How to brew American Light Lager

Nothing goes better with football than a crisp, bright, American light lager. Easy to drink, low in alcohol, and low in calories. But just because it’s light it doesn’t mean it has to lack in flavor. American light lagers often get a bad rep, they’re tossed outside because of something that they taste the same as water. But when you brew your own it gives you the opportunity to tweak the recipe to get a little more character into it.

For more basic information on lagers and their character you can check Ale vs. Lager – What’s the difference?

We won’t be straying too far from the classic light lager. We will be trying some shortcuts to get this lager in our glass faster than usual. In only 2 weeks.

A mug of light lager beer on a barrel with hops and wheat

The Recipe

When the big-name USA breweries make their American light lager they often substitute part of the grain bill with an adjunct to help lighten the body and overall maltiness of the beer. Give it a crisper flavor. The 2 most common adjuncts used are corn and rice. Bud Light uses rice, and Coors and Miller use some sort of corn. Typically corn syrup. But outside of those additions, this beer is pretty straightforward.

For this recipe, we are making a 5-gallon batch using the brew in a bag method. To start heat up 6 gallons of water to about 153 F. Since light lagers are more delicate in flavor the water profile should reflect that. We added Epsom Salt to our tap water. It would probably be in the beer’s best interest to start from distilled water and build up the water profile for best results.

Once the water is heated up we add the grain bag and mash the grains.

Brew in a bag method of brewing beer

Grain Bill

  • 66.7 % Pilsner Malt for the base malt
  • 33.3 % Flaked Rice

You can substitute this for flaked corn if you prefer that flavor profile. In the mash, we will be adding a special ingredient called Ultra Ferm. It’s an enzyme that when added to beer it helps unlock more fermentable sugars from the starches in the grains. It makes for a beer that has lower final gravity making it drier and crisper. This is not required to make a crisp light lager but it will help drive the gravity down during fermentation.

Another way to impact the dry freshness is through the temperature in the mash. We plan to mash at 148 F for 45 minutes. Mashing this low will aid in creating a more fermentable wort and give a crisper, lighter body to the beer.

After 45 minutes we pull the grain bag out and squeeze as much wort as possible. Heat up 1 gallon of water to 170 F to sparge or rinse the grains to try and extract as many sugars out.

Taking out the grain bag from the beer wort

The boil and pitching the yeast

When we bring wort to boil we plan to boil for 30 minutes. At the start of the boil we add the only hop addtions which is 0.25 oz of Magnum hops. Light lagers are not really known for the hop character so Magnum or any other clean bittering hop will work.

At the 15 minutes mark, we add a Warlflock tablet for clarity in the final brew. And a wort chiller for cooling down to 67 F.

For yeast we use SafLager 34/70 lager yeast. Other lager yeast can also be fermented warm.

We the yeast in the fermenter we put a top on, give it a good shake, and add an airlock. We let it sit at 67 F for a week. After a week the airlock activity has stopped. We officially have a beer.

We noticed a bit of sulfur smell coming from the beer. Instead of kegging it out. we let the beer condition for another week to let that mellow out. Sulfur odors are commonly produced with lager yeast so it’s not unexpected. The only way to reduce it is to give it some time.

After another week the sulfur note had greatly reduced so it felt good to go ahead and keg it up.

A brewer connects a keg to beer tank

Kegging it Up

To the purged keg we add 5 ml of Biofine Clear to aid in clarity and to make sure we have a bright and clear lager, as quickly as possible. Then we close it up and burst carbonate the beer at 40 psi for 12 hours. Then reducing the pressure to serving pressure at which point it is ready to drink.

This beer is really great and we are happy with how it came out. The color is very light straw. We would assume if you use corn you might get a little more color out of it.

On the scent you get whispers of light breadiness and hop character is really subdued. The taste is light, crisp, and extremely refreshing. Cheers.

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