I haven't been drinking for years. And over the last month, I've been trying a small variety of beers, but they all had a taste I can't put my finger on that I didn't like. I was starting to wonder if I had lost my taste for beer. However, I was lucky enough to have had a Becks the other day, because I remembered it was a beer I used to enjoy. Anyways, I really liked the Becks, so I'd like to know what I'm drinking and why I like it. Also what are other similar beers to Becks?
Beck's is a pale German pilsner brewed by Beck's Brewery headquartered in Bremen. The actual beer you drank was likely brewed in St. Louis, however, as Beck's is wholly owned by AB InBev.
Pale Lagers as a style are usually straw colored, up to a light gold with a white head. The flavor is very light and dry with only slight malty sweetness. A little crisp hop bitterness without too much hop aroma.
Most "macrobrews" will be somewhat similar, though the stock "American" variant of Pale Lager like Budweiser or Miller will have a corn sugar flavor to them and likely be a bit lighter in body. Beck's claimed to adhere to the German Beer Purity Law which would prohibit the use of an adjunct like corn.
St. Pauli Girl is a very similar beer, and I think is even brewed in the same town as the original Beck's.
If you want to stick with imports just about any pale German lager is going to do it for you since it's a very traditional style. Anything by Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, or Weihenstephan is solid and usually pretty easy to get ahold of. Pilsner-Urquell is also a great beer, but it's in the Pilsner style so while it's still a pale lager Pilsners can have a sulfur-y or buttery tinge due to the green bottles and slight diacetyl. Pilsners also have a strong hop character and bitterness.
If you wanted to try local or American brewed versions just about anyone's Session Lager (Full Sail comes to mind, as does Notch if you're near MA at all) should be similar. According to this list on BeerAdvocate you should be near Berghoff and Baderbrau which will both make traditional German styles. Some breweries, Baderbrau included, will call their pale lager a "Lawnmower beer".
Branching out, Sam Adams Boston Lager is a style called Vienna Lager which may also appeal you. Though it will be significantly maltier than Beck's. Anything with Dortmunder in the name will also be similar, though hoppier but not like an American Pale Ale or IPA or anything. You might also be interested in any brewery's Cream Ale, which is an Ale version of the Pale Lager style. Kolsch style beers may also appeal to you since they share the same light body and slight maltiness. Kolsch's are hybrid beers which are fermented warm like an Ale would be, but then cold conditioned like a Lager. Officially Kolsch can only be brewed in Cologne, Germany, but many American breweries will make a Kolsch style since it drinks really well in the summer and provides more flavor variety than pale lager or Cream Ale.
Does that help?
Beck's is a German pilsner (a type of pale lager), sharp, crisp, flavorfull, and is not filling. Beck's uses roasted hops and has a more bitter earthy flavor with much less foam.
The flavor of other "light lagers" (european pilsners) may be similar, however, a pilsner is much easier to drink because, unlike most other light lager beers, a true pilsner is much less filling and has much less foam. Pilsner beers are noted for "drinkability". Beck's can be consumed with a large meal and then consumed afterwards as well. I believe this is why many non beer drinkers prefer and enjoy Beck's and almost no other beer. Click here for a list of "German style pilsners" as well as a list of the other types of similar beers and what makes them different Light lagers such as Heinekin, Stella, Amstel, etc ... are "European pilsner" beers typically labeled as lager whereas a German pilsner beer is typically labeled "pilsner" or "pils".
Heineken does produce a true pilsner variety but it is not officially distributed or available within the United States. Heineken lager is distributed and sold throughout North America and has much more body and is more filling as one would expect from a light lager or "european pilsner".
Sam Adams Gold pilsner is described as having "great body". This is not a characteristic of most German pilsners that are sharp and light bodied. This beeradvocate post goes on to say that "This is one of those beers to give to a Bud drinker" . . . definitely not something most people would say of Beck's.
Similar beers include:
Baltika #7 Export has a clean crisp light hoppy flavor and is less filling than Heinekin.
St Pauli Girl pilsner (not to be confused with St Pauli Girl lager) is brewed for export only at the Beck's brewery in Bremen Germany.
Tsingtao, a Chinese brewed German pilsner. Tsingtao is a product of the German occupation of Qingdao from the late 1800s until 1914. Not quite a flavorful as Beck's because the original recipe has changed but still a German pilsner in many aspects. Tsingtao is widely available at many Asian restaurants throughout North America and is a much better alternative or substitute for Beck's than Heinekin or Stella.
Löwenbräu produces Beck's under licence for southern Germany and other parts of europe and is known for similar flavor (but then again, so is Heineken).
If you're going to go the way of sam adams, at least get the right kind of beer and not some awful american lager. Sam Adams makes a Noble Pils.
Noble hops are the type of hops German pilsners are distinct for, strong hops flavor.
Even better is Sixpoint crisp. Strong hops flavor, easy to drink, and almost no hint of barley. More fruty than Beck's.
Finally, Pilsner Urquell has a bit more foam than I would like from a German beer (probably because it's not German) but still did not weigh heavy on my stomach and easy to drink as well. Not quite as much flavor but I did not try the bottle. This one is a traditional pils.
I tried another German beer at the bar recently "Weihenstephaner original", brewed at the world's oldest brewery in Germany and brewed according to the German purity law of 1516. Sure enough, I didn't have to burp once. Drank a full pint glass and wasn't bloated one bit.
Finally, the taste was the same familiar strong, pungent, and bitter hoppy taste I've grown so fond of from drinking German Beck's over the years and yes it comes in a very dark brown bottle. The bitterness is ranked at 21. They also make a pils with a bitterness of 32.
I feel it should be added that beer brewed in Germany often conforms to the Reinheitsgebot or the German purity law of 1516. This gives German beer the crisp fresh taste and this is also why the foam doesn't linger and make you feel bloated. In all other countries, including the united states, beer manufacturers are known to include many other ingredients. Notably, chemicals are added for "head retention" that are not included in German beer.