STYLES CLASSIFICATION Strong/Imperial Pale Lager vs Imperial Pilsener vs Malt Liquor

Should MALT LIQUOR (malt and adjunct) and PALE LAGER - IMPERIAL / STRONG (generally more on the malty/alcohol side) be merged together, and have PILSENER - IMPERIAL (generally more hoppy) separated instead?

Here’s the definitions of BeerAdvocate on this one, I would say this is rather correct.

EUROPEAN STRONG LAGER . 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.

MALT LIQUOR Straw to pale amber in color, most Malt Liquors are made with excessive amounts of adjuncts, such as corn, rice, and refined brewing sugar (dextrose). As a result, there are very few “all malt” malt liquors. Hops are used sparingly, just enough bitterness to balance off any cloyingness. Higher alcohol versions tend to have loads of fusel alcohol, which gives off solvent or fuel-like aromas and flavors. They are highly attenuated, meaning a higher ratio of fermentable sugars are present compared to some other beers, allowing the brewer to achieve a high alcohol content without using as many ingredients. Some breweries enable the use of special enzymes to further break down the malt and adjuncts so they will yield a higher percentage of alcohol. This makes for quite a dry beer, with only a small amount of unfermented sugars and a strong kick from the higher ABV. For the most part, Malt Liquor beers are sold in 40-ounce bottles.

AMERICAN IMPERIAL PILSNER 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.

1 Like

I have always just sort of wondered why we don’t just use the BJCP style classifications. Sure it’d be a pain in the ass at this point, but in theory it just seems like the best route.

IMO, BJCP is a way too Regional classification for styles. And for some substyles, they are sometime too vague…
But it it always be good reference nonetheless

1 Like

I think that the three should remain separate. Disagree that malt liquor is mostly sold on 40s. I also think many euro strong lagers are just malt liquors… but the platonic form of each is distinct.

Right now There’s only 2 styles (Malt Liquor, Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager) for: European Strong Lagers, Malt Liquors, Imperial Pilseners and Svetly Specialni (Czech strong Pilsener)…

My take would be Strong Lager and Malt Liquors together and Imperial Pilsner and Svetly Specialni together.

India Style Lager - Imperial
Malt Liquor / Strong Pale Lager

Strong Eastern European lagers are usually not that hoppy. Czech strong lagers are just a bit more hoppy than e.g. the Polish or Dutch stuff, but not so much that they deserve a separate entry imho.

Not all Imperial Pilsener are that hoppy to be considered Imperial India style lager though…
So you would leave the Czech Strong Lager with the other Strong Lagers/ Malt Liquors?


Then they’d fall under Strong Lagers / Malt Liquors. And be top of the class.

Two styles malt liquor/strong lager and imperial pilsner. Essentially adjunct vs no adjunct, would be the way Id go.

1 Like

That’s what I was leaning for…but Strong Lagers are not necessarily adjunct based…they are Malt forward, often coupled with an alcohol feel…

Support! :+1:

We either leave it as is or do it as simplify version.

Simplified: all-malt European strong lagers including Czech would go into Bock, rest would go to Malt Liq. Imperial Pilsner category would be only for string hop forward lagers.

Note: Strong lagers in Poland are prop 50 - 50 adjunct / non-adjunct. Basically, it’s about being above 14 P, same as in Czech rep. I used my judgement and those that clearly marketed as cheap brews to get drunk adjunct strong lagers I marked them as malt liq. For rest of those we did not enter them as bock because they were less malt oriented.

Basically, there are 3 target markets and under such we should have 3 strong lager categories:

  • lagers brewed at lowest cost, adjunct, high gravity etc. - clearly malt liq. often of very poor quality.

Target/Reasoning - poor folks that need to get drunk for cheap

  • lagers brewed as stronger clones of their basic line up, sometimes high gravity used, much less often adjunct ingredients. Many of those are based on historical tax brackets (14/16 P etc.) Style that is slowly disappearing.

Target – mass produced stronger lager that would appeal to masses that are somewhat more sophisticated that malt liq. Drinkers. Some of those lagers are often very decent. Quality amplitude varies highly.

  • lagers that are stronger with more flavor and more dominant hop profile. Often brewed by craft breweries. they don’t shy from using more varieties of hops etc. Sometimes very one sided that is pushing into IPAs (if not looking at lager/ale which we are moving away from).

Target- craft beer drinkers that are looking for lager alternative

Not sure that merging Strong Lager to Bock is a good idea. But your 3 categories seems a good reasoning.
I’d go for:

  1. Malt Liquor / Strong Adjunct Lager
  2. Pale Lager - Imperial / Strong
  3. Imperial Pilsener

What do you think?


Like it.

It seems contradictory to combine premium and pale lager and in the same update (essentially) split out strong premium and pale lager.

