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What is that "pale lager" flavor?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by fox227, Jan 30, 2013.

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  1. fox227

    fox227 Initiate (0) Nov 19, 2010 California

    From what I've read, lager yeast is generally very clean and subtle on the flavor profile, while ale yeasts provide many different estery flavors depending on the style/yeast. I have a friend who thinks that all yellow lagers are "horrible" because of that "lager taste." From my understanding, when you drink a pale lager, you're tasting its malt character and not the yeast - that is the pilsner malt, or what have you. Am I correct in this reasoning? Btw, I happen to like well made pale lagers. :wink:
  2. lucas1801

    lucas1801 Initiate (0) Apr 5, 2012 Massachusetts

    A well made lager should have a nice fresh pilsner malt backbone and a solid noble hop aroma.
    tcanaday likes this.
  3. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Depends on which pale lagers your friend is referring to. In American Pale Lagers (think New Belgium Shift) I pick up on a harsh graininess from what I can only assume is the fairly low-quality U.S. 2-row pale malt they use -- malt that is grown and kilned to the specifications of the macros, who purchase the large majority of it.

    If he's referring to German Pilsners, Munich Helles, etc. then I don't know what he's referring to, as these usually exhibit a smooth, rounded flavor profile, with a nice breadiness balanced by the sweetness of the German pilsner malt and the earthiness of noble hops.
    acevenom and frazbri like this.
  4. fox227

    fox227 Initiate (0) Nov 19, 2010 California

    What I'm really asking is whether the main flavor components come from the yeast or the malt.
  5. lucas1801

    lucas1801 Initiate (0) Apr 5, 2012 Massachusetts

    Combo in German pilsners something like Hoponius Union it is mostly hops but has some breadlines from the malt in the nose.
  6. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,013) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Malt and hops (noble hops, that is), not so much from the yeast. Your friend may be picking up on a touch of DMS, too, but I doubt he's digging that deep.
    kojevergas likes this.
  7. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Again, depends on which "pale lagers" you're talking about. I think the fact that many U.S. craft lagers don't properly filter their beers can lend itself to estery qualities that can come off as harsh and are owing to the yeast. And, as mentioned, even beers that are clean end up showcasing inferior malts. If a lager is done properly (try a Weihenstephaner Original for example), neither of these characteristics will be present.
    acevenom likes this.
  8. fox227

    fox227 Initiate (0) Nov 19, 2010 California

    Thanks for the help. I think I just need to sample more lagers, too. But here are some examples: Samuel Smith's Pure Brewed Lager, Samuel Smith Organic Lager, Anchor Steam, Avery's Joe's Premium American Pilsner, Boston Lager, Victory Prima Pils. I'll stop there. I know these beers aren't all the same, but you get the drift.
  9. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,953) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Personally, I think Sam Smith makes some great top-fermented beer, but they really ought to stay away from lagers -- I think the flavor in their lagers is a combo of yeast and malts.

    Anchor Steam is a combo of yeast and malt too, due to their using a lager yeast at ale temps -- it produces fruit esters as a result, but you still get a lot of biscuit malt. Sam Boston Lager has some yeast issues too, but the flavor is mostly hops with a malt backbone. The Prima Pils is about the cleanest lager you've listed -- as far as yeast character goes. It's all hops and malts, with a balancing leaning to the hops -- but not overdone.

    Sorry, never tried the Avery, but if you want to try a great lager that will give you a good balance of malt with a hop accent look for Ayinger's Jahrhundert. Good stuff. And HerrB is correct with the Weihenstephaner Original -- probably more clean than the Ayinger too.
  10. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I definitely pick up some of what (I assume) is either a harsh graininess from inferior 2-row malt and/or a yeast bite in many of the examples you listed (primarily the U.S. craft examples...minus the Anchor). So my answer is that it's either the malt or the yeast or a combination of both. How's that?
  11. fox227

    fox227 Initiate (0) Nov 19, 2010 California

    Thanks a ton. I just need to try more beers. I'm such a huge IPA, Strong Ale fan that I've neglected other styles. I'll be trying ones you mentioned.

    Edit: I see that I've had that Ayinger beer and reviewed it. I should revisit, but I try so many beers just one time that I can't really remember them.
  12. DaveAnderson

    DaveAnderson Devotee (479) Jan 11, 2011 Minnesota

    What is DMS? If it's a component that makes a lager smell like a wet dog, then I am sensitive to it.

