These are dark, malty, yeasty strong ales in the Trappist tradition, but produced (mainly) by secular brewers. Dubbels range between 6.5-8% ABV, and have a dark brown, cloudy color, and a palate mixing malt, a lush fruitiness, and yeast. They are typically bottle-conditioned.
Like other abbey ales, Tripels are strong, yeasty-malty beers. But they are also pale, and have a notable hop profile. Hop bitterness may be higher than a typical abbey ale, up to 45IBUs. But the finish is where the hops really shine, as tripels should finish fairly dry. Otherwise, maltiness is still essential to the style, and the assertive yeast note typical of all abbey ales will be more apparent in tripels, since they do not have the rich dark malts to distract the palate. Alcohol flavors feature more prominently in Tripels that in just about any other style.
Abt / Quadrupel
Abt, or quadrupel, is the name given to ultra-strong Trappist and abbey ales. The name Abt was pioneered to describe Westvleteren and the beer that would become St. Bernardus. Quadrupel was pioneered by La Trappe. Abts are the darker of the two, with more rich, deep fruity notes. Quads are paler, with corresponding peachy notes. Neither have much in the way of hop, and both are very strong and malty. Though both are bottle-conditioned, abts trend more towards yeastiness. Alcohol is very high (10+% ABV) for both.
Well hopped and malty with copper to dark-brown color, native to Dusseldorf, Germany. Alt is the German word for “old” or “old style”. It is more or less the German equivalent to an English ale. Traditionally fermented warm but aged at cold temperatures.
A style without definition, amber ales range from bland, vaguelly caramelly beers to products with a fairly healthy malt and hop balance. Often the differentiation between a quality amber and an American Pale is that the amber might have more dark malt character, or a less assertive hop rate.
American Dark Lager
Your typical macrobrewed Dark Lager, rendered dark with either brewer’s caramel or black patent malt. Aside from caramelly notes, these beers will not typically resemble other dark lager styles so much as they do the lighter styles, due to low amounts of hops, malt and body.
American Pale Ale
American Pale Ales are light in color, ranging from golden to a light copper color. The style of this beer is defined by the American hops used. American hops typically have high bitterness and aroma. This is a perfect beer for big fare like grilled burgers or combination pizzas, as well as lighter fare like sushi and green salads.
American Strong Ale
Not a style, per se, but the only logical category to incorporate the plethora of strong, stylistically vague beers coming from American micros these days. Some are related to English Strong Ales, but with more hop, while others are ultra-strong variants on the IPA or red ale themes. But no matter how varied their origins or characters might be, all are intense, potent, with generous quantities of hops and malt.
The historical remnants of the 19th c. Baltic trade in imperial stouts, Baltic Porters are typically strong, sweet and bottom-fermented. They lack the powerful roast of an imperial stout, but have an intense malt character. Alcohol ranges from 7-9.5% ABV. Though they are typically lagers, there are a handful of top-fermented examples.
A Barley Wine is a strong, top-fermenting ale, with an alcohol contents of at least 9% and up to 13% (or more) by volume. Hops may be hardly noticeable at all or very noticeable. Sip them out of the special glass, that will concentrate the aroma. They are excellent with cigars or with dessert.
Belgian-style ales seldom fit neatly into classic beer styles, but this category represents those “session” ales (in Belgium this means under 7% ABV!) that do not fit other categories. color ranges from golden to deep amber, with the occasional example coming in darker. Body tends to be light to medium, with a wide range of hop and malt levels. Yeastiness and acidity may also be present.
Belgian Strong Ale
Belgian Strong Ales can vary from pale to dark brown in color, darker ales may be colored with dark candy sugar. Hop flavor can range from low to high, while hop aroma is low. The beers are medium to full-bodied and have a high alcoholic character. Types of beers included here include tripels, dubbels and ultra-strong abbey ales.
Belgian White (Witbier)
Belgian style wheat beers are very pale, opaque, with the crisp character of wheat, plus the citric refreshment of orange peel and coriander. Ingredients sometimes also include oats for smoothness, and other spices such as grains of paradise. Serve with light cheeses or mussels.
Very wheaty, very sour style of Berlin. Berliner weissebier has a barely perceptible hop content, low alcohol, and a sharp character. Often these are laced with syrups to cut the intense acidity, but purists will want to take them neat to enjoy the multi-faceted complexity and thirst-quenching character.
Biere de Garde
Medium bodied with hints of caramel or toffee. Cellared smell and flavor are characteristics. Color can vary from full gold to copper colored. Good head retention. The name means “beer for keeping” and is best when aged.
A gold to copper color, low carbonation and medium to high bitterness. Hop flavor and aroma may be non-existent to mild. Great to drink with steak and lobster.
