Historical Beer Pre-Prohibition Lager

27. Historical Beer: Pre-Prohibition Lager

Overall Impression:
A clean, refreshing, but bitter pale lager, often showcasing a grainy-sweet corn flavor. All malt or rice-based versions have a crisper, more neutral character. The higher bitterness level is the largest differentiator between this style and most modern mass-market pale lagers, but the more robust flavor profile also sets it apart.

Aroma:
Low to medium grainy, corn-like or sweet maltiness may be evident (although rice-based beers are more neutral). Medium to moderately high hop aroma, with a range of character from rustic to floral to herbal/spicy; a fruity or citrusy modern hop character is inappropriate. Clean lager character. Low DMS is acceptable. May show some yeast character, as with modern American lagers; allow for a range of subtle supporting yeast notes.

Appearance:
Yellow to deep gold color. Substantial, long lasting white head. Bright clarity.

Flavor:
Medium to medium-high maltiness with a grainy flavor, and optionally a corn-like roundness and impression of sweetness. Substantial hop bitterness stands up to the malt and lingers through the dry finish. All malt and rice-based versions are often crisper, drier, and generally lack corn-like flavors. Medium to high hop flavor, with a rustic, floral, or herbal/spicy character. Medium to high hop bitterness, which should neither be overly coarse nor have a harsh aftertaste. Allow for a range of lager yeast character, as with modern American lagers, but generally fairly neutral.

Mouthfeel:
Medium body with a moderately rich, creamy mouthfeel. Smooth and well-lagered. Medium to high carbonation levels.

Comments:
The classic American Pilsner was brewed both pre-Prohibition and post-Prohibition with some differences. OGs of 1.050-1.060 would have been appropriate for pre-Prohibition beers while gravities dropped to 1.044-1.048 after Prohibition. Corresponding IBUs dropped from a pre-Prohibition level of 30-40 to 25-30 after Prohibition.

History:
A version of Pilsner brewed in the USA by immigrant German brewers who brought the process and yeast with them, but who had to adapt their recipes to work with native hops and malt. This style died out after Prohibition but was resurrected by homebrewers in the 1990s. Few commercial versions are made, so the style still remains mostly a homebrew phenomenon.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Six-row barley with 20% to 30% flaked maize (corn) or rice to dilute the excessive protein levels; modern versions may be all malt. Native American hops such as Clusters, traditional continental hops, or modern noble-type crosses are also appropriate. Modern American hops such as Cascade are inappropriate. Water with a high mineral content can lead to an unpleasant coarseness in flavor and harshness in aftertaste. A wide range of lager yeast character can be exhibited, although modern versions tend to be fairly clean.

Style Comparison:
Similar balance and bitterness as modern Czech Premium Pale Lagers, but exhibiting native American grains and hops from the era before US Prohibition. More robust, bitter, and flavorful than modern American pale lagers, and often with higher alcohol.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.044 – 1.060
IBUs: 25 – 40
FG: 1.010 – 1.015
SRM: 3 – 6
ABV: 4.5 – 6.0%

Commercial Examples:
Anchor California Lager, Coors Batch 19, Little Harpeth Chicken Scratch

Biere de Garde

24C. Bière de Garde

Overall Impression:
A fairly strong, malt-accentuated, lagered artisanal beer with a range of malt flavors appropriate for the color. All are malty yet dry, with clean flavors and a smooth character.

Aroma:
Prominent malty sweetness, often with a complex, light to moderate intensity toasty-bready-rich malt character. Low to moderate esters. Little to no hop aroma (may be a bit spicy, peppery, or herbal). Paler versions will still be malty but will lack richer, deeper aromatics and may have a bit more hops. Generally quite clean, although stronger versions may have a light, spicy alcohol note as it warms.

Appearance:
Three main variations exist (blond, amber and brown), so color can range from golden-blonde to reddish-bronze to chestnut brown. Clarity is brilliant to fair, although haze is not unexpected in this type of often unfiltered beer. Well-formed head, generally white to off-white (varies by beer color), average persistence.

