1A – Lite American Lager

Lite American Lager have become the predominant style of beer drank in America. Advertising has done it’s job too well. These light beer drinkers are fiercely loyal to their brand and simply refuse to think about any other type of beer. It’s really a sad testimonial to the way we are manipulated by the mass market advertising we’ve seen since we were kids. But there are those that are taking notice of all the new brands and styles of beer in the alcohol section of their local supermarket. These are the potential homebrewers of the future.

Lite American lagers are what the world thinks of when they think of American beer. Most of us grew up drinking these beers and there is nothing wrong with that. They are refreshing on a hot day, available everywhere, and usually very fresh when you get them. The fact that these beers lack flavor is just one of their characteristics. The fact that they can be difficult to brew because there is no where for the off-flavors to hide, makes it a challenge some homebrewers just can’t resist. I’m sure I’ll eventually brew one, but I’ve just got too many other styles I want to brew and learn about first. I have brewed a cream ale and that’s about as close as I’ll probably get for a while.


  • Aroma: Since it has little or no flavor, it is only natural that it has little or no malt aroma. It is possible that a little grainy aroma sneaks through, or when using corn as an adjunct, a sweetness reminiscent of corn may be present. The hop aroma is also in the range of none to light and when present is usually spicy or floral. Low levels of yeast character such as DMS, acetaldehyde or fruitiness may be present and are acceptable when they appear. 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: Since there is really nothing in lite American lager but American pale malt and adjuncts to dilute the malt, the color will be very pale straw to pale yellow. The head is white and usually dies quickly. The beer is very clear.
  • Flavor:The flavors are light when present. It is 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. When flavor is present, it will be a light graininess from the malt, maybe a sweetness from the corn, a very low level of hop flavor and bitterness when present. The overall balance of the beer will vary, but will be from lightly malty to lightly bitter. Generally the lite American lager is pretty well balanced. When described as crisp, it is usually due to high levels of carbonation. You will find no diacetyl and no yeast derived fruitiness in these beers.
  • Mouthfeel: As with all the other adjectives for this beer, the mouthfeel is very light. All the adjuncts dry out the beer and it will attenuate well if you pay close attention to your fermentation temperatures. You will notice a bite from the high carbonation levels and is very often described as being watery.
  • Overall Impression: This beer is definitely quaffable, and is very refreshing on a hot day. It goes down well and is the true American session beer.
  • Comments: This lager will be lighter and have less calories than the lagers made in Europe. Everything must be light and any strong flavors is considered a fault. It is easy to throw this beer out of balance so pay close attention to the IBUs and don’t use any continental pale ale malt, just American 2-row or 6-row. Use only the freshest ingredients. If using malt extracts, make sure they are not made from continental pilsener or English pale malts. Pay very close attention to the fermentation temperatures and keep them in the low 50°F range (10°C) to minimize fruity or otherwise strong flavors. Let the beer finish fermentation and be sure to give it a diacetyl rest to clean up the beer. This beer is meant to appeal to the broadest range of the general public as possible. Also, notice how the work light is spelled, “lite” as in Miller Lite.
  • Ingredients: American 2-row or 6-row barley and a high percentage of rice or corn (up to 40%). When using more than 25% adjuncts, try to use some 6-row to help with the conversion and give it plenty of time.
  • Vital Statistics: OG: 1.028-1.040 IBUs: 8-12 FG: 0.998-1.008 SRM: 2-3 ABV: 2.8-4.2%
  • Commercial Examples: Bitburger Light, Sam Adams Light, Heineken Premium Light, Miller Lite, Bud Light, Coors Light, Baltika #1 LIght, Old Milwaukee Light, Amstel Light

Information for this page was adapted from the BJCP Style Guidelines for 2008. You can check out the original version by clicking here.

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