Pale lager is a very pale-to-golden-colored lager beer with a well
attenuated body and a varying degree of noble hop bitterness.
The brewing process for this beer developed in the mid-19th century,
when Gabriel Sedlmayr took pale ale brewing techniques back to the
Spaten Brewery in
Germany and applied them to existing lagering
methods. This approach was picked up by other brewers, most notably
Josef Groll of
Bavaria who produced
Pilsner Urquell in the city of
Pilsen in the
Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in the Czech Republic). The
Pilsner beers—pale-colored, lean and stable beers—were
very successful[clarification needed] and gradually spread around the
globe to become the most common form of beer consumed in the world
3.2 Dortmunder Export
3.4 American lager
3.5 Dry beer
3.6 Premium lager
4 Strong lager
Bavarian brewers in the sixteenth century were required by law to brew
beer only during the cooler months of the year. In order to have beer
available during the hot summer months, beers would be stored
(lagered) in caves and stone cellars, often under blocks of ice.
In the period 1820–1830, a brewer named Gabriel Sedlmayr II the
Younger, whose family was running the
Spaten Brewery in Bavaria, went
Europe to improve his brewing skills. When he returned, he used
what he had learned to get a more stable and consistent lager beer.
The Bavarian lager was still different from the widely known modern
lager; due to the use of dark malts it was quite dark, representing
what is now called
Dunkel beer or the stronger variety, bock beer.
The new recipe of the improved lager beer spread quickly over Europe.
In particular Sedlmayr's friend
Anton Dreher adopted new kilning
techniques that enabled the use of lighter malts to improve the
Viennese beer in 1840–1841, creating a rich amber-red colored
Pale lagers tend to be dry, lean, clean-tasting and crisp. Flavors may
be subtle, with no traditional beer ingredient dominating the others.
Hop character (bitterness, flavor, and aroma) ranges from negligible
to a dry bitterness from noble hops. The main ingredients are water,
Pilsner malt and noble hops, though some brewers use adjuncts such as
rice or corn to lighten the body of the beer. There tends to be no
butterscotch flavor from diacetyl, due to the slow, cold fermentation
Main article: Pilsner
Pale lager was developed in the mid 19th century, when Gabriel
Sedlmayr took some British pale ale brewing techniques back to the
Spaten Brewery in Germany, and started to modernize continental
brewing methods. In 1842
Josef Groll of Pilsen, a city in western
Bohemia in what is now the Czech Republic, used some of these methods
Pilsner Urquell, the first known example of a golden
lager. This beer proved so successful that other breweries followed
the trend, using the name Pilsner. Breweries now use the terms "lager"
and "Pilsner" interchangeably, though pale lagers from
Germany and the
Czech Republic with the name
Pilsner tend to have more evident noble
hop aroma and dry finish than other pale lagers.
Main article: Dortmunder Export
With the success of Pilsen's golden beer, the town of
Germany started brewing pale lager in 1873. As
Dortmund was a major
brewing center, and the town breweries grouped together to export the
beer beyond the town, the brand name
Dortmunder Export became
known. Today, breweries in Denmark, the Netherlands, and North
America brew pale lagers labelled as Dortmunder Export.
A typical helles
Main article: Helles
In 1894, the
Spaten Brewery in
Munich noticed the commercial success
of the pale lagers
Pilsner and Dortmunder Export;
Spaten utilized the
methods that Sedlmayr had brought home over 50 years earlier to
produce their own pale lager they named helles, which is German for
"light colored", in order to distinguish it from the darker, sweeter
beers from that region: Dunkelbier or dunkles Bier ("dark
beer"). Initially other
Munich breweries were reluctant to brew
pale-colored beer, though as the popularity of pale beers grew, so
gradually other breweries in
Bavaria began brewing pale
lager either using the name hell or pils. Today, in
Bavaria pale lagers termed helles, hell, pils or gold remain popular,
with a local inclination to use low levels of hops, and an abv in the
range 4.7% to 5.4% abv;
Munich breweries which produce such pale
lagers include Löwenbräu, Staatliches
Hofbräuhaus in München,
Augustiner Bräu, and Hacker-Pschorr; with Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu
producing a 5.2% abv pale lager called
Main article: American lager
The earliest known brewing of pale lager in America was in the Old
City section of Philadelphia by John Wagner in 1840 using yeast from
his native Bavaria. Modern American lagers are usually made by
large breweries such as Anheuser-Busch. Lightness of body is a
cardinal virtue, both by design and since it allows the use of a high
percentage of rice or corn.