An emerging beer style roughly defined as a beer with IPA-level hopping, relatively high alcohol and a distinct toasty dark malt character. Typically lacks the roastiness and body of a strong stout and is hoppier than a strong porter. Expressive dry-hopping is common. Also called India Dark Ale, Cascadian Dark Ale or Dark IPA.
Hallmarked by the generous use of the Saaz hop, Bohemian (or Czech) pilsners are also noted for their rich gold color, fat maltiness and moderate to full body. Regardless of origin, to be a pilsner a beer must have at least 28 units of bitterness, and preferably much more.
Color ranges from reddish-brown to dark brown. Lower in alcohol than porter, medium to full body flavor. Appropriate foods are apple pie, pork with brown sauce, beef vegetable soup and cheddar.
Style originating in 18th century California, where brewers without access to refrigeration produced beers using lager yeasts and warm temperatures. These still retain some of the rounded character inherent in all lagers, but with a dose of ale fruitiness.
Made from fermented apple juice, cider comes in a number of varieties. English cider is dry, with fruity, tannic qualities and low carbonation. This can be found cask-conditioned in England. Normandy is another major cider-producing region, with a sweeter, more effervescent, very complex style. Ciders produced elsewhere are often sweet, simple beverages for mass consumption, though there are some good English-style ciders in North America and Norman-style ciders in Quebec. Made from fermented apple juice, cider comes in a number of varieties. English cider is dry, with fruity, tannic qualities and low carbonation. This can be found cask-conditioned in England. Normandy is another major cider-producing region, with a sweeter, more effervescent, very complex style. Ciders produced elsewhere are often sweet, simple beverages for mass consumption, though there are some good English-style ciders in North America and Norman-style ciders in Quebec. Made from fermented apple juice, cider comes in a number of varieties. English cider is dry, with fruity, tannic qualities and low carbonation. This can be found cask-conditioned in England. Normandy is another major cider-producing region, with a sweeter, more effervescent, very complex style. Ciders produced elsewhere are often sweet, simple beverages for mass consumption, though there are some good English-style ciders in North America and Norman-style ciders in Quebec.
Classic German Pilsener
German pilsners typically come in two varieties, the northern and the southern. Southern examples are akin to a Bohemian pilsner with German hops and less malt. Northern examples are very well-attenuated (leaner in body) and dry.
A mild, pale, light-bodied ale, made using a warm fermentation (top or bottom) and cold lagering or by blending top and bottom-fermented beers. Low to medium bitterness. Low hop flavor and aroma.
Doppel means double and while these are stronger brews than the traditional German bocks, they are typically not twice the strength. Color is light amber to dark brown. Very full body with a high alcoholic flavor. Low hop flavor and aroma.
Dortmunder / Helles
These two styles are closely related, the former hailing from Dortmund and the latter from Bavaria. Both are slightly strong (5.0-5.6%), malt-accented pale lagers. The cookie-like or bready maltiness should be very much in evidence in a traditional example. These beers are clean and easy to drink in quantity. Some Dortmunders made in Denmark and the Netherlands are stronger.
The “Irish-style” stout is typically a low-gravity stout with bitterness ranging between 30-45 IBUs. Roastiness is present, but restrained, and there should not be hops in either the flavor or aroma. A little bit of acidity can be present. Often, this type of stout is serving via nitrogen, with all the effects that has on a beer – low carbonation, extra-thick head, lifeless palate and muted flavor and aroma.
Copper to dark brown. Medium body. Nutty, toasted, chocolatelike malty sweetness in aroma and flavor. Medium bitterness. Low “noble-type” hop flavor and aroma. No fruitiness or esters.
A dark take on the German wheat theme, dunkelweizens have the same banana and clove notes of their pale cousins, but also have earthy, toasty, chocolatey notes from the addition of dark malts. They are “shoulder season” wheat beers to many drinkers – something a little more robust than a hefeweizen for the fall and spring seasons, but not as rich as winter’s weizenbocks. Alcohol is between 4.8-5.6% generally, bitterness is low, and carbonation is high. Occasionally, you will see dark versions of American Wheats, but these are uncommon.
The dark Bock has a deep copper to dark brown color. Medium to full-bodied, malt sweetness and nutty or light toasted flavors dominate. Hop flavor and aroma can be light to non-existent.
A stronger version of Doppelbock. Deep copper to black. Very alcoholic. Typically brewed by freezing a doppelbock and removing resulting ice to increase alcohol content.
English Pale Ale
Classic English Pale Ales are not pale but rather are golden to copper colored and display English variety hop character. Distinguishing characteristics are dryness and defined hop taste, but more malt balance than what you’ll typically find in an American Pale Ale. Great to drink with all sorts of meats including roast beef, lamb, burgers, duck, goose, etc. Note that the term ‘pale ale’ is used in England to signify a bottled bitter, and in that way there is no such thing as ‘English Pale Ale’ to the English. The style is a North American construct, borne of the multitude of pale ales that pay homage to these bottled bitters – Bass in particular – and therefore the majority of true examples of the style are found outside Britain.