It also raises the same problems we have with regular pale lagers. A lot of the time it’s not obvious whether or not there’s adjuncts involved and it seems like a split informed by a somewhat old-fashioned opinion of purity equals quality. There’s plenty of strong pale lagers on the site which are indistinguishable from malt liquor but won’t say they poured loads of sugar in on the label. There’s probably beers marketed as malt liquor which do use all malt. There’s also strong pale lagers that use all malt but are terrible and malt liquors that don’t that rate quite well. I don’t think we should try and split by quality, ratings will do that for us.

1 Like

I can keep the style name to Malt Liquor only, but the style definition already is a “Strong, alcoholic-tasting, often poorly made strong lagers.” so usually people already put the Strong Lager that they think is a malt liquor as is anyway. Nothing new there.
This would only separate Strong Pale Lager from Imperial Pilsener…the definition of the combined style for the moment being “A catch-all for strong, sometimes hoppy lagers that range from modern versions of “Imperial Pilsner”, to more traditional strong lagers which are more common in Eastern Europe.” We try to eliminate the “catch-all styles” for real styles here

And about Pale vs Premium Lager, if people really want to to merge them, that’s fine, but it seems a step back… on every other sites, they are kept separate (BEER ADVOCATE - American Adjunct Lager, American Lager, American Light Lager, European Pale Lager, UNTAPPD - Lager - American Light, Lager - Euro, Lager American Adjunct, Lager - Pale) because a real Premium Pure malt lager doesn’t taste at all like a cheap Adjunct Lager…but now they’d all be listed as one…which IMO is not a good thing as it creates a mega catch-all style and it downgrades the well-made pale lagers to a cheap product style… maybe the problem is just on the names… Pale vs Premium might not be the way to go, maybe Pale / Premium vs Adjunct / Light would be more appropriate. People are not that dumb when it’s time to enter the beers, they would know the difference between a Coors Light and a Firestone Walker Lager.

I think Malt Liquor / Strong Pale Lager and Imperial Pilsner should be the two styles.

Adjuncts are not the correct line to split lagers by. Maybe it is the case in North America but what you are trying to do is apply the American convention of corn lager vs real lager to beer everywhere. In the rest of the world, corn isn’t that cheap, so there’s plenty of awful cheap lagers made with pure malt with exactly the same lack of care and money saving tactics that make Budweiser et al taste so unpleasant.

You’re equating quality to purity of the malt bill and that’s just not true. I’d much rather have most of the Japanese lagers full of rice than I would a Heineken (100% pure malted barley apparently). They also taste a lot more similar to German style lagers than corn lagers but you want to throw them in with Budweiser because they’re not ‘pure’. There’s also plenty of craft ‘adjunct’ lagers which are excellent, I even had a craft corn lager recently that was made very well. A bottle of Heineken and a Coors Light have a lot more in common than either do with a lager made by a brewer who cares and isn’t cutting every corner they can to save money.

The way you talk about it, in a European context, it seems you actually want ‘cheap’ vs ‘craft’. The ratings can be the judge of that. People who want to find the best pale lagers are not going to care about what they’re made of, they’re going to care if they taste nice.

If you want to split styles it should be around definable sensory differences. Arbitrary lines will just lead to different catch all categories that people don’t understand and add nothing to this site. Those sites you list are not splitting stuff by adjuncts or not, they’re splitting by style. American Adjunct Lager is arguably a definable style. American Light Lager is arguably a definable style. Japanese Rice Lager is arguably a definable style. Can you give me sensory notes on what to expect from an ‘adjunct lager’? Or is it just another catchall style for pale lagers that aren’t very good?

Also, from an admin standpoint, it is completely unenforcible. Currently we have all of these under Pale Lager.

All of them mention either the word premium or ‘finest ingredients available’ in the name or label… Can you tell me if they’re adjunct lagers or not?

On the other hand all of these are in premium. I also have no idea if any of these have adjuncts. None of them rate particularly better than the ones above.

Of those that do admit the ingredients, Heineken goes into pure malt and Kronenbourg 1664 goes into adjunct even though they are very clearly the same style because they taste pretty much exactly the same.

If what you want to do is create a category for North American Adjunct Lagers then be honest about it and call the new style that.


I can live with that, it seems to already make more sense than malt liquor alone and imp. Pilsner /stronger lager combined.

So you would suggest a Pale/Premium lager combined + a separate American Light lager / adjunct lager?

I am probably still for a single pale lager category but if you want to split out Budweiser et al then I think it makes more sense to do this than splitting by adjunct or not. I’d probably go for something like

Pale Lager → Pale Lager
Premium Lager → Pale Lager
Pale Lager - Japanese Rice Lager → Pale Lager (potentially necessary to clarify what North American Adjunct means)

Pale Lager - North American Adjunct → Pale Lager - North American Adjunct
Pale Lager - American Light → Pale Lager - North American Adjunct

This seems a very good interpretation.

Could we fusion the last 2 as Pale Lager - American Adjunct / Light to save an entry or we keep them separate?

There’s no non-american equivalent to this style?