4. Amber and Dark Lager Guidelines

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Ringwood, Melbourne
4.1 Oktoberfest/Märzen [BJCP]

Aroma: Rich German malt aroma (of Vienna and/or Munich malt). A light to moderate toasted malt aroma is often
present. Clean lager aroma with no fruity esters or diacetyl. No hop aroma. Caramel aroma is inappropriate.

Appearance: Dark gold to deep orange-red colour. Bright clarity, with solid, off-white, foam stand (head

Flavour: Initial malty sweetness, but finish is moderately dry. Distinctive and complex maltiness often includes a
toasted aspect. Hop bitterness is moderate, and noble hop flavour is low to none. Balance is toward malt, though
the finish is not sweet. Noticeable caramel or roasted flavours are inappropriate. Clean lager character with no
diacetyl or fruity esters.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, with a creamy texture and medium carbonation. Smooth. Fully fermented, without a
cloying finish.

Overall Impression: Smooth, clean, and rather rich, with a depth of malt character. This is one of the classic malty
styles, with a maltiness that is often described as soft, complex, and elegant but never cloying.

History: Origin is credited to Gabriel Sedlmayr, based on an adaptation of the Vienna style developed by Anton
Dreher around 1840, shortly after lager yeast was first isolated. Typically brewed in the spring, signaling the end of
the traditional brewing season and stored in cold caves or cellars during the warm summer months. Served in
autumn amidst traditional celebrations.

Comments: Domestic German versions tend to be golden, like a strong Pils-dominated Helles. Export German
versions are typically orange-amber in colour, and have a distinctive toasty malt character. German beer tax law
limits the OG of the style at 14°P since it is a vollbier, although American versions can be stronger. “Fest” type
beers are special occasion beers that are usually stronger than their everyday counterparts.

Ingredients: Grist varies, although German Vienna malt is often the backbone of the grain bill, with some Munich
malt, Pils malt, and possibly some crystal malt. All malt should derive from the finest quality two-row barley.
Continental hops, especially noble varieties, are most authentic. Somewhat alkaline water (up to 300 PPM), with
significant carbonate content is welcome. A decoction mash can help develop the rich malt profile.

Vital Statistics:
1050-1057 1012-1016 20-28 7-14 4.8-5.7%

Commercial Examples: Paulaner Oktoberfest, Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest, Ayinger Oktoberfest-
Märzen, Hofbräu Oktoberfest, Spaten Oktoberfest, Eggenberger Märzen, Goose Island Oktoberfest, Capital
Oktoberfest, Gordon Biersch Märzen, Samuel Adams Oktoberfest (a bit unusual in its late hopping)

4.2 Vienna Lager [BJCP]

Aroma: Moderately rich German malt aroma (of Vienna and/or Munich malt). A light toasted malt aroma may be
present. Similar, though less intense than Oktoberfest. Clean lager character, with no fruity esters or diacetyl. Noble
hop aroma may be low to none. Caramel aroma is inappropriate.

Appearance: Light reddish amber to copper colour. Bright clarity. Large, off-white, persistent head.

Flavour: Soft, elegant malt complexity is in the forefront, with a firm enough hop bitterness to provide a balanced
finish. Some toasted character from the use of Vienna malt. No roasted or caramel flavour. Fairly dry finish, with
both malt and hop bitterness present in the aftertaste. Noble hop flavour may be low to none.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body, with a gentle creaminess. Moderate carbonation. Smooth. Moderately
crisp finish. May have a bit of alcohol warming.
Overall Impression: Characterized by soft, elegant maltiness that dries out in the finish to avoid becoming sweet.

History: The original amber lager developed by Anton Dreher shortly after the isolation of lager yeast. Nearly
extinct in its area of origin, the style continues in Mexico where it was brought by Santiago Graf and other Austrian
immigrant brewers in the late 1800s. Regrettably, most modern examples use adjuncts which lessen the rich malt
complexity characteristic of the best examples of this style. The style owes much of its character to the method of
malting (Vienna malt). Lighter malt character overall than Oktoberfest, yet still decidedly balanced toward malt.

Comments: American versions can be a bit stronger, drier and more bitter, while European versions tend to be
sweeter. Many Mexican amber and dark lagers used to be more authentic, but unfortunately are now more like
sweet, adjunct-laden American Dark Lagers.

Ingredients: Vienna malt provides a lightly toasty and complex, melanoidin-rich malt profile. As with
Oktoberfests, only the finest quality malt should be used, along with Continental hops (preferably noble varieties).
Moderately hard, carbonate-rich water. Can use some caramel malts and/or darker malts to add colour and
sweetness, but caramel malts shouldn’t add significant aroma and flavour and dark malts shouldn’t provide any
roasted character.