English Strong Ale
Malty, with complex fruity esters. Some oxidative notes are acceptable, akin to those found in port or sherry. Hop aromas not usually present, due to extended age. Medium amber to very dark red-amber color. Malty and usually sweet. Alcoholic strength should be evident, though not overwhelming. Medium to full body alcohol should contribute some warmth. An ale of significant alcoholic strength, though usually not as strong or rich as barleywine. Usually tilted toward a sweeter, more malty balance. Often regarded as winter warmers, and often released as seasonal beers.
Foreign Stout began with the beer that would become Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. This was a stronger, extra-hopped version of the basic Guinness Extra Stout, brewed to survive long journeys overseas. The classic FES still exists in a few different forms, but many of the original destination countries (Jamaica, Sri Lanka, etc.) now have their own, locally-produced versions. Foreign stout occupies a position between basic stout and imperial stout. It is sweeter than a basic stout, but not as robust as an imperial. It is less fruity and less hoppy as well. Foreign stouts are sometimes made with local grains and adjuncts – sugar is not uncommon. Alcohol ranges from 6-8%.
Any ale or lager made with fruit. See beer description for flavor. Body, color, hop character and strength vary depending on the type of fruit used.
Depending on the style can range from pale and light body to dark brown with full body. Wheat beer is characterized by it’s cloudy appearance and it’s banana and sometimes vanilla aftertaste.
Kristalweizens are the third member of the German Wheat trifecta. Deriding by many beer lovers as “castrated hefeweizens”, kristalweizens are known for their filtered, sparkling color. They have the classic spritzy carbonation of wheat beers, and the same tart wheat notes and signature components of banana, bubblegum and spice. The body is light, and alcohol ranging around the 5% mark, give or take half a point.
Golden Ale / Blond Ale
There are a few different types of blond ale. The first is the traditional “Canadian Ale”, an adjunct-laden, macrobrewed, top-fermented equivalent of the American Standard. The second is common in US brewpubs – a light starter ale, with marginally more hop and body than a macrobrew, fewer adjuncts, but still not a flavorful beer by any means. The British interpretation is easily the boldest, hoppiest blond ale rendition. Some of these can almost be considered American Pales they are so hopped up – very crisp, refreshing, with relatively low alcohol compared with their North American counterparts.
The Heller Bock is primarily a malty beer from the German brewing tradition with little hop character – neither bitter nor aromatic – though the style typically has a little more hops than the standard Bock. The color is golden to light brown or amber. They should normally pour with a substantial white head. All examples are pale and clear.
Ice Cider / Perry
Ice cider is traditionally made by leaving apples on the tree into the winter, picking them only when they are frozen. This results in highly concentrated apples, from which juice is pressed and then fermented. Less traditional producers ferment juice than has been partially frozen to achieve concentration.
Imperial / Double IPA
Imperial IPA, Double IPA or DIPA is a strong, often sweet, intensely hoppy version of the traditional India Pale Ale. Bitterness units range upward of 100 IBUs and alcohol begins at 7.5% but is more commonly in the 8.5-10% range. The flavor profile is intense all-round. Unlike barley wines, the balance is heavily towards the hops, with crystal and other malts providing support.
Imperial / Strong Porter
Imperial or extra-strong porters fall in between the traditional porter, a Baltic porter, and an imperial stout. They range from around 7.5% upwards, with hefty dark malt character, but lack the overt roastiness of an imperial stout.
Imperial stouts are usually extremely dark brown to black in color with flavors that are intensely malty, deeply roasted and sometimes with accents of dark fruit (raisin, fig) or milk sourness. The bitterness is typically medium and often the low sie of that. Imperial stouts are strong and often exceed 8% by volume.
India Pale Ale
This style, the modern version of which has largely been formed in the US, has an intense hop flavor which was used to preserve the beer for the long voyage. India Pale Ale has a golden to copper color with a medium maltiness and body. The aroma is moderate to very strong. IPAs work especially well at cutting the heat of chili, vindaloo or Sichuan cuisine. In England, IPA is often just another name for bitter although some micros are doing their own versions of an American IPA as well.
The red ales of Ireland have a gentle maltiness, caramelly, earthy notes, and a generally restrained hop character. They are session ales, so alcohol is generally at 5% ABV or less, though you will find the occasion stronger example. The major macrobrewed Irish ales are ascribed to be in this style, but the majority of examples are from New World microbreweries working with Michael Jackson’s description of Irish ale.