    My sensitivity to lagers is a bit of a running joke at my local bottle shop, where they keep trying to slip me lagers that they think I might like in their weekly tastings (we do blind pours to prevent biasing me). So far, I have discovered one that I really enjoyed (Schell's Fresh Hop Citra Pils), and a few oddballs that I don't totally hate, such as Surly Hell, Breckenridge Regal Pilsner, a few steam beers, and an occasional Märzen.
  13. EyePeeAyBryan

    EyePeeAyBryan Champion (800) Dec 20, 2011 Arizona
    Beer Trader

    NB Shift is a perfect example. I hate the battle of the two flavors.
  14. Longstaff

    Longstaff Initiate (0) May 23, 2002 Massachusetts

    What makes a lager good to me is the nutty/minerally/sulfury yeast character, noble (tasting) hops, bready/biscuity malt aroma/flavor, and soft mouthfeel. The best lagers have a balance of all of these imo.

    I dislike Sam Adams lagers due to their estery character that lacks the things I like from a lager yeast. Use of citrusy hops in abundance like Jack's Abby Hoponius, although makes a tasty beer, just comes off as an ale wannabe and covers up the yeast and malt character - at that point you might as well just brew with chico yeast imo.
  15. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,953) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    DMS is a cooked vegetable smell (think of cooked corn) that is a mild byproduct of mashing barley malt (specifically Pilsner malt, IIRC). It can't really be called "wet dog," I'd bet that's more a Brettanomycen or just plain stale problem.
    TongoRad likes this.
  16. Tballz420

    Tballz420 Meyvn (1,187) Mar 4, 2003 Minnesota

    Its a bummer you don't like the grain flavors. A nice, grainy pilsner can be a delight to enjoy
  17. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,018) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You may want to try the new spring seasonal of Sam Adams Alpine Spring that is out now. Here is the description from the BA reviews section:

    “Borne of our brewers’ many trips to Germany, Alpine Spring features a unique blend of lager attributes: the balanced maltiness and hoppiness of a Helles, the smoothness and slightly higher alcohol of a traditional spring bock, and the unfiltered appearance of a Kellerbier. The beer is brewed with Noble Tettnang hops to add a unique, bright orange-citrusy aroma and flavor.”

    I have not tried this year’s batch yet but last year it had a nice subtle breadiness to the malt profile that reminded very much of a Munich Helles Lager.

  18. Dennoman

    Dennoman Initiate (0) Aug 20, 2011 Belgium

    I think the cause is probably an overabundance of pilsner malt. It's delicate, as it's great for giving the beer a full body and mouthfeel, but add too much and it gets the musky, dull lager flavor you mention.

    Lots of brewers just cheat nowadays and add glycerol to make the beer thicker. Dark Lord by Three Floyds and Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch are known felons in that aspect.
  19. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Mean "grainy" in the sense that John Palmer uses it as an off flavor:

    Husky / Grainy
    These flavors are akin to the astringent flavors produced from the grain husks. These flavors are more evident in all-grain beers due to poor grain crushing or sparging practices. If the grain husks are shredded during crushing by the use of a Corona grain mill for instance, these husk flavors are more likely to be extracted during the sparge. Follow the same procedures recommended to prevent astringency to correct the problem.

    Grainy flavors can also be contributed by highly toasted malts. If you are making your own toasted malts, allow them to age at least two weeks after crushing so the harsher aromatic compounds can dissipate. Cold conditioning the beer for a month or two will often cause these harsh compounds to settle out with the yeast.
    steveh likes this.
  20. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,229) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    To me, most light lagers and even their “premium lager” counterparts tend to have an unripened banana character. I’ve always attributed that to their lack of malt or hop notes. It’s just kind of randomly sweet/sour and missing something.
    For all-malt lagers, especially the German ones, the malt flavors I get are of clover honey and pound cake.
    I don't think any of those actually match official taste descriptions (I get a corn on the cob flavor from many Belgian yeasts), but that's how they come across to me!
  21. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Devotee (400) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Beer Trader

    DFH 90 is brewed with pilsner malt. It does not taste like a lager.

