Black Flannel Academy

Int’l Pale Lager

A light bodied, clean and easy-drinking lager style that was developed largely in response to the popularity of the American Lager style. The distinction between those two beers is very subtle, but if you can imagine a fresher, slightly more flavorful version of Miller or Bud, you’ve got what the brewers are after here.

light

thin

lager

high carb

Color

Straw

Gold

Amber

Dark Amber

Brown

Black

Straw

Black

straw / 2 – 6 SRM

Perceived Bitterness

Very Low

Low

Moderate

Pronounced

Assertive

Highly Assertive

Very Low

Highly Assertive

Moderate / 18 – 25 IBU 

0%

3%

6%

9%

12%

15%

0%

3%

6%

9%

12%

15%

ABV 4.6 – 5.0% (OG 1.042 – 1.050 with FG 1.044 – 1.050)

Sweetness

Low (Dry)

Medium

High

Low (Dry)

Medium

High

Sweetness low

Balance

Malty

Balanced

Hoppy

Malty

Balanced

Hoppy

Balanced between hops and malt

HISTORY

In our post on the American Lager, we talked a lot more about business than we did about beer. Only slightly different from that style, the International Pale Lager has a similar history in that it was developed largely in response to a market opportunity rather than in search of a truly remarkable beer. During prohibition, beer production tanked as people tended toward making hard liquor to fill the void while getting the most bang for their buck (can you blame them?). After the 21st Amendment went into effect in December of 1933, the small number of remaining breweries (756 in 1934 down from 1568 in 1910) homogenized their products, largely moving toward the American Lager style as their primary beer. As a response, a market opportunity opened for someone to make a premium version of that product (and sell it at a small premium). We’ll see this kind of thing happen in other styles too: the American Cream Ale, for example, is a response to the American Lager by ale brewers. Brewers abroad weren’t blind to the massive success that American Lager was having here before and after prohibition. Seeking to capitalize on that market in their own countries, these brewers developed similar beers, but largely without the adjuncts that American brewers were using. Let’s pause for a moment here and recognize, yet again, what the American Lager did to the beer world: brewers the world over were responding to the successful marketing craze that captured American middle-class drinkers. Admittedly, this wasn’t the only inspiration for what we now call International Pale Lager…many brewers, including Heineken, were seemingly attempting to brew a beer stylistically similar to German Pilsner but with less assertive bitterness. The resulting beer has more malt and hop aroma and flavor than American Lager, but with less carbonation, and finishing a bit less dry. One common misconception about these beers (due to very poor bottle choices by certain breweries) is that they taste skunky and off-putting. This has to do with blue light waves causing a chemical reaction with hop isohumulones (these are the acids that make our IPAs so wonderfully bitter) to form the very same substance that makes skunk spray smell the way it does (3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol). Yup, you read that right…if you’re drinking an old Corona, you might as well find a skunk and scare the hell out of it while holding your mouth wide open (sorry, the world’s largest lime won’t help you here). Miller found a way around this with a hop product (tetrahop) that will not react with light, but the easier solution is to just drink these beers out of a can. Fun fact: Skunkiness is also referred to as “Lightstruck” as beer consumers in Britain have no point of reference to the “skunk” smell as skunks are not indigenous to the region. After AB InBev, the next three largest producers of beer globally (Heineken, Asahi, and Kirin) stake their businesses largely on this style, so it’s definitely one to know. We don’t brew one here at Black Flannel, but come in and try a mug of our Helles sometime. We think it’s got a much richer malt character and richer finish, but it might give you a sense for what this style is about.

CLASSIC CHARACTERISTICS:

Aroma – Grainy, malty, sometimes slightly corny. Floral, spicy, or herbal hops.

Appearance – Straw or Very Pale Gold.

Flavor – Dry finish, light in both malt and hops.

Mouthfeel – Crisp, relatively high carbonation, and light body.

Vitals – 4.6 – 6.0% ABV, 18 – 25 IBU

Service Notes:

Serve fresh in a pint glass as cold as you can

BJCP DESIGNATION: 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.

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.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.

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
FG:  1.008 – 1.012
ABV:  4.6 – 6.0%
IBUs:  18 – 25
SRM:  2 – 6

Commercial Examples:

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

BA DESIGNATION: American-Style lager

  • Color: Straw to Pale.
  • Clarity: Appearance should be clear. Chill haze should not be present.  
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Residual malt aroma and flavor may be present at low levels
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Low.
  • Perceived Bitterness:  Low to medium.
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Very low levels of DMS aroma and flavor are acceptable. Fruity esters and diacetyl should not be present.
  • Body: Low to medium.
  • Additional Notes: These beers are often brewed with rice, corn, wheat, or other grains. Sugar adjuncts may also be used.

Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.044-1.050 (11-12.4 °Plato)

Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.008-1.010 (2.1-2.6 °Plato)

Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 3.6%-4.2% (4.6%-5.3%)

Bitterness (IBU) 17-30

Color SRM (EBC) 3-4 (6-8 EBC)

STYLE COMPARISON:

More flavor and hop bitterness than American Lager. Less malt character than a Munich Helles. Less bitter than a German Pilsner or Czech Premium Pale

INGREDIENTS:

  • Two-row brewers malt
  • Some corn or rice adjunct
  • Noble Hops
  • Lager yeast

BREWING PROCESS:

Brewers mash this beer very low, sometimes with adjunct additions, 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 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.

SUGGESTED FOOD PAIRINGS:

AT THE BREWPUB:  Kale Saesar Salad

TAKEOUT: Falafel, hummus, and pita

CASUAL DATE: Burgers and fries

SUGGESTED SPIRIT PAIRINGS:

FROM BF DISTILLING CO: Agave Dream (Tequila-inspired)

ANY: Pisco (a type of Peruvian Brandy)

SUGGESTED MUSIC TO LISTEN TO:

NEW: Clifton Chenier

OLD: Sweelinck, organ works

BEER COCKTAIL RECIPE:

Lagerita

INGREDIENTS:
  • 6 ounces International Pale Lager
  • 1.5 ounces Agave Dream (Tequila)
  • .5 ounces blue agave
  • .5 ounces orange liqueur
  • 1 lime

DIRECTIONS:
In a cocktail shaker, mix tequila, agave, orange liqueur, and the juice of half of the lime and shake vigorously with ice. Strain into a large margarita glass (salt the rim if you’d like!), top with lager, and garnish with lime wedge.

BLACK FLANNEL BREWING CO. EXAMPLE:

Brewing Notes:

Coming Soon…

Tasting Notes:

Coming Soon…