66 of the Best Lagers, Blind-Tasted and Ranked
How We Taste & Test Beers
Composed entirely of Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judges who have all studied, trained, and been tested on their ability to discern characteristics in beer, our panel is independent and doesn’t include any CB&B editors or staff. The panel tastes all beer blindly—they do not know what brands and beers they are tasting until the tasting is complete.
Our goal is to inform you about the strengths and weaknesses of these beers as well as their relative differences (not everyone has the same taste in beer, so accurate descriptors are more valuable than straight numerical values). The quotes you see in the reviews are compiled from the review panel’s score sheets to give you a well-rounded picture of the beer.
As our reviewers judge, they score based on the standard BJCP components: Aroma (max 12 points), Appearance (max 3 points), Flavor (max 20 points), Mouthfeel (max 5 points), and Overall Impression (max 10 points). We’ve listed these individual component scores, and the bottom-line number is derived from adding then doubling these component scores to produce a rating on a 100-point scale. Note that we round the component scores to the nearest whole number, so the math won’t necessarily add up.
Our judges use the following scale in valuing scores:
95–100 » Extraordinary World-class beers of superlative character and flawless execution
90–94 » Exceptional Distinguished beers with special character, style, and flavor
85–89 » Very good Well-crafted beers with noteworthy flavor and style
80–84 » Good Solid, quality, enjoyable beers
75–79 » Above Average Drinkable and satisfactory beers with minor flaws or style deviations
50–74 » Not recommended
We’d like for you to keep one thing in mind as you read our reviews: Your perception of a beer is more important than that of our review panel or editorial staff. Reading reviews—on the Web, in a magazine, or in a book—is no substitute for trying the beer yourself.
Grupo Modelo Negra Modelo (79)
Sweet, rich, almost malted milk candy followed by medium, barely sufficient hop bitterness. Toast and biscuits with some roasty character. Slight autolysis meatiness: bologna, perhaps? Light hops and low bitterness.
Schlafly / The Saint Louis Brewery Summer Lager (82)
Light, bready malt with crisp lemon notes that finishes tart. Thin body, verging on watery and noticeable diacetyl. There’s a bit of pils malt underneath the butter, but I have to look for it. Finishes sweet.
Plzeňský Prazdroj Pilsner Urquell (82)
“Pilsner Urquell was first brewed in the city of Pilsen, Czech Republic, in 1842. Its brilliant clarity, golden color and light body made it an instant success in a world that was accustomed only to dark, heavy, cloudy beers. Even the name Pilsner Urquell, which literally means ‘original source of Pilsner beer,’ acclaims its role in defining a category of beer.”
Left Hand Brewing Company Polestar Pilsner (82)
“Once you have tasted a true Pilsner, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have seen the light, and there you will always long to return. Let Polestar guide you out of the wilderness, just as the North Star has guided explorers to their destinations and back home again. Light, crisp and elegant, pilsner is the true test of brewing prowess. Less is more.”
Flying Dog Brewery Old Scratch (84)
“Old Scratch can emphasize sweetness, cut through spice, or be used to contrast saltiness. Flavor notes: Malty, almost caramel, sweet. Pairs with: Sun-dried or roasted tomatoes; Cheddar or Asiago cheese; barbeque; sausage; hearty soups; salted chocolates; anything with peanut butter.”
Epic Brewing Los Locos (84)
Strong citrus lime flavor comes through up front, with a saltiness that adds some complexity. The bread-like malt character gives way to the sweet lime and citrus notes. Light hops spiciness, with a light sourness, almost like a gose. Moderate carbonation with a medium body that finishes with a heavy lime note that continues to grow after the sip.
Urban Chestnut Brewing Company Hopfen (85)
Hops bitterness up front, with some spiciness, green peppercorn, and herbal characters. The earthiness lingers on the back of the tongue, but the toastiness of the malt is noticeable after the front end of the hops. Malt sweetness is biscuit-like, with a touch of candy sugar and caramel, even a bit of bread crust.
Jack's Abby Craft Lagers Calyptra (86)
The grapefruit hops flavor with a touch of lemon and lime suggests a citrus pith. Starts out mild but builds and locks in like a pit bull on the finish and won’t let go. Pine resins mix with an earthy bitterness, and the malt biscuit flavors add a slight sweetness, but is overpowered by the hops.
