2008 BJCP Style Guidelines
1C - Premium American Lager


NOTE: In the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines, Premium American Lagers have been removed and for the most part, replaced with Style 2A International Pale Lager in Category 2 International Lager which are 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.

The information below is still valid for the older style, but when studying for the current BJCP exam, use it as reference in conjunction with the current descriptions.


Michelob Original Lager

Premium American Lagers fill the gap between the lighter American lagers, with little to no flavor, and the Munich Helles and Dortmunder Export, which are very flavorful, rich beers. You will notice the names on some of the commercial examples use the word "extra" to indicate that they actually have some flavor, although not strong yet. These are the beers that compete with the "gourmet" beers from Europe, such as Stella Artois.


Premium American Lager Description

  • Aroma: Now that we are beginning to get some flavor in the lagers, notice that a malt flavor is apparent, although low to medium-low. Again, it will be grainy from the American 2-row or 6-row malts and sweet-corn like when corn is used as the adjunct. The hop aroma is now definitely present but in the very low to medium-low range, and it is usually spicy or floral. Low levels of yeast character such as DMS, acetaldehyde or fruitiness may be present (ie. they are optional) and is acceptable when it appears. Diacetyl is not acceptable and is considered a fault so be sure to give the fermenting beer a bump of 5-10 degrees for the last few days to get rid of any remaining diacetyl before lagering.
  • Appearance: We begin to see some color in these American lagers and notice that the SRM can be up to a 6. The colors now range from pale straw to gold. Darker beers generally indicate more flavor and more body. The head is white and usually dies quickly. The beer is very clear.
  • Flavor: The flavor of a premium American lager is described as having low levels of grainy or malty sweetness. It is also described as being crisp and dry, which don't really describe the flavor as much as they describe the carbonation and attenuation of the beer. Some residual sweetness from the malts shows through and is noticeable. Hop flavors are none to low levels, possibly masked by the stronger malt presence. Hop bitterness is in the low to medium level as the IBUs can be up to 25. The overall balance of the beer will vary, but will be from lightly malty to lightly bitter. Generally the premium American lager is pretty well balanced. When described as crisp, it is usually due to high levels of carbonation and full attenuation. You will find no diacetyl and no yeast derived fruitiness in these beers.
  • Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel for this beer is described as having a medium-light body. The adjuncts used to brew standard American lagers will dry out the beer and it will attenuate well if you pay close attention to your fermentation temperatures.
  • Overall Impression: These beers are made with less adjuncts (thus more malted grains) than the standard or lite American lagers. In fact, you may find some of these beers are made using no adjuncts at all. Strong flavors are still a fault, but that may be difficult to accomplish when making these beers. Watch your fermentation temperatures to reduce strong fruity notes, use the freshest ingredients possible, and let these beers ferment fully. You will find several commercial examples from abroad, including the "green bottle" beers such as Heineken. They are definitely premium lagers, I just don't consider them premium American lagers. I'd still stick to American ingredients and yeasts for these beers so as to be true to the description.
  • Ingredients: American 2-row or 6-row barley and and up to 25% corn or rice as adjuncts to lighten the body.
  • Vital Statistics: OG: 1.046-1.056 IBUs: 15-25 FG: 1.008-1.012 SRM: 2-6 ABV: 4.6-6%
  • Commercial Examples: Full Sail Session Premium Lager, Miller Genuine Draft, Corona Extra, Michelob, Coors Extra Gold, Birra Moretti, Heineken, Beck's, Stella Artois, Red Stripe, and Singha.

Information for this page was adapted from the BJCP Style Guidelines for 2008.  


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