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Beer School 101

(or a Layman’s Education on Your Favorite Libation)

Part 2 – Lagers

As explained before, we gave you a list of ales and examples of the styles that fall under that category. Now we have Lagers. This is the second semester of your alcoholic education. Grab a pen and paper, and don’t forget a pint of your favorite brew, and let’s learn some more. Cheers!


American Pilsner – A big hit with the college circuit, this is the most common mass-market beer in the US. Pale, usually light blonde, yellow or golden amber in color and fairly light-bodied. These beers are often made with various adjuncts like rice and corn sugar to sweeten the taste and make the beer more palatable, offsetting any hop bitterness that may be present.

Example – Budweiser, Leinenkugel’s, Pabst Blue Ribbon


Bock – Dark lager with medium to heavy body generally brewed in wintertime. These can be rich and filling, possessing pretty heavy maltiness and very little hop presence, producing a nice caramel taste from Vienna malts that will keep you warm in the cold season. Bock is German for ram. Often you will see a ram on the label of one of these beers. Their color range is usually deep amber to dark brown and their alcohol content is often around 6-7%.

Example – Michelob Amber Bock, Samuel Adams Winter Lager, Shiner Bock, Spaten Optimator


Bohemian Pilsner – Also known as a Czech pilsner, this beer style originated in 1840’s Czech Republic in the town of Plzen. The beer ranges from straw-colored to golden in color. They have moderate amount of bitterness, brought on by Saaz hops. In fact, in order to be considered a true pilsner, the beer must have at least a 28 IBU rating. These are fairly average in alcohol level, generally in the 4.5-5.5% range.

Example – Pilsner Urquell, Samuel Adams Noble Pils, Saranac Bohemian Pilsner


Dortmunder – Another German creation, this style is golden to medium brown in color and offers medium carbonation and a biscuit-like malt flavor. There is a subtle hint of hop bitterness that you would expect from a German Pilsner, but the malty strength of a Helles or Maibock. ABV usually ranges around 4-6%.

Example – Amstel Gold, Shiner Fröst, Spaten Premium Lager


Dunkel – Also  commonly referred to as a Munich Dunkel, this is a rich and complex beer, using a large amount of dark Munich malts and Noble Hops like Hellertau and Tetnang to achieve a full-bodied taste that isn’t too filling. Color range is mostly a deep dark red to brown color. The hops give it a little crispness, but not so much that make it bite. It balances with the heavy malts nicely to produce a caramel, chocolate and nutty flavor palate.

Example – Becks Dark, Negra Modelo, Warsteiner Premium Dunkel


Light Beer – Reduced calorie version of the American Pilsner style of beer with lower alcohol content and light body. This is produced through rice or corn as adjuncts in the brewing process. Yet another popular college beverage.

Example – Bud Light, Coors Light, Keystone Light, Miller Lite


Light Lager – Similar to light beer, this is the lower calorie, lighter version of a premium lager. This is lighter in body and has often been lightened through various adjuncts like rice or corn.

Example – Heineken Light, Samuel Adams Light, Yuengling Light Lager

Malt Liquor – Speaking of college crowds, malt liquor is a popular choice. This is cheap beer that is high in alcohol and low in just about everything else.  Very little hop presence, this one is made with all kinds of cheap adjuncts like corn or rice. They generally come in a 32 or the even more popular 40 oz. bottle.

Example – King Cobra, Mickey’s, Olde English 800, St. Ides Premium Malt Liquor

Märzen/Octoberfest – This style of beer is brewed in the springtime, usually March (hence the term Märzen, which is German for March) and aged until fall. Octoberfest is arguably the single biggest drinking celebration outside of St. Patrick’s Day. It is huge in Europe, but has been gaining popularity in US as well. The beer is usually dark gold to orange/brown in color and has predominantly a sweet malty flavor to it.

Example – Flying Fish Oktoberfish, Paulaner Oktoberfest, Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Spaten Oktoberfest


Schwarzbier – The name is German for Black Beer. As such, the color range for this variety is generally dark brown to nearly black. This will have roasted malt flavor, similar to a Porter, but not quite as strong.  Flavor will often provide notes of bitter or dark chocolate.

Example – Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager, Samuel Adams Black Lager, Sapporo Black, Saranac Black Forest


Steam Beer – Originating on the West Coast, this type of beer is brewed with lager yeast and fermented at a much higher temperature than most beers, giving them a different taste than a typical lager. It can more closely resemble an ale. It is mostly referred to as California Common beer because the Anchor Brewing Company trademarked the name Steam Beer. ABV generally ranges from 4-6%.

Example – Anchor Steam Beer, Lagunitas Zephyr, Sierra Nevada California Common


Vienna Lager – This style originated in Vienna, Austria. It has since become much more popular in Mexican culture. This beer is brewed using toasted Vienna malts and has a dry, crisp finish from a fair presence of hop bitterness. Its appearance is mostly amber to copper in color. ABV is normally between around 4 and 6%. 

Example – Dos Equis Amber, Leinenkgel’s Red, Negra Modelo, Samuel Adams Boston Lager