagers are often fermented cooler (7–10 °C) and for a longer time, and can have a light, barely noticeable (near threshold) amount of diacetyl that often is perceived more as a rounded body than overtly in aroma and flavor [significant buttery diacetyl is a flaw]. Czech lager yeast strains are not always as clean and attenuative as German strains, which helps achieve the higher finishing gravity (along with the mashing methods and cooler fermentation). Czech lagers are traditionally made with decoction mashes (often double decoction), even with modern malts, while most modern German lagers are made with infusion or step infusion mashes. These differences characterize the richness, mouthfeel, and flavor profile that distinguishes Czech lagers.

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