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.
Premium American Lager Description
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.
This beer has low levels of grainy or malty sweetness from the malts used but is also crisp and dry. This is often difficult to achieve and homebrewers must tweak their recipes over time until they finally achieve this style characteristic.
Hop flavors are very low and are 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. These beers are well balanced. When described as crisp, it is usually due to high levels of carbonation and full attenuation and is not attributed to any ingredients in the recipe. There should be no diacetyl and no yeast derived fruitiness in these beers.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.046-1.056 IBUs: 15-25 FG: 1.008-1.012 SRM: 2-6 ABV: 4.6-6%
These beers are made with more malted grain and less adjuncts than the standard or lite American lagers. In fact, some of these beers are made using no adjuncts at all.
Strong flavors are still a fault in competitions, but that may be difficult to accomplish when making these beers. Watch your fermentation temperatures to reduce strong fruity notes.
Be sure to use the freshest ingredients possible. Watch the FG and let these beers ferment fully.
You will find several commercial examples from abroad, including the “green bottle” beers such as Heineken and Moosehead. These are definitely premium lagers, just not premium American lagers.
Try and use American ingredients and yeasts for these beers to get closer to the description the judges are using in competitions.
Information for this page was adapted from the BJCP Style Guidelines for 2008 and 2015.