straw / 2 – 4 SRM
Low / 8 – 18 IBU
Balanced between low hops and low malt
The story of American beer doesn’t begin (and hopefully won’t end) with American Standard Lager, but it did play an inconceivably huge role in the beer market we know today. Budweiser, Miller High Life, Coors Banquet, and PBR are the big players in this style, but there are some lesser-known examples being produced all over the world (I, for example, once gagged through a 30-pack of a beer actually called “Beer 30” in my very debt-ridden college years). If you’re like us, you probably find yourself in local breweries more than you’d like to admit, and you’ve probably noticed a lot of craft brewers taking a closer look at this style that for decades has been an abomination in any beer nerd’s fridge.
The enterprise we now call AB InBev (formerly Anheuser-Busch) began humbly when Eberhard Anheuser, who was at the time a soap manufacturer, bought a small company called the Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis in 1860. A local brewery supplier named Adolphus Busch sold supplies to the struggling brewery for years before buying a stake in the company in 1865 (there may have been ulterior motives at the beginning…he married Anheuser’s daughter in 1861). Busch recognized a massive business opportunity in an untapped marketplace, and sought to build a beer brand on a scale the world had not yet seen. There was still one huge problem…the beer sucked. The Bavarian Brewery wasn’t doing well, and it was because their brews were just plain bad. By 1868, Busch, who had no practical brewing experience, began reading industry journals and traveling to famous brewing regions in Europe to learn everything he could about it in an effort to turn that trend around.
What’s important here from a style standpoint isn’t that Busch turned the business around, although that is extremely important. Instead, it’s the motive (follow the money?). Busch wasn’t driven primarily by a desire to craft the best beer he possibly could–he was driven by the desire to build a brand and make bank. He did, and here we are. Based loosely on European lagers, and named after the city Budweis in modern-day Czech Republic, Busch’s “Budweiser” beer achieved massive success not because of its life-changing taste, but because it didn’t frighten people off with big flavors and it was marketed very, very well. One of those early marketing campaigns might sound a little familiar, by the way. In an ad from 1892, they claimed that beer made with corn caused weariness and stupidity, and finished with this (timeless) gem: “ANHEUSER-BUSCH brands are absolutely free from corn or corn preparation. Nothing but highest grade malt and hops are used in its preparation.” You’d think after a century they could hire a new ad firm.
For fairness’s sake, it’s worth noting here that Budweiser, as a brand, is less than kind to its namesake. They’ve sued Budějovický Budvar, národní podnik (Budweiser Budvar Brewery) around 100 times since 1907 to try to wrestle the trademark for “Budweiser” from them. The Budweiser Budvar Brewery has in some capacity been operating since the thirteenth century, from the Czech Republic city of Budvar.
We don’t mean to trash Budweiser, though (please don’t sue us!). While it may not seem like it, the American Lager has been crucial to the craft marketplace. As John Mallet of Bell’s Brewery notes in his book Malt, the research into ingredient and process quality supported by macro beer over the last several decades has quite literally made what we do in the craft beer world possible. The research they’ve done has elevated our understanding of malt, hops, and yeast, and how they behave under different conditions in the brewhouse. Development of larger markets for these ingredients ultimately trickle down to making them affordable for the average home brewer. True, their uninspiring flavor also gave many of us a reason to seek something more interesting when we order a pint, but without the big beer companies we might not have the small ones we love today.
Aroma – Light malt sweetness that’s sometimes corny. Little or no hop aroma.
Appearance – Straw or Very Pale.
Flavor – Dry finish, light in both malt and hops.
Mouthfeel – Crisp, highly carbonated, and light body.
Vitals – 4.2 – 5.3% ABV, 8 – 18 IBU
Serve fresh in a pint glass as cold as you can
A very pale, highly-carbonated, lightbodied, well-attenuated lager with a very neutral flavor profile and low bitterness. Served very cold, it can be a very refreshing and thirst quenching drink.
Low to no malt aroma, although it can be perceived as grainy, sweet or corn-like if present. Hop aroma may range from none to a light, spicy or floral hop presence. While a clean fermentation character is desirable, a light amount of yeast character (particularly a light apple character) is not a fault. Light DMS is also not a fault.
Very pale straw to medium yellow color. White, frothy head seldom persists. Very clear.
Relatively neutral palate with a crisp and dry finish and a moderately-low to low grainy or corn-like flavor that might be perceived as sweetness due to the low bitterness. Hop flavor ranges from none to moderately-low levels, and can have a floral, spicy, or herbal quality (although often not strong enough to distinguish). Hop bitterness at low to medium-low level. 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.
Low to medium-low body. Very highly carbonated with slight carbonic bite on the tongue.
Strong flavors are a fault. Often what non-craft beer drinkers expect to be served if they order beer in the United States. May be marketed as Pilsner beers outside of Europe, but should not be confused with traditional examples.
Although German immigrants had brewed traditional Pilsner-inspired lager beer in the United States since the mid-late 1800s, the modern American lager style was heavily influenced by Prohibition and World War II. Surviving breweries consolidated, expanded distribution, and heavily promoted a beer style that was appealing to a broad range of the population. Became the dominant beer style for many decades, and spawning many international rivals who would develop similarly bland products for the mass market supported by heavy advertising.
Stronger, more flavor and body than a Light American Lager. Less bitterness and flavor than an International Lager. Significantly less flavor, hops, and bitterness than traditional European Pilsners.
Budweiser, Coors Original, Grain Belt Premium Lager, Miller High Life, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Special Export.
Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.040-1.048 (10-11.9 °Plato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.006-1.012 (1.5-3.0 °Plato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 3.2%-4.0% (4.1%-5.1%)
Bitterness (IBU) 5-15
Color SRM (EBC) 2-4 (4-8 EBC)
Less flavor and carbonation than an international pale lager (like Heineken or Corona), but more flavor than an American Light Lager
Brewers mash this beer very low with plenty of adjunct (usually in the neighborhood or 20-30% of the total grist) to dry out the body significantly. The brewing processes at some of the larger producers of this style are highly controlled, and can often include many additional or unusual steps to ensure uniformity from batch to batch. The cereal grain cooker, for example, is used to boil raw adjuncts–like corn or rice–in order to gelatinize the starches, allowing those starches to be broken down by traditional amylase enzymes when added to the main mash. If this piece of equipment weren’t used by large adjunct brewers, those starches wouldn’t be available to the enzymes and the yeast wouldn’t be able to consume the long-chain starches that remain in suspension. A mash filter press is also used at most industrial breweries, which uses inflatable membranes and fine mesh filters to separate wort from the grains after mashing, replacing the traditional lautering process and greatly improving efficiency (these run from around 98-100% efficiency!). Lastly, most macro breweries aren’t brewing beer at the ABV that it’s packaged. Instead, they brew a much higher gravity beer–sometimes twice the ABV of the finished product–and then cutting that beer with de-aerated water on the packaging line. This allows for tight control of the final ABV of the beer, again in an effort toward efficiency and uniformity.
AT THE BREWPUB: Soft Pretzel and Mustard
TAKEOUT: Fried chicken, french fries
CASUAL DATE: Pizza
FROM BF DISTILLING CO: White Beet Spirit
ANY: Pisco (a type of Peruvian Brandy)
NEW: Garth Brooks, “I Got Friends in Low Places”, Chris Stapleton
OLD: Zoraida di Granata, by Donizetti
In a highball glass, liqueur and sherry directly into the glass without ice. Fill with 8 ounces of American Lager, flame the orange peel, rub the flesh side around the rim of the glass, and garnish