    Light lagers typically clean of fruity esters but have a noticible sulfur element to their flavor. Most ales, on the other hand, do not have much of a sulfur taste. If you ever brew lagers, you'll be surprised by how much sulfur odor the fermentations produce. It clears up but not completely. Most ale fermentations don't produce much sulfur odor. There are exceptions, for instance wlp013 (london ale) produces some very slight sulfur notes and can be used to make an excellant "mock lager" that will fool the judges.
  22. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Just want to stress this point from Palmer: "Cold conditioning the beer for a month or two will often cause these harsh compounds to settle out with the yeast."

    I suspect that many U.S. craft brewers that are set up primarily to produce ales do not let their lagers cold-condition for a month or two, which results in the harsh, grainy character I'm referring to. I suspect that the cloudiness of many U.S. craft lagers is due to this same lack of longer conditioning.
    acevenom and Crusader like this.
  23. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,953) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Or, it could just be too much 2 row in place of good Moravian barley malt. :astonished:
  24. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Both, I suspect.
  25. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,018) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “I suspect that the cloudiness of many U.S. craft lagers is due to this same lack of longer conditioning.”

    Scott, do you have any examples of US craft lagers that are cloudy? With the exception of US craft brewed Kellerbiers I don’t recall ever seeing cloudy US craft lagers.

  26. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Perhaps should have said unfiltered/hazy. Hazy U.S. craft lagers: most SA lagers, most Victory lagers, most NB lagers, etc., etc. I could go on and on. You've never seen a hazy U.S. craft lager? More and more I think you and I must be living in alternate universes.
  27. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,018) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Well, I was reacting to the word “cloudy” in your previous post.

    I suppose I have a very different definition for hazy then you do. I personally do not find Victory packaged beers to be hazy to me. For example I would not describe a bottled Victory Prima Pils to be hazy. I would indeed describe the Victory Braumeister Pils beer to be slightly hazy since they are unfiltered:

    “Victory Braumeister Pils With Sladek Hops (5.5) ABV

    Victory Brewing Company

    Unfiltered version of Prima Pils dry-hopped with sladek hops. Heaps of hops give this pale lager a bracing, herbal bite over layers of soft and smooth malt flavor. This refreshing combination of tastes makes Prima a classy quencher in the tradition of the great pilsners of Europe.”

    I personally prefer my beers to be unfiltered. I wish there were more choices of unfiltered US craft brewed lagers.

    Do you object to unfiltered beers?


    P.S. “More and more I think you and I must be living in alternate universes.” I have said it before and I will say it again: you do indeed have exceptional tastes!
  28. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    And, again, I'd agree with you there. :wink: In my homebrewed lagers, I take the necessary steps to get them absolutely crystal clear. Matter of fact, I was just outside at the kegerator pulling off some residual hazy beer from the latest batch of Koelsch (some would say not even a true "lager") after I added gelatin to the keg. Finally there is little to no trace of chill (or any other) haze:


    Why do I do it? Because that's the way Koelsch looks and tastes in Koeln. If I can achieve it with minimal effort, why can't a commercial brewery purporting to produce authentic German lager styles do the same? Do I "object" to unflitered beers? If the classic examples of the style are filtered and/or served crystal clear, you bet I do. Why should I settle (!) for anything less?
  29. bulldogbrewhaus

    bulldogbrewhaus Initiate (0) Sep 17, 2012 Virginia

    OP-I would guess it is likely that your friend may be picking up on the vienna malt often used in lagers. It has a very distinct flavor. Alot of popular lagers are actually vienna style lagers. Hard to tell without doing a side by side taste test and who would want that....oh wait....:wink:
  30. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,018) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Planet Jack calling to Planet Scott!:wink:

    I applaud your efforts in obtaining a crystal clear Kolsch. When I make my Kolsch beers (and I will shortly be making a Kolsch using Kolsch Malt) I also strive to get them to be clear as possible. I use a different method then you but achieve similar results. I do this for my Kolsch beers not so much for aesthetic reasons (but I do understand that rationale) but for flavor reasons. I find that my Kolsch beers taste much better with additional aging to permit the yeast to fully settle. I use Wyeast 2565 yeast.

    Now, when it comes to a US craft lager I am not fussy about haze being present and I prefer to taste of an unfiltered craft lager (e.g., Victory Braumeister Pils, Brooklyn Gold Standard Export Kellerbier, Triumph Aldstadt Lager, Southampton Keller Pils, Urban Chestnut Zwickel, etc.).

