Style Details

Pre-Pro­hi­bi­ti­on Lager
His­to­ri­cal Beer
BJCP Style Code
27 A6
Yel­low to deep gold color. Sub­stan­ti­al, long las­ting white head. Bright clarity.
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.
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.
Medi­um body with a modera­te­ly rich, cre­a­my mouth­feel. Smooth and well-lage­red. Medi­um to high car­bo­na­ti­on levels.
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.
Typi­cal 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.
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.
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.
Com­mer­cial Examples
Anchor Cali­for­nia Lager, Coors Batch 19, Litt­le Har­peth Chi­cken Scratch
Ori­gi­nal Gravity
1.044 - 1.060 SG
Final Gra­vi­ty
1.010 - 1.015 SG
3 - 6 SRM
4.0 - 6.0 %vol
25 - 40 IBU