Flavor:
Medium to high malt flavor often with a toasty-rich, biscuity, toffee-like or light caramel-sweet character. Malt flavors and complexity tend to increase with beer color. Low to moderate esters and alcohol flavors. Medium-low hop bitterness provides some support, but the balance is always tilted toward the malt. Darker versions will have more of an initial malty-sweet impression than paler versions, but all should be malty in the palate and finish. The malt flavor lasts into the finish, which is medium-dry to dry, never cloying. Low to no hop flavor (spicy, peppery, or herbal), although paler versions can have slightly higher levels of herbal or spicy hop flavor (which can also come from the yeast). Smooth, well-lagered character, even if made with ale yeast. Aftertaste of malt (character appropriate for the color) with some dryness and light alcohol.

Mouthfeel:
Medium to medium-light (lean) body, often with a smooth, creamy-silky character. Moderate to high carbonation. Moderate alcohol warming, but should be very smooth and never hot.

Comments:
Three main variations are included in the style: the brown (brune), the blond (blonde), and the amber (ambrée). The darker versions will have more malt character, while the paler versions can have more hops (but still are malt-focused beers). A related style is Bière de Mars, which is brewed in March (Mars) for present use and will not age as well. Attenuation rates are in the 80-85% range. Some fuller-bodied examples exist, but these are somewhat rare. Age and oxidation in imports often increases fruitiness, caramel flavors, and adds corked and musty notes; these are all signs of mishandling, not characteristic elements of the style.

History:
Name literally means “beer which has been kept or lagered.” A traditional artisanal ale from Northern France brewed in early spring and kept in cold cellars for consumption in warmer weather. It is now brewed year-round.

Characteristic Ingredients:
The “cellar” character commonly described in literature is more of a feature of mishandled commercial exports than fresh, authentic products. The somewhat moldy character comes from the corks and/or oxidation in commercial versions, and is incorrectly identified as “musty” or “cellar-like.” Base malts vary by beer color, but usually include pale, Vienna and Munich types. Darker versions will have richer malt complexity and sweetness from crystal-type malts. Sugar may be used to add flavor and aid in the dry finish. Lager or ale yeast fermented at cool ale temperatures, followed by long cold conditioning. Floral, herbal or spicy continental hops.

Style Comparison:
Related to the Belgian Saison style, the main difference is that the Bière de Garde is rounder, richer, malt-focused, and lacks the spicy, bitter character of a Saison.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.060 – 1.080
IBUs: 18 – 28 FG: 1.008 – 1.016
SRM: 6 – 19 ABV: 6.0 – 8.5%

Commercial Examples:
Ch’Ti (brown and blond), Jenlain (amber and blond), La Choulette (all 3 versions), St. Amand (brown), Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts (blond), Russian River Perdition

Baltic Porter

9C. Baltic Porter
Overall Impression:
A Baltic Porter often has the malt flavors reminiscent of an English porter and the restrained roast of a schwarzbier, but with a higher OG and alcohol content than either. Very complex, with multi-layered malt and dark fruit flavors.

Aroma:
Rich malty sweetness often containing caramel, toffee, nutty to deep toast, and/or licorice notes. Complex alcohol and ester profile of moderate strength, and reminiscent of plums, prunes, raisins, cherries or currants, occasionally with a vinous Port-like quality. Some darker malt character that is deep chocolate, coffee or molasses but never burnt. No hops. No sourness. Very smooth.

Appearance:
Dark reddish-copper to opaque dark brown (not black). Thick, persistent tan-colored head. Clear, although darker versions can be opaque.