    Permit me to relate a conversation I had with Florian Kuplent (brewer of Urban Chestnut Brewery) while we both drank a pint of Urban Chestnut Zwickel:

    Florian: he holds his glass high to view the beer with a florescent light providing back lighting
    Me: “Your Zwickel is pretty clear, I really don’t see any haze at all”
    Florian: “Yeah, this keg is very clear for some reason. It must have been stored cold in a stationary position for quite some time.”
    Me: “I really prefer unfiltered beers.”
    Florian: “I have a filter at the brewery but I haven’t used it yet for any of the beers we brewed to date.”
    Me: “I really hope you never have to use those filters. I am of the opinion that filtering has a negative impact on beer flavor”.
    Florian: nods in agreement

  31. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    So basically you like Kellerbier (or to use the BJCP slight of hand, "American" German lagers).

    IMO, residual yeast muddles the very flavors that give individual styles their defining characteristics. Matter of fact, anything from a dark brown to a slightly orange to a pale yellow unfiltered beer around Franconia is classified as a Kellerbier. You order a Pils, Helles, Dunkles, Rauch, etc., and you're going to get a filtered beer. And rightfully so. The base malt flavors -- as Germans say, the "soul of beer" -- really begin to shine when nothing stands in their way.

    See, I prefer variety. :wink:
    acevenom likes this.
  32. acevenom

    acevenom Initiate (0) Oct 7, 2011 Louisiana

    You get a lot of props for doing that. That's a great looking Koelsch. If you can do it at home, why can't more commercial breweries bother to take this extra step? It really doesn't make much sense.

    I do wish more breweries actually advertised they were doing an unfiltered take on certain styles that way there is less confusion. Such a thing isn't easy to tell from looking at the container unless it's actually mentioned on the label. If someone actually wanted to purchase an unfiltered helles, then they would know what they're getting. The same goes for someone who doesn't want an unfiltered helles. And I'm the guy who doesn't want an unfiltered helles.
    herrburgess likes this.
  33. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,301) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Some lagers do have a trace of DMS. Some lager yeasts also kick out H2S, which results in a little rotten egg aroma. You can also get some burnt match sulfur aroma at low levels.

    A good lager will let you taste the malt and noble hops, and not esters and other rough yeast compounds.
    steveh and herrburgess like this.
  34. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,301) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    It takes extra time (tank time is money) and work, compared to a beer that you can make much quicker and get the same $/pint. Makes a lot of sense for the brewer trying to make money and stay open.
    herrburgess likes this.
  35. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,029) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Especially when many American tastes tend to prefer the "extra" flavor the yeast imparts. More is better!
  36. acevenom

    acevenom Initiate (0) Oct 7, 2011 Louisiana

    Essentially, getting high detectable levels of dimethyl sulfide is the result of poor brewing technique. Proper lagering can help eliminate a lot of DMS. It certainly has nothing to do with the use of corn, which shouldn't give a creamed corn flavor. That's the DMS playing tricks with your mind.
  37. acevenom

    acevenom Initiate (0) Oct 7, 2011 Louisiana

    If they can't take the time to do a proper lager, they should stick to ale brewing.
  38. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Devotee (400) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Beer Trader

    One of my favorites Victory Prima Pils is often cloudy. I'm not sure of the cause. Possibly chill haze (would be easy to verify). I have noticed it. It's in about half the reviews too.
  39. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,018) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Yeah, HerrBurgess made that comment as well. It has been quite some time since I drank a bottle of Prima Pils but I have zero memory of that beer being cloudy. Most of the bottled lager beers I drink are my homebrewed Pilsners.

    I have ordered Victory Prima Pils many times on draft in the past year and I have zero recollection of those beers being cloudy either.

    Hmmm ……
  40. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,301) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Poor brewing technique yes, but on the hot side. Note that I never said corn. Having brewed a lot of CAPs I know the difference in aroma. I also know the aroma of DMS caused by infection from judging.

    DMS comes from the grain, especially lightly kilned grains like Pils Malt which have much more of the precursor, SMM. DMS is formed in the mash and boil. With a long enough and vigorous enough boil, it is driven off to low levels. Quick chilling of the wort will also keep it from continuing form after flame out. In homebrewing you are told to keep the lid off the boil so the condensate with DMS does not drip back in. Some commercial brewing kettles have a DMS trough around the dome, so any vapor that does not go up the stack and condenses will collect and run to a drain.

    Lagering cleans up yeast by products such as VDKs and acetaldehyde. Never heard of lagering cleaning up DMS. If have any references on that let me know.
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