How to Brew an American Lager at Home: Recipe and Tips

American Lager

The American Lager is a light, crisp beer that is highly drinkable and perfect for hot summer days. It’s known for its simple recipe and clean flavor profile. The style guidelines are as follows:

  • Original Gravity: 1.040 – 1.050
  • Final Gravity: 1.004 – 1.010
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.2% – 5.3%
  • Bitterness: 8-18 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 2-3.5

American Lager Ingredients

Malt

The malt for the American lager is very simple, with many brewers using 100% 2-row pilsner malt as the base. If you want, you can add a touch of Vienna malt to add slightly more grainy malt character, but I wouldn’t add any more than 12% of the grain bill. In addition to this, add up to around 30% flaked corn. The flaked corn will add fermentable sugars with limited body and flavor additions. Be careful adding more than 30% flaked corn. Flaked corn does not have the enzymes or nutrients that malted barley does, and adding too much can dilute them to an ineffective level.

Hops

For the American lager, even though it is an American style, we use the German noble hop Mittelfruh. Light floral and/or spicy hop flavor and aroma is optional, so if you can’t get ahold of these, use a hop that adds a clean bitterness and slight floral or spicy notes like Liberty or Crystal. Add around 14-18 IBUs worth at 60 minutes. Later additions are not necessary.

Yeast

For the American lager, use a strain that promotes a clean, crisp flavor such as:

  • American Lager – 2035-PC (Wyeast)
  • San Francisco Lager – WLP810 (White Labs)
  • Bohemian Lager -2124 (Wyeast)

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers I brew, I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up my water profile from scratch. For the American lager, a soft water profile works best. My water profile looked like this:

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 5 ppm
  • Sulfates: 75 ppm
  • Chloride: 60 ppm

American Lager Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon batch of an American lager. The numbers for this beer are included below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.045
  • Final Gravity: 1.004 – 1.010
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.5%
  • Bitterness: 16.1 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 3.2

Grain Bill

  • Pilsen Malt – 6 lbs (70.6%)
  • Vienna Malt – 1 lb (11.8%)
  • Flaked Corn – 1 lb 8 oz (17.6%)

Hops

  • 1.1 oz Mittelfruh at 60 minutes (16.1 IBUs)

Yeast

  • American Lager – 2035-PC (Wyeast)

Mash

Add your salts if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature for your mash to drop to 152 degrees Fahrenheit. For me, it was 2.7 gallons at 163 degrees Fahrenheit. After 60 minutes, raise your mash temperature to 168 degrees for mash out. After mash out, begin to sparge until you reach a pre-boil gravity of around 1.038. For me, it was 5.4 gallons.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops in at 60 minutes. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients and at 5 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 50 degrees and then measure the gravity and pitch the yeast. My initial gravity was 1.045. Let the temperature free rise up to 52 degrees and hold for about a week. After about a week, let the temperature begin to free rise to at least 60 degrees. Hold above 60 degrees for at least a week to make sure fermentation finishes completely. After the week-long diacetyl rest, begin lowering the beer by 4 degrees a day until you reach 33 degrees Fahrenheit. Once at 33 degrees, transfer it to the brite tank and carbonate it to 2.7 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it, let it lager for at least 12 weeks, and then enjoy!

If you decide to try this or another American lager recipe, feel free to comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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