Flavor:
As with aroma, has a rich malty sweetness with a complex blend of deep malt, dried fruit esters, and alcohol. Has a prominent yet smooth schwarzbier-like roasted flavor that stops short of burnt. Mouth-filling and very smooth. Clean lager character. Starts sweet but darker malt flavors quickly dominates and persists through finish. Just a touch dry with a hint of roast coffee or licorice in the finish. Malt can have a caramel, toffee, nutty, molasses and/or licorice complexity. Light hints of black currant and dark fruits. Medium-low to medium bitterness from malt and hops, just to provide balance. Hop flavor from slightly spicy hops ranges from none to medium-low.

Mouthfeel:
Generally quite full-bodied and smooth, with a well-aged alcohol warmth. Medium to medium-high carbonation, making it seem even more mouth-filling. Not heavy on the tongue due to carbonation level.

Comments:
May also be described today as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions are not appropriate for this style. Most versions are in the 7-8.5% ABV range. Danish breweries often refer to them as Stouts, which indicates their historic lineage from the days when Porter was used as a generic name for Porter and Stout.

History:
Traditional beer from countries bordering the Baltic Sea, developed indigenously after higher-gravity export brown or imperial stouts from England were established. Historically top-fermented, many breweries adapted the recipes for bottom-fermenting yeast along with the rest of their production.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Generally lager yeast (cold fermented if using ale yeast, as is required when brewed in Russia). Debittered chocolate or black malt. Munich or Vienna base malt. Continental hops (Saazer-type, typically). May contain crystal malts and/or adjuncts. Brown or amber malt common in historical recipes.

Style Comparison:
Much less roasted and smoother than an Imperial Stout, typically with less alcohol. Lacks the roasty qualities of stouts in general, more taking on the roasted-but-not-burnt characteristics of a schwarzbier. Quite fruity compared to other porters. Higher alcohol than other porters.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.060 – 1.090
IBUs: 20 – 40 FG: 1.016 – 1.024
SRM: 17 – 30 ABV: 6.5 – 9.5%

Commercial Examples:
Aldaris Porteris, Baltika #6 Porter, Devils Backbone Danzig, Okocim Porter, Sinebrychoff Porter, Zywiec Porter

Eisbock

9B. Eisbock
Overall Impression:
A strong, full-bodied, rich, and malty dark German lager often with a viscous quality and strong flavors. Even though flavors are concentrated, the alcohol should be smooth and warming, not burning.

Aroma:
Dominated by a balance of rich, intense malt and a definite alcohol presence. No hop aroma. May have significant malt-derived dark fruit esters. Alcohol aromas should not be harsh or solventy.

Appearance: D
eep copper to dark brown in color, often with attractive ruby highlights. Lagering should provide good clarity. Head retention may be moderate to poor. Off-white to deep ivory colored head. Pronounced legs are often evident.

Flavor:
Rich, sweet malt balanced by a significant alcohol presence. The malt can have Maillard products, toasty qualities, some caramel, and occasionally a slight chocolate flavor. No hop flavor. Hop bitterness just offsets the malt sweetness enough to avoid a cloying character. May have significant malt-derived dark fruit esters. The alcohol should be smooth, not harsh or hot, and should help the hop bitterness balance the strong malt presence. The finish should be of malt and alcohol, and can have a certain dryness from the alcohol. It should not by sticky, syrupy or cloyingly sweet. Clean lager character.

Mouthfeel:
Full to very full-bodied. Low carbonation. Significant alcohol warmth without sharp hotness. Very smooth without harsh edges from alcohol, bitterness, fusels, or other concentrated flavors.

Comments:
Extended lagering is often needed post-freezing to smooth the alcohol and enhance the malt and alcohol balance. Pronounced “ICE-bock.”
History: A traditional Kulmbach specialty brewed by freezing a doppelbock and removing the ice to concentrate the flavor and alcohol content (as well as any defects).

Characteristic Ingredients:
Same as doppelbock. Commercial eisbocks are generally concentrated anywhere from 7% to 33% (by volume).

