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They say the American lager is similar to having sex in a canoe… It’s damn near water. Last week in Beer 101 we talked about the two major categories of beer, ales and lagers. Many beer enthusiasts would argue that this is an evil beer that lacks flavor, is mass produced, and was unfortunately the first beer most of us ever had. I would agree and disagree. Even though this “cheap” beer will never be my beer of choice, I still think it serves a purpose. What else can a struggling college student afford?

Lagers are the most common type of beer and have dominated the market ever since the continuous fermentation method was developed. This method allowed lager to be produced at a much faster rate, while making a large sacrifice in flavor development, making it possible to mass produce lagers and ultimately pushing “American lager” or “light lagers” into the most popular style of beer around today.

The more popular styles of lagers include the American or light lager, pilsner, bock, octoberfest (marzen), and helles. American lagers (Budweiser, Coors light, Miller) are watery, mild in flavor, inexpensive, generally mass produced, and are aimed to please the broadest possible demographic. They run from 3.5 to 4.5 ABV and from 5-17 IBU’s (check out the Beer 101 post if you do not know what ABV or IBU’s are).

The pilsner style (4-5 ABV, 35-45 IBU) is a Czech beer and is the very first light in color beer. They have a high amount of carbonation and are very clean and crisp. One common type that I can think of is Pilsner Urquell.

Bock is a German style (4-5 ABV, 35-45 IBU) beer that is hearty and high in alcohol content. There are some untrue rumors out there that say Bocks are the remaining substance cleaned out of the bottom of the vats at the end of the year. Bocks are generally very malty and slightly sweet. One of my favorites is Shiner Bock.

Helles (3.5-5.0 AVB, 18-25 IBU) is a Bavarian style of beer that is light in color, and has a low alcohol content. They are even less hoppy then pilsners, and American lagers. Haufbrau is a very popular brand of helles.

That about wraps up our discussion on lagers. Your homework for the week is to try at least one of each of the varieties listed in this post. For extra credit you can post a comment and tell us about your experience.


*Top image courtesy of Flying Pie. Others were pulled from Google images and I can't find them again! Sorry!!! -KA
Column: Tap This


  • Glad you are enjoying the beer column. Honestly bottle coloring will not mean much unless you store your beer where it is exposed to light. Naturally, most people do not do this. Bottle color means nothing if the beer is properly stored.

    CJ on

  • Awesome & informative new column btw, dunno why I didn't get around to saying this earlier. Great to have another alcohol/bev column…looks like the drinkers may overtake the eaters on UM!

    Regarding lagers, I gotta get around to trying the Shiner Bock & Haufbrau, although I have tried Urquell before.

    Speaking of the green bottle lager Urquell, I've long had a loose theory that all green bottled beers pretty much taste similar—though certainly some (Dos Equis) are much better than others (Heineken), imo.

    Paystyle on

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