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Adjunct Lagers, including the American Adjunct Lager (or A.A.L.), are light bodied, pale, fizzy lagers made popular by large "macro-breweries" after Prohibition (large brewers like Anheuser-Busch InBev [who also own Labbat], MolsonCoors, SABMiller [who also own MolsonCoors], Pabst, Corona, Dos Equis, and others). The focus is usually not so much on the flavor of the beer, but rather mass-production and consumption. The use of "adjuncts", such as corn and rice, act as a "filler" so less malt is needed, produce higher levels of alcohol and shorten brewing time. All-in-all, it's simply a way to cut cost, but at the expense of flavor and quality. The use of "adjuncts", particularly corn, leaves "off-flavors" and "off-smells" to the brew. Hops are used, but usually just enough to add a slight bitterness to the flavor. (Most adjunct lagers have a very sweet flavor with bitter undertones.) The result is a cheaply-made, mass-marketed beer.
"Craft-Beer" is an American term which refers to beer brewing using traditional methods. This type of beer is brewed to be distinctive and flavorful rather than appeal to everyone. Often brewed by smaller "micro-breweries", many larger "macro-breweries" are starting to brew "craft-beer" as well. Examples include: Budweiser American Ale, Bud Light Golden Wheat, and the "revamped" Michelob line by Anheuser-Busch InBev. And some are even buying up "micro-breweries" and using their names to market the beer. Example is the aquisition of Leinenkugel's by MillerCoors (a division of SABMiller and MolsonCoors).
There are two main catergories for beers: Ales and Lagers. While the two make up several sub-styles such as Lagers: Adjunct Lagers, Pale Lagers, Dark Lagers, Bocks, Pilsners, Vienna Lagers, Porters, just to name a few; and Ales: Pale Ales, Amber/Red Ales, Scotch Ales, Wheat Beer, Stouts, Bitters, Porters (yes a Porter can be an ale or lager depending on the yeast it is fermented with and the temperature at which it is fermented) just to name a few. It all comes down to two basic styles of beer.
The biggest difference comes down to the types of yeast used to ferment the brew. With a few exceptions, ales use a top-fermenting yeast that rises to the top of the mixture. Lagers use a bottom-fermenting yeast that forms at the bottom of the brewing vessel and can even be reused. The bottom-fermenting yeasts in lagers require cooler temperatures and longer fermentation time. Lagers ferment between 52-58° F (11-14° C). This produces higher sulfur levels which give most lagers a crisp, clean flavor.
For ale production, top-fermenting yeasts work best at a higher temperature, between 64-70° F (17-21° C.) These warmer temperatures allow flavorful esters to form in the yeast, leading to fruity, full-bodied flavors and aromas.
Well specifically, there isn't a difference. Adjunct Lagers are a style of Pale Lager. However, most consider Pale Lagers such as Heineken, Michelob Original Lager, Moosehead Lager, and Stella Artois, to be different because they do not use "adjuncts" to boost alcohol and speed up fermentation. They are traditionally brewed Pale Lagers. American Pale Lagers in the case of Michelob Original Lager and Moosehead Lager, and Euro Pale Lager in the case of Heineken and Stella Artois.
I guess if you really want to split hairs then the difference is Adjunct Lagers use "adjuncts" which produces "off-flavors" in the beer, whereas Pale Lagers are traditionally brewed with no "adjuncts" and true Pale Lager flavor. However, technically, there is no difference...
ABV stands for Alcohol By Volume. It is usually labeled with a percentage (%); [Ex. 5% ABV]. It is the percentage of alcohol to total volume, meaning a beverage with 5% ABV is 5% alcohol and 95% other ingredients, such as water, yeast, juice, ect... This holds true for all alcoholic beverages whether it be beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, gin, ect... While Alcohol By Volume (ABV) is pretty much the standard unit of alcohol measurment, some manufacturers still use Alcohol By Weight (ABW). If you happen to buy a beverage labeled as ABW instead of ABV, the alcohol content is going to be higher than you'd think. To convert the ABW to ABV, simply multiply the ABW by 1.25. So let's say you have a beer with an ABW of 7. (7 x 1.25=8.75) So a beer with a 7 ABW would have a 8.75 ABV. That means 8.75% of your beer is alcohol. If you choose to round up you would have a beer with 9% ABV.
Well legally it varies from state to state. Some states say that anything with an Alcohol By Volume (ABV) higher that 5% must be classified as a "malt liquor". Other states have different laws regarding the legality of "malt liquor" labeling and others have no laws regarding it at all. Some states "micro-brewery" "craft-beers" must be labeled as "malt liquor" due to higher ABVs.
However, for our purposes, we are referring to the style of brew called American Malt Liquor. Beverages such as Colt 45, Mickey's, St. Ides, King Cobra, Schlitz Bull, Olde English, and Hurricane. American Malt Liquor is a lager style beverage meaning it's made with bottom-fermenting yeast. It is a brew characterized by high alcohol content, thin body, light color, very little hop character, and a variety of sweetish flavors and off-flavors. Two things prevent normal lager beer from achieving higher levels of alcohol. First, yeast cannot break down "unfermentable" dextrins. Think of these as long chains that are simply too big for a little yeast cell to feed on. Because the dextrins cannot be devoured by the yeast and turned into alcohol, they remain behind in the beer to provide body and flavor. Second, yeast is a living organism, and it dies when the alcohol level rises above a certain level; the yeast is essentially killed by the alcohol it has produced. This ends the fermentation, again leaving behind a portion of unfermented sugars that add body and flavor to the beer.
But with malt liquor, some things are done differently.
One: The mash contains 10 to 20% dextrose, sugars that the yeast can go right to work on. The mash is usually made up of 50-60% malt, 30-40% corn grits and 10-20% dextrose. This produces a mash with a higher original gravity, i.e., a solution with more fermentables.
Two: Heartier strains of yeast, such as those used to ferment wine, are used. These yeasts can tolerate a higher level of alcohol and higher brewing temperatures. (In addition to producing more alcohol, these yeast can also produce some wine-like flavors).
Three: The "secret ingredient" that sets malt liquor apart from strong lagers -- an enzyme called alpha-amylase is added to the mash to break down the longer chains of dextrins, so virtually all of the sugars become fermentable. This means that the brew will have more alcohol and fewer residual dextrins, therefore less body and flavor.
In summary: Most American beers have an ABV of 4 - 5.3%. Most American Malt Liquors have an ABV of 5.6 - 8%. Also, due to the bad reputation surrounding malt liquor, alot of brewers now use the term "High Gravity Lager", but anyone that knows anything about brewing can deduce that the similarities are striking: Lager style, pale color, higher alcohol, thin body and little hop character...
I received this question shortly after checking out the Michelob Brewing Company website, and on the website was a description that I think explains this question quite well. It is as follows:
It's easy to get lost in all the terms people throw around when they talk about flavor in beers. But it's important to remember that appreciating your beer is the ultimate goal. To get started learning the finer points of flavor, here's a guide to four common flavors:
-Caramel: Don't expect the sticky sweetness of candy, but rather the rich, slightly toasted flavor of roasted sugar, like the top of crème brulee.
-Fruity: Any slightly sweet or subtly tart notes can fall into this category. Common comparisons are made to citrus, apples, pears, or banana.
-Nutty: This refers to a warm, dry, roasted flavor, without the sweetness of caramel. You'll often find this flavor in darker, richer beers.
-Spicy: Hops are responsible for creating the spice of beer. This may produce dry, bitter qualities or give a beer its bite.
©Michelob Brewing Company, 2010