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American lager or North American lager is pale lager that is produced (and primarily consumed) in North America. Pale lager originated in Europe in the mid-19th century, and moved to America with German immigrants. As a general trend outside of Bavaria and the Czech Republic where the beers may be firmly hopped, pale lager developed as a modestly hopped beer, and sometimes used adjuncts such as rice or maize - and this was also true in America.
Worldwide, the best-known American lager is Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, though prominent brands are also made by MillerCoors (Coors Light, MGD, etc.) Pale lager is the predominant choice among America's largest brewing companies, although it is not common in U.S. microbreweries. Likewise, in Canada the biggest-selling commercial beers, including both domestics such as Molson Canadian, Labatt Blue, Kokanee, Carling Black Label, and Old Style Pilsner, and imports such as Budweiser and Coors are very lightly hopped pale lagers. This is by far the largest-selling style in Canada. Just as in the United States, Canadian microbrewers typically do not produce North American-style pale lagers.
Other terms for this type of beer, or sub-categories within it, include "American-Style Light Lager", "American-Style Low-Carbohydrate Light Lager", "American-Style Lager", "American-Style Premium Lager" (a term used at the World Beer Cup), and "North American Style Lager" or "North American Style Premium Lager" (terms used at the Canadian Beer Awards).
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Both Canada and the United States were traditionally ale (and whisky) consuming regions in the British traditions before the late 19th century. Pale lager was introduced to both Canada and the United States in the 19th century by German immigrants. These German brewers developed their beers from the American six-row barley which has a higher tannic acid and protein content and had greater husk per weight than the continental European barleys (two-row barley). In addition, the Tettnanger and Saaz hops of Europe were not available. Therefore, the grain mixture was adjusted by adding up to 30% corn to the barley malt mash. However, the beer was brewed to full-fledged European strength and to the practices of a pale lager style. After Prohibition in the United States when beer production resumed, brewers used up to 50% corn or rice. Canada had its own, shorter experiment with prohibition which bankrupted many breweries (and distilleries), and with the rise of mass media marketing and national-scale supply chains, the major breweries consolidated into a near triopoly dominated by Molson, Labatt, and Carling-O'Keefe following the Second World War. These corporate brewers reacted to a new taste for sweet drinks in a public that had switched to sugary soft drinks and "near-beer" during prohibition.
Currently, the only large-scale representatives of the pre-Prohibition lager style in the United States are D.G. Yuengling & Son with its Traditional Lager; Genesee Brewing Company with its Genesee Beer; and August Schell Brewing Company with its Original. In recent years a number of smaller American breweries have also reintroduced it, such as Victory Brewing Company and Scrimshaw Pilsner North Coast Brewing Company from northern California. (Throwback Lager) and Full Sail Brewing Company (Session Lager).
Rice gained popularity in the domestic brewing market during World War II due to grain rationing on the home-front. Most breweries were unable to afford the necessary amounts of barley required for production and so began using rice as a filler. This also had the added benefit of lightening the flavor of beer, making it more appealing to some of the new female workforce. After the war, the process was not changed.
Some "premium" beers made in this style use only barley malt, with no corn or rice at all, though they are considered more or less the same style.
- Fix, G. 1994. Pre-prohibition lagers. Brewing Techniques. May/June
- Jankowski, B. 1994. Bushwick pilsners. Brewing Techniques. Jan/Feb
- Rubin, Josh (2012). "Canada". In Garrett Oliver. The Oxford Companion to Beer 1 (1st edition. ed.). New York, New York: Oxford University Press Inc. pp. 386–392.
- JohnnyBarman (2011-02-20). "Matt's Beer Den: Matt's Beer Den Book Review! - "Brew North" by Ian Coutts". Mattsbeerden.blogspot.ca. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
- Reviving the Classic American Pilsner
- Hop Heaven - Philadelphia Citypaper article about Victory Brewing developing a pre-Prohibition style lager
- a recipe of a pre-Prohibition-style American lager using corn as an adjunct