Though all lagers are well attenuated, a more fully fermented pale
Germany goes by the name Diät-Pils or Diätbier (de).
"Diet" in the instance not referring to being "light" in calories or
body, rather its sugars are fully fermented into alcohol, allowing the
beer to be targeted to diabetics due to its lower carbohydrate
content. Because the available sugars are fully fermented, dry
beers often have a higher alcohol content, which may be reduced in the
same manner as low-alcohol beers.
The first dry beer, Gablinger's Diet Beer, was released in 1967,
Joseph Owades at
Rheingold Breweries in Brooklyn. Owades
developed an enzyme that could further break down starches, so that
the finished product contained fewer residual carbohydrates and was
lower in food energy.
Since the 2012 revisions to the Diätverordnung (de) (Ordinance
on Dietetic Foodstuffs), it is no longer permitted to label beer as
"Diät" in Germany, but it may be advertised as "suitable for
diabetics". Prior to this change, a Diätbier could contain no more
than 7.5 g of unfermented carbohydrates per liter (a typical
lager contains 30-40 g/L), and the alcohol content could not
exceed normal levels (5% ABV).
A marketing term for a fully attenuated pale lager, originally used in
Asahi Breweries in 1987, "karakuchi" (辛口, dry), was
taken up by the American brewer
Anheuser-Busch in 1988 as "dry beer"
Michelob Dry. This was followed by other
"dry beer" brands such as Bud Dry, though the marketing concept was
not considered a success.
Premium lager is a marketing term sometimes used by brewers for
products they wish to promote; there is no legal definition for such a
product, but it can be meaningfully applied to an all-malt product of
around 5% abv.
Anheuser-Busch also uses the terms "sub-premium" and
"super-premium" to describe the low-end Busch beer and the slightly
Pale lagers that exceed an abv of around 5.8% are variously termed
bock, malt liquor, super strength lager, Oktoberfestbier/Märzen, or
European strong lager.
Main article: Bock
Bock is a strong lager which has origins in the Hanseatic town of
Einbeck in Germany. The name is a corruption of the medieval German
brewing town of Einbeck, but also means billy goat (buck) in German.
The original bocks were dark beers, brewed from high-colored malts.
Modern bocks can be dark, amber or pale in color.
traditionally brewed for special occasions, often religious festivals
such as Christmas,
Easter or Lent.
Malt liquor is an American term referring to a strong pale lager. In
the UK, similarly-made beverages are called super-strength lager.
Main article: Märzen
A mug of
Oktoberfest is a German festival dating from 1810, and
Oktoberfestbiers are the beers that have been served at the festival
since 1818, and are supplied by six breweries: Spaten, Löwenbräu,
Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr.
Traditionally Oktoberfestbiers were the lagers of around 5.5 to 6 abv
called Märzen, brewed in March and allowed to ferment slowly during
the summer months. Originally these would have been dark lagers, but
from 1872 a strong March brewed version of an amber-red Vienna lager
made by Josef Sedlmayr became the favorite Oktoberfestbier. The
Märzen and so Oktoberfestbier has become even lighter since
the late 20th century, with all
Oktoberfest beers brewed in Munich
since 1990 being golden in color; though some
Munich brewers still
produce darker versions, mostly for export to the United States.
Oktoberfestbier is a registered trademark of the big six Munich
breweries, who call themselves the Club of
Oktoberfestbier is also known as
Munich beer, and—along with
Munich beer is protected by the
European Union as a
Protected Geographical Indication
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
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Oktoberfest (Classic Beer Style), Brewers
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