straw / 2 – 6 SRM
Moderate / 18 – 25 IBU
Balanced between hops and malt
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.
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
Serve fresh in a pint glass as cold as you can
A highly-attenuated pale lager without strong flavors, typically well-balanced and highly carbonated. Served cold, it is refreshing and thirst-quenching.
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.
Pale straw to gold color. White, frothy head may not be long lasting. Very clear.
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.
Light to medium body. Moderately high to highly carbonated. Can have a slight carbonic bite on the tongue.
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.
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.
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.
Asahi Super Dry, Birra Moretti, Corona Extra, Devils Backbone Gold Leaf Lager, Full Sail Session Premium Lager, Heineken, Red Stripe, Singha.
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)
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
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.
AT THE BREWPUB: Kale Saesar Salad
TAKEOUT: Falafel, hummus, and pita
CASUAL DATE: Burgers and fries
ANY: Pisco (a type of Peruvian Brandy)
NEW: Clifton Chenier
OLD: Sweelinck, organ works
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.