Mikkeller Keeper (86)
Assertive hops bitterness and full resinous hops flavor, woody and sticky. Malt barely supports the hops, but does so cleanly. Huge hops flavor is skunky and pine-resiney. Bitter finish is harsh and hops astringency is over the top.
Deschutes Brewery Pine Mountain Pilsner (86)
Moderate malt sweetness with a sweeter corn character. Almost wheat-like. Clean lemony fruit and mild bitterness. Crisp finish with lingering bitterness softened by slight DMS.
Boulevard Brewing Company KC Pils (86)
Moderate malt sweetness. Sweet corn-like character. Virtually no hops profile and very little bitterness. Finish is sweet. Could use a bit more pils character.
Red Brick Brewing Company Laughing Skull Craft Lager (87)
Light-bodied, crisp, with some bready sweetness and a slight citrus character. Very little hops flavor, with some pepper and bitterness up front, and a hint of floral that fades almost before you swallow it. Nice creaminess.”
Boulevard Brewing Company Boss Tom’s Golden Bock (87)
Soft, slightly soapy, even thin malt. Light malt is the strongest component. Some oxidized notes. Medium, balanced hop bitterness with a kiss of hop flavor. Harsh bitterness in the finish and a bit of ethanol, too. Clean lager finish.
Great Divide Brewing Company Nomad (87)
Full hops flavor without being resinous. Sweet malt plays a supporting role. Toasty malt notes are a little different for the style. Lively carbonation complements pungent hops, leading right into the closing bitterness.
EPIC Brewing Company Hop Syndrome (87)
Hops bitterness is the first impression. Very approachable, but bitterness lingers for a long time in the aftertaste. Soft malt softens the substantial bitterness. Aftertaste favors smoky phenols. Some lemon notes.
New Belgium Brewing Summer Helles (88)
Faint, soft pils malt and a restrained bitterness complement each other. Lemony and grainy. Some grainy sweetness in the aftertaste keeps it from finishing as clean as it could. Light bitterness and a nice clean lager profile.
Tröegs Brewing Company Tröegenator Double Bock (88)
Full, sweet malt fills the first sip. Decent malt profile, if a bit simple. Caramel, toffee, and hints of cocoa. Some cardboard and sherry aftertaste. Hops are sufficient to just balance the malt. Moderate alcohol drives the sweet finish.
Oskar Blues Brewery Mama’s Little Yella Pils (88)
ice hop flavors, fresh and juicy. Some mild oxidation in the not-quite-fresh malt. Light, heathery hop flavor. Low bitterness but the finish is nonetheless crisp and clean
Ninkasi Brewing Company Lux (89)
Grainy pils malt with mild, floral hops. Sweet up front, followed by slightly sharp bitterness that doesn’t overpower the flavor but lingers in the finish. Not harsh, but would like more malt. Lively carbonation. Slight astringency in the aftertaste.
Devils Backbone Gold Leaf (89)
The light cracker maltiness with a hint of honey is sweet, but not too sweet. The hops are floral, earthy, herbal, and spicy, and the bitterness drops off at the end. Nice, dry, and clean at the finish.
Bell's Brewery, Inc. Consecrator Doppelbock (89)
pfront malt flavor is sweeter than the aroma promises. Malt is rich, lightly toasted, and slightly nutty. Tasty, if a bit simplistic. Medium hop bitterness is balancing. Alcohol is a touch hot but dries the finish. A little sticky.
Great Lakes Brewing Company Eliot Ness (90)
Rich, sweet melanoidin malt. Caramelly and full, the crispy toast malt is followed by ethanol and reasonable hop flavor. Hop bitterness balances the malt nicely. Hop flavor is somewhat piney. Finish is dry with some warmth. Less of a malt bomb than the nose implies.
Abita Brewing Company Amber (90)
Smooth, clean malt with light toast notes. Sweet, bready, and crackery. Soft hop bitterness falls away in the finish to leave a fading malt sweetness. No-frills hop flavor. Crisp finish without much aftertaste.