Vital Statistics:
1046-1052 1010-1014 18-30 10-16 4.5-5.5%

Commercial Examples: Great Lakes Eliot Ness (unusual in its 6.2% strength and 35 IBUs), Negra Modelo, Old
Dominion Aviator Amber Lager, Gordon Biersch Vienna Lager, Capital Wisconsin Amber

4.3 California Common Beer [BJCP]

Aroma: Typically showcases the signature Northern Brewer hops (with woody, rustic or minty qualities) in
moderate to high strength. Light fruitiness acceptable. Low to moderate caramel and/or toasty malt aromatics
support the hops. No diacetyl.

Appearance: Medium amber to light copper colour. Generally clear. Moderate off-white head with good retention.

Flavour: Moderately malty with a pronounced hop bitterness. The malt character is usually toasty (not roasted) and
caramelly. Low to moderately high hop flavour, usually showing Northern Brewer qualities (woody, rustic, minty).
Finish fairly dry and crisp, with a lingering hop bitterness and a firm, grainy malt flavour. Light fruity esters are
acceptable, but otherwise clean. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Medium to medium-high carbonation.

Overall Impression: A lightly fruity beer with firm, grainy maltiness, interesting toasty and caramel flavours, and
showcasing the signature Northern Brewer varietal hop character.

History: American West Coast original. Large shallow open fermenters (coolships) were traditionally used to
compensate for the absence of refrigeration and to take advantage of the cool ambient temperatures in the San
Francisco Bay area. Fermented with a lager yeast, but one that was selected to thrive at the cool end of normal ale
fermentation temperatures.

Comments: This style is narrowly defined around the prototypical Anchor Steam example. Superficially similar to
an American pale or amber ale, yet differs in that the hop flavour/aroma is woody/minty rather than citrusy, malt
flavours are toasty and caramelly, the hopping is always assertive, and a warm-fermented lager yeast is used.

Ingredients: Pale ale malt, American hops (usually Northern Brewer, rather than citrusy varieties), small amounts
of toasted malt and/or crystal malts. Lager yeast, however some strains (often with the mention of "California" in
the name) work better than others at the warmer fermentation temperatures (55 to 60°F) used. Note that some
German yeast strains produce inappropriate sulfury character. Water should have relatively low sulfate and low to
moderate carbonate levels.

Vital Statistics:
1048-1054 1011-1014 30-45 10-14 4.5-5.5%

Commercial Examples: Anchor Steam, Southampton Steem Beer, Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber Lager

4.4 Northern German Altbier [BJCP]

Aroma: Subtle malty, sometimes grainy aroma. Low to no noble hop aroma. Clean, lager character with very
restrained ester profile. No diacetyl.

Appearance: Light copper to light brown colour; very clear from extended cold conditioning. Low to moderate
off-white to white head with good retention.

Flavour: Fairly bitter yet balanced by a smooth and sometimes sweet malt character that may have a rich, biscuity
and/or lightly caramelly flavour. Dry finish often with lingering bitterness. Clean, lager character sometimes with
slight sulfury notes and very low to no esters. Very low to medium noble hop flavour. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Moderate to moderately high carbonation. Smooth mouthfeel.

Overall Impression: A very clean and relatively bitter beer, balanced by some malt character. Generally darker,
sometimes more caramelly, and usually sweeter and less bitter than Düsseldorf Altbier.

Comments: Most Altbiers produced outside of Düsseldorf are of the Northern German style. Most are simply
moderately bitter brown lagers. Ironically “alt” refers to the old style of brewing (i.e. making ales), which makes
the term “Altbier” somewhat inaccurate and inappropriate. Those that are made as ales are fermented at cool ale
temperatures and lagered at cold temperatures (as with Düsseldorf Alt).

Ingredients: Typically made with a Pils base and coloured with roasted malt or dark crystal. May include small
amounts of Munich or Vienna malt. Noble hops. Usually made with an attenuative lager yeast.

Vital Statistics:
1046-1054 1010-1015 25-40 13-19 4.5-5.2%

Commercial Examples: DAB Traditional, Hannen Alt, Schwelmer Alt, Grolsch Amber, Alaskan Amber,
Schmaltz’ Alt

4.5 Munich Dunkel [BJCP]
Aroma: Rich, Munich malt sweetness, like bread crusts (and sometimes toast.) Hints of chocolate, nuts, caramel,
and/or toffee are also acceptable. No fruity esters or diacetyl should be detected, but a slight noble hop aroma is

Appearance: Deep copper to dark brown, often with a red or garnet tint. Creamy, light to medium tan head.
Usually clear, although murky unfiltered versions exist.