Style Comparison:
Eisbocks are not simply stronger doppelbocks; the name refers to the process of freezing and concentrating the beer and is not a statement on alcohol; some doppelbocks are stronger than Eisbocks. Not as thick, rich, or sweet as a Wheatwine.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.078 – 1.120
IBUs: 25 – 35 FG: 1.020 – 1.035
SRM: 18 – 30 ABV: 9.0 – 14.0%

Commercial Examples:
Kulmbacher Eisbock

 

Doppelbock

9A. Doppelbock
Overall Impression:
A strong, rich, and very malty German lager that can have both pale and dark variants. The darker versions have more richly-developed, deeper malt flavors, while the paler versions have slightly more hops and dryness.

Aroma:
Very strong maltiness. Darker versions will have significant Maillard products and often some toasty aromas. A light caramel aroma is acceptable. Lighter versions will have a strong malt presence with some Maillard products and toasty notes. Virtually no hop aroma, although a light noble hop aroma is acceptable in pale versions. A moderately low malt-derived dark fruit character may be present (but is optional) in dark versions. A very slight chocolate-like aroma may be present in darker versions, but no roasted or burned aromatics should ever be present. Moderate alcohol aroma may be present.

Appearance:
Deep gold to dark brown in color. Darker versions often have ruby highlights. Lagering should provide good clarity. Large, creamy, persistent head (color varies with base style: white for pale versions, off-white for dark varieties). Stronger versions might have impaired head retention, and can display noticeable legs.

Flavor:
Very rich and malty. Darker versions will have significant Maillard products and often some toasty flavors. Lighter versions will have a strong malt flavor with some Maillard products and toasty notes. A very slight chocolate flavor is optional in darker versions, but should never be perceived as roasty or burnt. Clean lager character. A moderately low malt-derived dark fruit character is optional in darker versions. Invariably there will be an impression of alcoholic strength, but this should be smooth and warming rather than harsh or burning. Little to no hop flavor (more is acceptable in pale versions). Hop bitterness varies from moderate to moderately low but always allows malt to dominate the flavor. Most versions are fairly malty-sweet, but should have an impression of attenuation. The sweetness comes from low hopping, not from incomplete fermentation. Paler versions generally have a drier finish.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-full to full body. Moderate to moderately-low carbonation. Very smooth without harshness, astringency. A light alcohol warmth may be noted, but it should never burn.

Comments:
Most versions are dark colored and may display the caramelizing and Maillard products of decoction mashing, but excellent pale versions also exist. The pale versions will not have the same richness and darker malt flavors of the dark versions, and may be a bit drier, hoppier and more bitter. While most traditional examples are in the lower end of the ranges cited, the style can be considered to have no upper limit for gravity, alcohol and bitterness (thus providing a home for very strong lagers).

History:
A Bavarian specialty first brewed in Munich by the monks of St. Francis of Paula. Historical versions were less well-attenuated than modern interpretations, with consequently higher sweetness and lower alcohol levels (and hence was considered “liquid bread” by the monks). The term “doppel (double) bock” was coined by Munich consumers. Many commercial doppelbocks have names ending in “-ator,” either as a tribute to the prototypical Salvator or to take advantage of the beer’s popularity. Traditionally dark brown in color; paler examples are a more recent development.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Pils and/or Vienna malt for pale versions (with some Munich), Munich and Vienna malts for darker ones and occasionally a tiny bit of darker color malts (such as Carafa). Saazer-type hops. Clean lager yeast. Decoction mashing is traditional.

Style Comparison:
A stronger, richer, more full-bodied version of either a Dunkles Bock or a Helles Bock. Pale versions will show higher attenuation and less dark fruity character than the darker versions.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.072 – 1.112
IBUs: 16 – 26 FG: 1.016 – 1.024
SRM: 6 – 25 ABV: 7.0 – 10.0%

Commercial Examples:
Dark Versions -Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel, Ayinger Celebrator, Paulaner Salvator, Spaten Optimator, Tröegs Troegenator, Weihenstephaner Korbinian,; Pale Versions – Eggenberg Urbock 23º, EKU 28, Plank Bavarian Heller Doppelbock