American lager has little in the way of hop and malt character. A straw to gold, very clean and crisp, highly carbonated lager. Hop aroma and flavor are low to medium-low, deriving from noble-type hops. Hop bitterness is medium. Toasted, biscuit-like, and/or bready malt flavors along with low levels of fermented-malt-derived sulfur compounds may be evident.
Similar to Munich Helles, many European countries reacted to the popularity of early pale lagers by brewing their own. Hop flavor is significant and of noble varieties, bitterness is moderate, and both are backed by a solid malt body and sweet notes from an all-malt base.
Bohemian / Czech Pilsner
The Bohemian Pilsener has a slightly sweet and evident malt character and a toasted, biscuit-like, bready malt character. Hop bitterness is perceived as medium with a low to medium-low level of noble-type hop aroma and flavor. This style originated in 1842, with “pilsener” originally indicating an appellation in the Czech Republic. Classic examples of this style used to be conditioned in wooden tanks and had a less sharp hop bitterness despite the similar IBU ranges to German-style Pilsener. Low-level diacetyl is acceptable. Bohemian-Style Pilseners are darker in color and higher in final gravity than their German counterparts.
A classic German-style Pilsner is straw to pale in color with a malty sweetness that can be perceived in aroma and flavor. Perception of hop bitterness is medium to high. Noble-type hop aroma and flavor are moderate and quite obvious. Distinctly different from the Bohemian-style pilsner, this style is lighter in color and body and has a lower perceived hop bitterness.
“Helles” means “pale in color,” as these beers are often golden. The German-style Helles lager is a bit rounder or fuller-bodied than light lager and even all-malt pilsners. Helles lager beers offer a touch of sweetness that balance a measurable addition of spicy German hop flavor and light bitterness. The malt character is soft and bready, making it a terrific complement to light dishes such as salad or fresh shellfish, like clams. Clean and crisp, this is a refreshing beer with substance. Low levels of yeast-produced sulfur aromas and flavors may be common.
The India Pale Lager is a hybrid of the American IPA with many example giving a nod to IPAs on the west coast. Typically golden in color with some hop haze in some examples. Malt profiles are often clean and bready, allowing the focus to be on the hop varieties featured by the brewer. Bitterness levels vary, but range from moderate to high.
Keller / Zwickel
A rather old, rare, and unique German beer style, Kellerbiers are unfiltered and unpasteurized lagers that date back to at least the Middle Ages. The beer is matured, unbunged (beer is exposed), in deep vaults. The final product is a smooth, naturally cloudy beer that's rich in vitamins from the yeast. Hop bitterness can be high and alcohol will vary. Zwickelbier is similar to a Keller, but not as pronounced.
Light / Adjunct
Light bodied, pale, fizzy lagers made popular by the large macro-breweries (large breweries) of America after Prohibition. Low bitterness, thin malts, and moderate alcohol. Focus is less on flavor and more on mass-production and consumption, cutting flavor and sometimes costs with adjunct cereal grains, like rice and corn. The Light Lager is generally a lighter version of a brewery's premium lager, some are lower in alcohol but all are lower in calories and carbohydrates compared to other beers. Typically a high amount of cereal adjuncts like rice or corn are used to help lighten the beer as much as possible. Very low in malt flavor with a light and dry body. The hop character is low and should only balance with no signs of flavor or aroma. European versions are about half the alcohol (2.5-3.5% ABV) as their regular beer, yet show more flavor (some use 100 percent malt) then the American counterparts. For the most part, this style has the least amount of flavor than any other style of beer.
Strong / Imperial
Many breweries around the world brew a stronger version of their regular lager. In the US, there is Ice Beer and Malt Liquor, both of which rely on a high amount of rice or corn to lighten the flavor. Many European and Asian breweries also have a strong lager similar to Malt Liquor, although these examples are made with more malt or all malt. Many breweries rush the fermentation so the final brew won't be too light, and signs of higher alcohols will be noticed in the aroma and flavor. Similar to a Pilsner in appearance, but expect a more pronounced malty backbone and an intense bitterness. Malt flavors tend to be quite sweet in many examples. Alcohol can be quite aggressive and lend some spicy notes to the flavor.