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

German Pilsner

5D. German Pils
Overall Impression:
A light-bodied, highly-attenuated, gold-colored, bottom-fermented bitter German beer showing excellent head retention and an elegant, floral hop aroma. Crisp, clean, and refreshing, a German Pils showcases the finest quality German malt and hops.

Aroma:
Medium-low to low grainy-sweet-rich malt character (often with a light honey and slightly toasted cracker quality) and distinctive flowery, spicy, or herbal hops. Clean fermentation profile. May optionally have a very light sulfury note that comes from water as much as yeast. The hops are moderately-low to moderately-high, but should not totally dominate the malt presence. One-dimensional examples are inferior to the more complex qualities when all ingredients are sensed. May have a very low background note of DMS.
Appearance:
Straw to light gold, brilliant to very clear, with a creamy, long-lasting white head.

Flavor: Medium to high hop bitterness dominates the palate and lingers into the aftertaste. Moderate to moderately-low grainy-sweet malt character supports the hop bitterness. Low to high floral, spicy, or herbal hop flavor. Clean fermentation profile. Dry to medium-dry, crisp, well-attenuated finish with a bitter aftertaste and light malt flavor. Examples made with water with higher sulfate levels often will have a low sulfury flavor that accentuates the dryness and lengthens the finish; this is acceptable but not mandatory. Some versions have a soft finish with more of a malt flavor, but still with noticeable hop bitterness and flavor, with the balance still towards bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium to high carbonation.

Comments:
Modern examples of Pils tend to become paler in color, drier in finish, and more bitter as you move from South to North in Germany, often mirroring the increase in sulfate in the water. The Pils found in Bavaria tend to be a bit softer in bitterness with more malt flavor and late hop character, yet still with sufficient hops and crispness of finish to differentiate itself from a Helles. The use of the term ‘Pils’ is more common in Germany than ‘Pilsner’ to differentiate it from the Czech style, and (some say) to show respect.

History:
Adapted from Czech Pilsner to suit brewing conditions in Germany, particularly water with higher mineral content and domestic hop varieties. First brewed in Germany in the early 1870s. Became more popular after WWII as German brewing schools emphasized modern techniques. Along with its sister beer, Czech Pilsner, is the ancestor of the most widely produced beer styles today. Average IBUs of many well-regarded commercial examples have dropped over time.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Continental Pilsner malt, German hop varieties (especially Saazer-type varieties such as Tettnanger, Hallertauer, and Spalt for taste and aroma; Saaz is less common), German lager yeast.

Style Comparison:
Lighter in body and color, drier, crisper, and more fully attenuated, with more of a lingering bitterness, and with higher carbonation than a Czech Premium Pale Lager. More hop character, malt flavor, and bitterness than International Pale Lagers. More hop character and bitterness with a drier, crisper finish than a Munich Helles; the Helles has more malt flavor, but of the same character as the Pils.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.044 – 1.050
IBUs: 22 – 40 FG: 1.008 – 1.013
SRM: 2 – 5 ABV: 4.4 – 5.2%

Commercial Examples:
König Pilsener, Left Hand Polestar Pils, Paulaner Premium Pils, Schönramer Pils, Stoudt Pils, Tröegs Sunshine Pils, Trumer Pils

Czech Premium Pale Lager

3B. Czech Premium Pale Lager
Overall Impression:
Rich, characterful, pale Czech lager, with considerable malt and hop character and a long, rounded finish. Complex yet well-balanced and refreshing. The malt flavors are complex for a Pilsner-type beer, and the bitterness is strong but clean and without harshness, which gives a rounded impression that enhances drinkability.

Aroma:
Medium to medium-high bready-rich malt and medium-low to medium-high spicy, floral, or herbal hop bouquet; though the balance between the malt and hops may vary, the interplay is rich and complex. Light diacetyl, or very low fruity hop-derived esters are acceptable, but need not be present.

Appearance:
Gold to deep gold color. Brilliant to very clear clarity. Dense, long-lasting, creamy white head.

Flavor:
Rich, complex, bready maltiness combined with a pronounced yet soft and rounded bitterness and floral and spicy hop flavor. Malt and hop flavors are medium to medium-high, and the malt may contain a slight impression of caramel. Bitterness is prominent but never harsh. The long finish can be balanced towards hops or malt but is never aggressively tilted either way. Light to moderate diacetyl and low hop-derived esters are acceptable, but need not be present.

Mouthfeel:
Medium body. Moderate to low carbonation.
Comments: Generally a group of pivo Plze?ského typu, or Pilsner-type beers. This style is a combination of the Czech styles sv?tlý ležák (11-12.9 °P) and sv?tlé speciální pivo (13-14.9 °P). In the Czech Republic, only Pilsner Urquell is called a Pilsner, despite how widely adopted this name is worldwide. Kvasnicové (“yeast beer”) versions are popular in the Czech Republic, and may be either kräusened with yeasted wort or given a fresh dose of pure yeast after fermentation. These beers are sometimes cloudy, with subtle yeastiness and enhanced hop character. Modern examples vary in their malt to hop balance and many are not as hop-forward as Pilsner Urquell.

History:
Commonly associated with Pilsner Urquell, which was first brewed in 1842 after construction of a new brewhouse by burghers dissatisfied with the standard of beer brewed in Plze?. Bavarian brewer Josef Groll is credited with first brewing the beer.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Soft water with low sulfate and carbonate content, Saazer-type hops, Czech malt, Czech lager yeast. Low ion water provides a distinctively soft, rounded hop profile despite high hopping rates. The bitterness level of some larger commercial examples has dropped in recent years, although not as much as in many contemporary German examples.

Style Comparison:
More color, malt richness, and body than a German Pils, with a fuller finish and a cleaner, softer impression. Stronger than a Czech Pale Lager.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.044 – 1.060
IBUs: 30 – 45 FG: 1.013 – 1.017
SRM: 3.5 – 6 ABV: 4.2 – 5.8%

Commercial Examples:

Bernard Svátecní ležák, Gambrinus Premium, Kout na Šumave Koutská 12°, Pilsner Urquell, Pivovar Jihlava Ježek 11°, Primátor Premium, Únetická 12°