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BJCP 2015 Guideline

Historical Beer Pre-Prohibition Lager


BJCP 2015 27A Pre-Prohibition Lager example
27A - Pre-Prohibition Lager


Low to medium grainy, corn-like or sweet maltiness may be evident (although rice-based beers are more neutral). Medium to moderately high hop aroma, with a range of character from rustic to floral to herbal/spicy; a fruity or citrusy modern hop character is inappropriate. Clean lager character. Low DMS is acceptable. May show some yeast character, as with modern American lagers; allow for a range of subtle supporting yeast notes.


Yellow to deep gold color. Substantial, long lasting white head. Bright clarity.


Medium to medium-high maltiness with a grainy flavor, and optionally a corn-like roundness and impression of sweetness. Substantial hop bitterness stands up to the malt and lingers through the dry finish. All malt and rice-based versions are often crisper, drier, and generally lack corn-like flavors. Medium to high hop flavor, with a rustic, floral, or herbal/spicy character. Medium to high hop bitterness, which should neither be overly coarse nor have a harsh aftertaste. Allow for a range of lager yeast character, as with modern American lagers, but generally fairly neutral.

Mouth Feel

Medium body with a moderately rich, creamy mouthfeel. Smooth and well-lagered. Medium to high carbonation levels.

Overall Impression

A clean, refreshing, but bitter pale lager, often showcasing a grainy-sweet corn flavor. All malt or rice-based versions have a crisper, more neutral character. The higher bitterness level is the largest differentiator between this style and most modern mass-market pale lagers, but the more robust flavor profile also sets it apart.


Six-row barley with 20% to 30% flaked maize (corn) or rice to dilute the excessive protein levels; modern versions may be all malt. Native American hops such as Clusters, traditional continental hops, or modern noble-type crosses are also appropriate. Modern American hops such as Cascade are inappropriate. Water with a high mineral content can lead to an unpleasant coarseness in flavor and harshness in aftertaste. A wide range of lager yeast character can be exhibited, although modern versions tend to be fairly clean.;


The classic American Pilsner was brewed both pre-Prohibition and post-Prohibition with some differences. OGs of 1.050-1.060 would have been appropriate for pre-Prohibition beers while gravities dropped to 1.044-1.048 after Prohibition. Corresponding IBUs dropped from a pre-Prohibition level of 30-40 to 25-30 after Prohibition.


A version of Pilsner brewed in the USA by immigrant German brewers who brought the process and yeast with them, but who had to adapt their recipes to work with native hops and malt. This style died out after Prohibition but was resurrected by homebrewers in the 1990s. Few commercial versions are made, so the style still remains mostly a homebrew phenomenon.

Commercial Examples

Anchor California Lager, Coors Batch 19, Little Harpeth Chicken Scratch

Style Comparison

Similar balance and bitterness as modern Czech Premium Pale Lagers, but exhibiting native American grains and hops from the era before US Prohibition. More robust, bitter, and flavorful than modern American pale lagers, and often with higher alcohol.


  • OG:  1044 - 1060
  • FG:  1010 - 1015
  • ABV: 4.5 - 6
  • IBU: 25 - 40
  • SRM: 3 - 6
BJCP 2015 27A - Pre-Prohibition Lager Commercial Example