North American Origin Lager Styles

Each style description is purposefully written independently of any reference to another beer style. Furthermore, as much as possible, beer character is not described in terms of ingredients or process. These guidelines attempt to emphasize final evaluation of the product and try not to judge or regulate the formulation or manner in which it was brewed, except in special circumstances that clearly define a style.

North American Origin Lager Styles

  1. American-Style Lager
  2. American-Style Lager
American-Style Lager
  • Color: Straw to gold
  • Clarity: Chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Malt sweetness is very low to low
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Not perceived to very low
  • Perceived Bitterness: Not perceived to very low
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Light fruity-estery aroma and flavor is acceptable. Diacetyl should be absent.
  • Body: Low
  • Additional notes: Corn, rice, or other grain or sugar adjuncts are often used. American Lagers are very clean and crisp, and aggressively carbonated
  • Original Gravity (°Plato)
    1.040-1.048
    (10-11.9 °Plato)
  • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato)
    1.006-1.014
    (1.5-3.6 °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)
  1. American-Style Lager
  2. American-Style Lager
Contemporary American-Style Lager
  • Color: Straw to gold
  • Clarity: Chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Malt sweetnessand aroma arevery low to low
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Very low to low
  • Perceived Bitterness: Very low to low
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity esters are usually absentbut may be present at very low levels. Diacetyl should not be present.
  • Body: Low
  • Additional notes: Corn, rice, or other grain or sugar adjuncts are often used, but all-maltformulations are also made. Contemporary American Lagers typically exhibitincreased hop aroma and flavor compared to traditional versions, are clean and crisp, and aggressively carbonated.
  • 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)
    5-19
  • Color SRM (EBC)
    2-4
    (4-8 EBC)
  1. American-Style Light Lager
  2. American-Style Light Lager
American-Style Light Lager
  • Color: Very light to pale
  • Clarity: Chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Very low
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Absent to very low
  • Perceived Bitterness: Absent to very low
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Low fruity-estery aromas and flavors are acceptable. Diacetyl should be absent. Corn, rice, or other grain or sugar adjuncts are often used. These beers are characterized by an extremely high degree of attenuation. Final gravity is often less than 1.000 (0 ºPlato).
  • Body: Low with dry mouthfeel
  • Additional notes: These beers are high in carbonation. Flavor attributes typical of beer are usually very low when present. Calories should not exceed 125 per 12-ounce serving. Low carb beers should have a maximum carbohydrate level of 3.0 gm per 12 oz. (356 ml).
  • Original Gravity (°Plato)
    1.024-1.040
    (6.1-10 °Plato)
  • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato)
    0.092-1.008
    (-2.1-2.1 °Plato)
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume)
    2.8%-3.5%
    (3.4%-5.5%)
  • Bitterness (IBU)
    4-10
  • Color SRM (EBC)
    1.5-4
    (3-8 EBC)
  1. American-Style Amber Light Lager
  2. American-Style Amber Light Lager
Contemporary American-Style Light Lager
  • Color: Very light to medium amber. The word “Light” refers to light body and reduced calories rather than color.
  • Clarity: Chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Very lowbut present
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Very low to low
  • Perceived Bitterness: Very low to low
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity esters are usually absent but may be present at very low levels. Diacetyl should not be present. These beers are characterized by an extremely high degree of attenuation. Final gravity is often less than 1.000 (0.0 ºPlato).
  • Body: Low to medium-low, often with dry mouthfeel
  • Additional notes: Corn, rice or other grain or sugar adjuncts may be used but all-malt formulations are also made. These beers are high in carbonation. Hop attributes, though subtle, are more evident than in traditional American-Style Light Lager. Calories should not exceed 125 per 12-ounce serving. Low carb beers should have a maximum carbohydrate level of 3.0 gm per 12 oz. (355 ml)
  • Original Gravity (°Plato)
    1.024-1.040
    (6.1-10 °Plato)
  • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato)
    0.992-1.008
    (minus 2.1-2.1 °Plato)
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume)
    2.8%-3.5%
    (3.5%-4.4%)
  • Bitterness (IBU)
    4-15
  • Color SRM (EBC)
    1.5-12
    (3-24 EBC)
  1. American-Style Pilsener
  2. American-Style Pilsener
American-Style Pilsener
  • Color: Straw to gold
  • Clarity: Appearance should be bright; chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Medium-low to medium
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Hop aroma and flavor is medium to high, exhibiting attributes typical of noble-type hops
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium to high
  • Fermentation Characteristics: DMS, fruity-estery and diacetyl aromas and flavors should be absent.
  • Body: Medium-low to medium
  • Additional notes: Up to 25% corn and/or rice in the grist should be used. Beers in this category hew to American-style lagers typical of the pre-Prohibition era.
    When using these guidelines as the basis for evaluating entries at competitions, organizers may wish to subcategorize this category into rice and corn subcategories, or may wish to group Pre-Prohibition and Contemporary American-Style Pilseners as subcategories.
  • Original Gravity (°Plato)
    1.045-1.060