Flavour: Dominated by the rich and complex flavour of Munich malt, usually with melanoidins reminiscent of
bread crusts. The taste can be moderately sweet, although it should not be overwhelming or cloying. Mild caramel,
chocolate, toast or nuttiness may be present. Burnt or bitter flavours from roasted malts are inappropriate, as are
pronounced caramel flavours from crystal malt. Hop bitterness is moderately low but perceptible, with the balance
tipped firmly towards maltiness. Noble hop flavour is low to none. Aftertaste remains malty, although the hop
bitterness may become more apparent in the medium-dry finish. Clean lager character with no fruity esters or

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body, providing a firm and dextrinous mouthfeel without being heavy or
cloying. Moderate carbonation. May have a light astringency and a slight alcohol warming.

Overall Impression: Characterized by depth and complexity of Munich malt and the accompanying melanoidins.
Rich Munich flavours, but not as intense as a bock or as roasted as a schwarzbier.

History: The classic brown lager style of Munich which developed as a darker, malt-accented beer in part because
of the moderately carbonate water. While originating in Munich, the style has become very popular throughout
Bavaria (especially Franconia).

Comments: Unfiltered versions from Germany can taste like liquid bread, with a yeasty, earthy richness not found
in exported filtered dunkels.

Ingredients: Grist is traditionally made up of German Munich malt (up to 100% in some cases) with the remainder
German Pilsner malt. Small amounts of crystal malt can add dextrins and colour but should not introduce excessive
sweetness. Slight additions of roasted malts (such as Carafa or chocolate) may be used to improve colour but
should not add strong flavour. Noble German hop varieties and German lager yeast strains should be used.
Moderately carbonate water. Often decoction mashed (up to a triple decoction) to enhance the malt flavours and
create the depth of colour.

Vital Statistics:
1048-1056 1010-1016 18-28 14-28 4.5-5.6%

Commercial Examples: Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, Hacker-Pschorr Alt Munich Dark, Paulaner Alt Münchner
Dunkel, Weltenburger Kloster Barock-Dunkel, Hofbräu Dunkel, Löwenbräu Dunkel, Penn Dark Lager, Capital
Munich Dark, Harpoon Munich-type Dark Beer, Gordon Biersch Dunkels, Dinkel Acker Dark

4.6 Schwarzbier (Black Beer) [BJCP]

Aroma: Low to moderate malt, with low aromatic sweetness and/or hints of roast malt often apparent. The malt
can be clean and neutral or rich and Munich-like, and may have a hint of caramel. The roast can be coffee-like but
should never be burnt. A low noble hop aroma is optional. Clean lager yeast character (light sulfur possible) with
no fruity esters or diacetyl.

Appearance: Medium to very dark brown in colour, often with deep ruby to garnet highlights, yet almost never
truly black. Very clear. Large, persistent, tan-coloured head.

Flavour: Light to moderate malt flavour, which can have a clean, neutral character to a rich, sweet, Munich-like
intensity. Light to moderate roasted malt flavours can give a bitter-chocolate palate that lasts into the finish, but
which are never burnt. Medium-low to medium bitterness, which can last into the finish. Light to moderate noble
hop flavour. Clean lager character with no fruity esters or diacetyl. Aftertaste tends to dry out slowly and linger,
featuring hop bitterness with a complementary but subtle roastiness in the background. Some residual sweetness is
acceptable but not required.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Moderate to moderately high carbonation. Smooth. No harshness or
astringency, despite the use of dark, roasted malts.

Overall Impression: A dark German lager that balances roasted yet smooth malt flavours with moderate hop

History: A regional specialty from southern Thuringen and northern Franconia in Germany, and probably a variant
of the Munich Dunkel style.

Comments: In comparison with a Munich Dunkel, usually darker in colour, drier on the palate and with a
noticeable (but not high) roasted malt edge to balance the malt base. While sometimes called a “black pils,” the
beer is rarely that dark; don’t expect strongly roasted, porter-like flavours.

Ingredients: German Munich malt and Pilsner malts for the base, supplemented by a small amount of roasted
malts (such as Carafa) for the dark colour and subtle roast flavours. Noble-type German hop varieties and clean
German lager yeasts are preferred.

Vital Statistics:
1046-1052 1010-1016 22-32 17-30 4.4-5.4%

Commercial Examples: Köstritzer Schwarzbier, Kulmbacher Mönchshof Premium Schwarzbier, Samual Adams
Black Lager, Krušovice Cern, Einbecker Schwarzbier, Weeping Radish Black Radish Dark Lager, Sprecher Black
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