How To Brew a Light American Lager: A Step-By-Step Guide

Light American Lager

The Light American Lager is a very light, crisp beer that is almost flavorless. It is designed to be consumed very cold and is extremely refreshing. Don’t underestimate this style – the lack of flavor will expose any flaws you have in your process. The style guidelines are as follows:

  • Original Gravity: 1.028 – 1.040
  • Final Gravity: 0.998 – 1.008
  • Alcohol by Volume: 2.8% – 4.2%
  • Bitterness: 8-12 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 2-3

Light American Lager Ingredients

Malt

The grain bill for the Light American Lager is very simple – all you need is pale malt, pilsner malt, and flaked rice. The pale and pilsner malts add the fermentable sugars you need without adding much flavor. The flaked rice adds additional fermentable sugars, but does not add any color or flavor. I keep the flaked rice at around 15% of the grain bill.

Hops

For the Light American Lager, even though it is an American style, we use a noble hop. If you can’t get ahold of any, use a hop that adds a clean bitterness and slight floral or spicy notes like Liberty or Crystal. Add around 10-11 IBUs worth at 60 minutes. That number may seem low, but with the starting gravity being as low as it is, more bitterness than this will come off as too much.

Yeast

For the Light American lager, use a strain that promotes a clean, crisp flavor. Since you aren’t adding any flavor with the malts and hops, you can also use a clean ale yeast strain to add slightly more character.

  • American Lager – 2035-PC (Wyeast)
  • San Francisco Lager – WLP810 (White Labs)
  • California Ale – WLP001 (White Labs)
  • German Kolsch – WLP029 (White Labs)

Water

Last but not least, the water. For the Light 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

Light American Lager Recipe

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

  • Original Gravity: 1.036
  • Final Gravity: 0.998 – 1.008
  • Alcohol by Volume: 3.6%
  • Bitterness: 10.8 IBUs
  • Color (SRM): 2.6

Grain Bill

  • Pilsen Malt – 3 lbs 8 ounces (70.6%)
  • Pale Malt – 2 lbs 8 ounces (11.8%)
  • Flaked Rice – 1 lb (17.6%)

Hops

  • 0.7 oz Mittelfruh at 60 minutes (10.8 IBUs)

Yeast

  • German Kolsch – WLP029 (White Labs)

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 2.2 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 1.032. 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 60 degrees and then measure the gravity and pitch the yeast. My initial gravity was 1.036. Let the temperature free rise up to 64 degrees and hold for about a week. After about a week, let the temperature begin to free rise to 72 degrees. Hold at 72 degrees for at least a day for the diacetyl rest. Once your diacetyl rest is complete, cold crash to 33 degrees Fahrenheit. Hold the beer at 33 degrees for about 48 hours and then transfer it to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.6 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Light American Lager recipe, feel free to send us a 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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