    (11.2-14.7 °Plato)
  • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato)
    1.012-1.018
    (3.1-4.6 °Plato)
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume)
    3.9%-4.7%
    (4.9%-6.0%)
  • Bitterness (IBU)
    25-40
  • Color SRM (EBC)
    3-6
    (6-12 EBC)
  1. Contemporary American Pilsner
  2. Contemporary American-Style Pilsener
Contemporary American-Style Pilsener
  • Color: Straw to gold
  • Clarity: Appearance should be bright; chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Medium-low to medium
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Hop aroma and flavor is medium to high. While traditional versions exhibit hop-derived attribute typical of noble-type hops, contemporary versions will exhibit hop and aroma attributes typical of a wide range of American hop varieties, including citrus, fruit-like or others.
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium to high
  • Fermentation Characteristics: DMS, fruity-estery and diacetyl aromas and flavors should be absent.
  • Body: Medium-low to medium
  • Additional notes: Up to 25% corn and/or rice in the grist should be used. Beers in this category diverge from American-style lagers typical of the pre-Prohibition era by virtue of a wide range of hop aroma and flavor attributes.
    When using these guidelines as the basis for evaluating entries at competitions, organizers may wish to subcategorize this category into rice and corn subcategories, or may wish to group Pre-Prohibition and Contemporary American-Style Pilseners as subcategories.
  • Original Gravity (°Plato)
    1.045-1.060
    (11.2-14.7 °Plato)
  • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato)
    1.012-1.018
    (3.1-4.6 °Plato)
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume)
    3.9%-4.7%
    (4.9%-6.0%)
  • Bitterness (IBU)
    25-40
  • Color SRM (EBC)
    3-6
    (6-12 EBC)
  1. American-Style Malt Liquor
  2. American-Style Malt Liquor
American-Style Malt Liquor
  • Color: Straw to gold
  • Clarity: Appearance should be bright; chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Some malt sweetness is perceived
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Not perceived
  • Perceived Bitterness: Very low
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery and complex alcohol aromas and flavors are acceptable at low levels. Alcohol should not be solvent-like. Diacetyl should not be perceived.
  • Body: Low to medium-low
  • Additional notes: Beers of this style are varied in character. Some malt liquors are only slightly stronger than American lagers, while others approach bock strength.
  • Original Gravity (°Plato)
    1.050-1.060
    (12.4-14.7 °Plato)
  • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato)
    1.004-1.010
    (1.0-2.6 °Plato)
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume)
    5.0%-6.0%
    (6.3%-7.6%)
  • Bitterness (IBU)
    12-23
  • Color SRM (EBC)
    2-6
    (4-12 EBC)
  1. American Style Amber Lager
  2. American Style Amber Lager
American-Style Amber Lager
  • Color: Gold to copper
  • Clarity: Appearance should be clear. Chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium-low caramel or toasted malt aromas and flavors should be present
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Very low to medium-high
  • Perceived Bitterness: Very low to medium-high
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity esters and diacetyl should not be present
  • Body: Medium
  • Original Gravity (°Plato)
    1.042-1.056
    (10.5-13.8 °Plato)
  • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato)
    1.010-1.018
    (2.6-4.6 °Plato
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume)
    3.8%-4.3%
    (4.8%-5.4%)
  • Bitterness (IBU)
    18-30
  • Color SRM (EBC)
    6-14
    (12-28 EBC)
  1. American-Style Maerzen/Oktoberfest
  2. American-Style Maerzen/Oktoberfest
American-Style Maerzen/Oktoberfest
  • Color: Pale to reddish brown
  • Clarity: Chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Malt aroma and flavor should express a light toasted character. Bready or biscuity malt aroma and flavor is acceptable. A low level of caramel character is acceptable. Sweet maltiness should be present.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium-low
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium-low to medium
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery and diacetyl aromas and flavors should not be perceived
  • Body: Medium
  • Additional notes: The American version of this classic German beer is distinguished by a more pronounced hop character
  • Original Gravity (°Plato)
    1.050-1.060
    (12.4-14.7 °Plato)
  • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato)
    1.012-1.020
    (3.1-5.1 °Plato)
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume)
    4.0%-4.7%
    (5.1%-6.0%)
  • Bitterness (IBU)
    20-30
  • Color SRM (EBC)
    4-15
    (8-30 EBC)
  1. American-Style Dark Lager
  2. American-Style Dark Lager
American-Style Dark Lager
  • Color: Light brown to very dark
  • Clarity: Appearance should be bright; chill haze should not be present
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Low malt aroma and flavor may include low levels of caramel
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Very low to low
  • Perceived Bitterness: Very low to low, and dissipates quickly.
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Carbonation is high. Fruity-estery, DMS and diacetyl aromas and flavors should not be perceived.
  • Body: low
  • Original Gravity (°Plato)
    1.040-1.050
    (10-12.4 °Plato)
  • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato)
    1.008-1.012
    (2.1-3.1 °Plato)
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume)
    3.2%-4.4%
    (4.1%-5.6%)
  • Bitterness (IBU)
    14-24
  • Color SRM (EBC)
    14-25
    (28-50 EBC)
Unchanged: “2020 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines used with permission of Brewers Association”