Odell Brewing Company Double Pilsner (90)
Smooth pils malt with an alcoholic aftertaste. Hop bitterness is medium and balancing. Some sweetness in the middle of the palate keeps the finish from being crisp. Hop flavor is about right for traditional Pils, but it seems light for a double. Finish is sweet and could be drier with a touch more bitterness.
Ska Brewing Mexican Logger (90)
Starts with a biscuit sweetness, as well as some toast and roastiness and honey notes. The assertive hops bitterness is supportive, but doesn’t overpower. Some of the mintiness is still present in the flavor. The lighter carbonation makes this a creamy and smooth lager that refreshes.
Deep Ellum Brewing Co. Neato Bandito (90)
Bitterness up front, with some phenolic tones. Medium honey with some floral hops that add spice and complexity to the balance. The carbonation helps keep the beer refreshing and light, with a very dry finish. A malt sweetness lingers in the finish.
Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu Optimator (90)
Crisp hops flavor competes with the malt, but malt wins in the aftertaste. Smooth malt offers caramel, toast, and toffee. Hops flavors are a bit distracting but flavor is ultimately about malt. Alcohol lightens the body and is not overly hot.
Sixpoint Brewery The Crisp (90)
Aggressive citrus and berry hop flavors. Malt balance is clean and relatively neutral but slightly biscuity. High alpha hop character. Bitterness is crisp and lingering, assertive but not harsh.
Lagunitas Brewing Company Pils (90)
Sweet but balanced malt is a bit too toasty for the style. Little to no hop bitterness. A hint of ethanol. Clean, crisp finish, well-carbonated and dry. Some faint butter notes in the finish. Almost some caramel character.
August Schell Brewing Company FireBrick (91)
Soft sweet malt is quickly lightened by a crisp, balanced hops bitterness. Aftertaste of malt and lingering hops. Crisp lager finish leaves just a touch of bitterness.
Jack's Abby Brewing Mass Rising (91)
ots of chewy hop flavor, but a surprisingly balanced malt body without much sweetness. Pleasant cracker-like malt flavor. Aftertaste is rather resinous and sticky. Strong bitterness finishes the hop story. Clean fermentation
Hofbräuhaus Hofbräu Maibock (91)
Sweet, slightly sticky malt barely supported by restrained hops bitterness. Some astringency in the aftertaste. Some fruity cherry notes. Big malt, but not too sweet. Pils and toffee. Definitely warming with plenty of alcohol. Mild hops flavor. Remarkable bitterness. Finish isn’t very crisp.
August Schell Brewing Company Pilsner (91)
Upfront hop bitterness, balanced malt and hops in the middle, and a pleasant, bitter finish. Nice pils character. A touch of corn with floral hops reminiscent of gooseberry or white wine. Well balanced.
Bell's Brewery, Inc. Lager of the Lakes (92)
Smooth malt offset by light hop bitterness. Sweet, corn-like, and wheaty. Spicy hops slide right into the finishing bitterness. Very fruity, but light alcohol flavor. Yeasty, yet clean profile. Light carbonic bite.
Fort Collins Brewery Maibock (92)
Full, rich malt: dessert beer! Hops are just enough to support the rich malt flavors. Strong malt palate with pils, melanoidin, and a bit of caramel. Hops spiciness and alcohol warmth meet nicely to take the beer to the finish. Mild balancing bitterness, but this increases over time.
Wasatch Brewing Company Devastator (92)
Hops bitterness balances the nice sweet malt in the initial sip. Malt is all caramel and cocoa nibs with melanoidin character. Light hop flavor is out of style but interesting and keeps malt in check. Light astringency and alcohol burn in the aftertaste.
