pacifico bottle of beer on table next to small cup with lemon slices

Born in Mazatlán, Pacifico is Mexico’s gift to the rest of the world – and what a gift! Aside from being hugely popular in its parent country, the beer has warmed its way into several countries worldwide, especially the United States. However, there still remain questions about the beer many just don’t have an answer to, and one such question is the kind of beer Pacifico is. Here’s a quick answer.

Pacifico is best classified as a Mexican-American pilsner because of its moderate to high bitterness (IBU of 18), yellow to deep gold color (SRM of 3), the alcohol content of 4.5%, and being bottom-fermented rather than top-fermented.

The answer above is a good summary of the kind of beer pacific is, but it’s just that – a summary. There’s more about the type of beer Pacifico is, and this article will thoroughly discuss it, starting with the exact kind of beer Pacifico is and the factors considered to settle on this classification. We will also consider if the beer has always been an American-style pilsner and if the use of corn changes its classification.

Is Pacifico A Lager Or Ale?

When classifying beer, the first step is to determine whether the beer is an ale or a lager. These two classes represent the foundation of any other beer classification. In light of that, we will briefly examine what they are and which class where Pacifico falls into.

The difference between ales and lagers is simply how the beers are fermented. Brewmasters use either of two fermentation techniques when brewing beer – top fermentation or bottom fermentation.

Ales are beers that are brewed using the top-fermentation technique. To accomplish this, a special top-fermenting yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is used at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F).

On the contrary, lagers are beers that are brewed using the bottom-fermentation technique. This is done using bottom-fermenting yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus, at cold temperatures (35˚–50˚F).

Therefore, Pacifico is classified as a lager because it employs the bottom-fermentation technique at cold temperatures (35˚–50˚F).

What Kind Of Lager Is Pacific?

As we stated earlier when classifying beer, determining if it is a lager or ale is the first step. This implies that there are other steps involved. This is because there are many sub-categories of ales and lagers.

For the classification into ale or lager, only one factor is considered – the fermentation technique in manufacturing. However, many more factors have to be considered to sub-classify the beer.

To properly classify this beer, we will rely on the guidelines of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). This reputable beer-certification organization considers a variety of factors in classifying beer.

According to the Program’s guidelines, Pacifico is best classified as an American pilsner. However, many organizations nowadays classify the beer as a Mexican pilsner-style beer. Both of these classes are correct, considering they have eerily similar requirements. Nevertheless, the standard guidelines we are using only recognizes American pilsners, and we will base this article on that.

Now then to the factors that have determined this choice.

Why Is Pacifico An American Pilsner?

Categorizing a beer as ale or lager is the first and easy bit because you only need to consider one straightforward factor – the fermentation technique used in brewing the beer. However, it is a lot trickier when classifying a beer under the several different types of lagers.

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, you need to consider five factors: bitterness, color intensity, original gravity, final gravity, and alcohol content.

The first factor on the list is the bitterness of the beer. As you would imagine, this property is simply how bitter the beer is. It is measured in International Bitterness Unit (IBU). The higher the IBU of a beer, the more bitter it is.

The Beer Judge Certification Program requires American pilsners to have an IBU between 25 and 40. Pacifico has an estimated IBU of 15 to 18. As you can see, this falls short of the mark of American pilsners and possibly explains the classification of the beer as Mexican pilsners.

After that, there’s the color intensity of the beer. This property is measured using the Standard Reference Method (SRM) and reflects how dark beer is. The higher the SRM, the darker the beer.

American pilsners have an SRM between 3 and 6, appearing as yellow to deep gold. As Pacifico has an SRM of 3, it meets the color requirements of American pilsners.

Aside from the color and bitterness, gravity is another determining factor in classifying beers. The two gravities used are the original and final gravity, denoted as OG and FG, respectively. A beer’s OG and FG are crucial to brewmasters as they help estimate the alcohol content of a beer before and after fermentation.

The original gravity measures the sugar content in the beer wort before fermentation begins. Oppositely, the final gravity measures the unfermentable sugars in the beer after alcoholic fermentation.

The Beer Judge Certification Program specifies an OG between 1.044 and 1.060 for American pilsners. Pacifico has an original gravity of around 1.048, which just falls within the desired range.

For the final gravity, the Program states that American pilsners should be between 1.010 and 1.015. Pacifico has an estimated final gravity of 1.012, which is within the stated range for American pilsners.

The alcohol content of the beer is the final and most direct criterion for determining the sub-category of beer. It is measured in alcohol by volume (ABV), and it reflects how much pure alcohol is actually in beer.

According to standard guidelines, American pilsners have an ABV between 4.5% and 6%. Pacifico has an ABV of 4.5%, implying it falls under the standard requirements for American pilsners.

Judging from the requirements of American pilsners, Pacifico can be classified as such. This is in spite of the discrepancy in IBU, which justifies the classification of the beer by many organizations as a Mexican-style pilsner.

Interested in finding out if we think Pacifico is any good? Here’s our review.

Has Pacifico Always Been An American Pilsner?

Yes, it has always been an American pilsner. The beer was born in 1900 but only became common in the United States in the 1970s, thanks to wandering surfers in California importing the drink into the country.

The beer’s original style has not been altered. If anything, it is the requirements for judging and classifying beers that have changed, resulting in the controversy between American and Mexican-style pilsners today.

Does The Use Of Corn Change How The Beer Is Classified?

Adjuncts reduce loading on the mash, increasing the brew’s capacity. The use of an adjunct is important in how beer is classified. While ales favor wheat, lagers use rice or corn as adjuncts. The use of rice usually means a difference in the taste and color of the beer.

Pacifico uses corn as an adjunct – up to 30%, in fact. This is similar to most beers of Mexican origin.