Pyramid Breweries IPL (92)
ich malted milk body with chewy melanoidins. A little too sweet. Hops flavor is also aggressive, the strong but smooth bitterness crisp and balancing. Finish is fairly clean with some lasting bitterness. Malt backbone is just strong enough to balance. Nice lemon or orange rind citrus
Victory Brewing Company Prima Pils (92)
oderate bready malt sweetness followed by intense, resinous hop profile. Bitterness is high for the style but finishes clean and dry. Moderate malt sweetness with nice pils malt flavor. Needs more malt to balance. Crisp, with a carbonic bite and lingering astringency
Firestone Walker Brewing Company Pivo Pils (92)
iney, grassy noble hops balanced by clean, grainy pils malt. Some fresh watermelon notes. Finishes crisp, clean, and surprisingly bitter. Some alcohol warmth at the end
Kona Brewing Company Longboard Island Lager (93)
risp, light, and refreshing, the spicy, grassy hop flavor really fills the middle of the palate and the aftertaste with a tart touch of lemon. Crisp, clean finish with mild bitterness and very light alcohol. A little thin but enjoyable
New Belgium Brewing Blue Paddle (93)
ight, clean malt. Noble hops provide slight floral and spice character. Mildly hopped but in style. Finishes crisp, clean, and dry with a touch of astringency in the aftertaste
Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan Weihenstephaner Original (94)
risp and assertive bitterness followed by smooth, slightly sweet malt. Fine, lively carbonation dances on the tongue. Light pils malt followed by a brisk flash of spicy hop flavors, then a light bitterness
21st Amendment Brewery El Sully (94)
Light Pilsner malt with a medium-sweet biscuit presence, but is not overly sweet. The floral, earthy hops flavors blend right in, with a low-key pleasant bitterness. Bright body with a slight apple note toward the end of the sip and a refreshing carbonic bite.
Jack's Abby Brewing Saxonator (94)
lean, rich malt with just enough hop bitterness to balance. Rich malt sweetness gives way to a pleasantly dry finish. Hops are lightly applied. A touch of carbonic burn and alcohol with some light oxidation
Samuel Adams / Boston Beer Company Double Agent IPL (94)
ig hop flavor follows the aroma: grapefruit, pine, and cedar. Bitterness is assertive but enjoyable. It coats the tongue well past the aftertaste. Malt sweetness rounds out the flavor, but since it wasn’t invited to this party, it leaves early
Samuel Adams / Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Boston Lager (95)
harp, clean hop bitterness overlays sweet, toasted malt with cracker notes. Assertive, slightly resinous hop flavor. Good complexity. Sweet up front, but hop flavor and clean bitterness keeps it in check. Clean lager profile. Finishes dry and slightly bitter
Victory Brewing Company Victory Lager (95)
right pils malt sparkles, a little perfumy. Hop flavor dominates the light, bready malt. Bitterness is clean and some spicy, peppery notes add interest. Medium carbonation but little head
Utah Brewers Cooperative Wasatch Snap Down (95)
Same hops profile as the flavor, but with more emphasis on the citrus. The bitterness is much lower than expected, with some nice malt to balance that is detected more in the mouthfeel. Finishes dry without too much hops bite and just enough of the fruity flavors to entice you back for another sip.
To Øl Brown Paper Bag (96)
uge hops-forward flavor with plenty of malt to back it up. A bit raw or grassy with alcohol in the aftertaste. Bitterness is assertive and barely tames the alcohol burn, but there’s enough malt sweetness to carry it. Clean with no esters
Ayinger Brewery Celebrator (97)
risp hop bitterness up front prepares the tongue for a full, malty body. Robust toffee, coffee, and caramel with good balancing bitterness. Alcohol thins the body, oddly increasing drinkability. Some papery and sherry-like oxidation. Not at all cloying
Aecht Schlenkerla Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche (97)
ull of malt and smoke without being sticky. Slight oxidation in the malt body is mostly hidden by the smoke. Some dark fruit (prune-like) sweetness. Smoky sweetness hits first and lingers in the smooth, warming alcohol finish. Aftertaste is crisp with a touch of ashy graininess
Jack's Abby Brewing Hoponius Union (98)
Full-bodied and almost sweet. Strong, beautiful, juicy hops flavor of citrus and cedar. The clean hops bitterness is firm but not overwhelming. Malt is strong enough to support the hops and adds complexity.
EPIC Brewing Company Double Skull Doppelbock (99)
alty sweetness is the first impression. Nice complexity as the flavor develops. Toast, toffee, and cocoa complement dark fruit flavors. Moderate hop bitterness lingers alongside the malt, and hop flavor is relatively pronounced. The more I drink it, the more I like it