Golden, top-fermented style native to Koln, Germany. The style has a very narrow profile and many beers that consider themselves to be kolschbiers are not. Generally they have a moderate bitterness, but fairly prominent hop flavor (typically Spalt, Tettnang or Hallertau). They have high effervescence, medium esters, but a rounded, stylish character derived from lagering.
Lambic – Faro
Faro is a lambic blend with the addition of sugar. These are well-carbonated, and are sweeter and more refreshing than gueuze. The flavor is often straightforward and sugary, with lighter barnyard and funk notes than other lambic styles. The odd variant contains other spices like orange peel as flavoring.
Lambic – Fruit
Lambics are wheat beers made with stale hops and fermented with wild yeasts and other microorganisms, traditionally only on the Senne Valley in and around Brussels. The most traditional of the fruit lambics are kriek (cherry) and framboise (raspberry). In modern times, peaches (peche), blackcurrants (cassis), grapes, as well as more exotic fruits are used. Traditional lambics are commonly denoted by the term “oud”, which is a reference to “old-style”, and these are the most sour. More commonly, though, lambics are sweetened to cut the intense acidity. Serve with sharp cheeses or pickled dishes, or use in the preparation of mussels.
Lambic – Gueuze
Gueuze is a blend of young and old lambic. The yeasts are rejuvenated and carbonation ensues. The old lambic is more refined in character and helps take some of the edge off of the young lambic. The hops used are old, and act only as a preservative, so hop character is not a part of the style. The wild yeasts not only ferment and sour the beer, but they bring the funky, unpredictable flavors that characterize all lambic beers. A quality gueuze will be blended to eliminate some of the less desirable flavors. Above all else, a gueuze should be sour and very complex. The best examples are the most complex beers in the world, and put most champagnes to shame as well. The finish should be bone dry.
Lambic – Unblended
Unblended lambic is the purest form of lambic. This rare specialty is typically only found in the lambicmakers’ home region, although one bottled example – Cantillon 1900 Bruocsella Grand Cru – is produced. Unblended lambics will vary in character from barrel to barrel, can be found in a variety of ages, and may have been aged with fruit in the cask. They tend to be still, with flavors whose edge has not been taken off by blending.
Low Alcohol / Water
Low alcohol beers range from the typical “Non-Alc” beers, which typically contain 0.5%, to the various European table beer styles. These include hvidtol and skibsol from Denmark, kvass from Russia, the Dutch oud bruins, svagdricka from Sweden, kalja from Finland, various Klass, Scandinavian lagers and table beers from the Teutonic countries as well. The base criteria is that the beer should be under 3%, but still contain alcohol (which rules out malta/malzbier). Otherwise, the class can be a bit of a free-for-all stylistically, ranging from bland lagers, to alcohol-free weizenbiers, to the smoky skibsol.
Strong, alcoholic-tasting, often poorly made strong lagers. Esters, fusels and other products of undiluted high-gravity brewed beers are often commonplace. Properly served in the 40oz bottle with accompanying brown paper bag.
Slightly malty, no hop flavor or aroma. Medium to dark brown in color with very little head or carbonation. Mild refers to lack of any hop flavor or aroma. Serve with traditional pub fare.
Oktoberfest / Marzen
Oktoberfest is a German festival dating from 1810, and Oktoberfestbiers are the beers that have been served at the festival since 1818, and are supplied by 6 breweries: Spaten, Lowenbrau, Augustiner, Hofbrau, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. Traditionally Oktoberfestbiers were the lagers of around 5.5 to 6 ABV called Marzen – brewed in March and allowed to ferment slowly during the summer months. Originally these would have been dark lagers, but from 1872 a strong March brewed version of an amber-red Vienna lager made by Josef Sedlmayr became the favourite Oktoberfestbier.
Old Ale is a simple enough style to figure out. At least, once you understand that there are three or four beer styles called Old Ale. The first is the best known – the strong dark Old Peculier style. The second type of Old Ale is a blended dark ale. At least one of the beers comprising the blend will be aged for a couple of years in wood casks. The third version of Old Ale is a form of mild – a low-gravity dark ale. Another version of Old Ale is closely related to the first. For me, these are robustly malty beers, akin to a top-fermented version of a doppelbock.
The color of pale lager ranges from light bronze to nearly transparent and the alcohol anywhere from 4-6%. Adjunct usage may be quite high, though in some cases the beer is all-malt. Carbonation is typically forced, though not always. One thing that doesn’t vary is that neither the malt nor the hops make much of an impression on the palate. These beers are brewed for minimum character, though faint traces of hop or malt may show through. More likely though is that adjuncts like corn will show through, or you’ll find notes of higher alcohols (fuel notes) due to the use of high-gravity brewing. The body will be thin and watery, and the finish is typically non-existent.
Perry or Pear Cider is an alcoholic drink, made from pressed pears, especially grown for this purpose.
While the definition of “pilsner” is open to much debate in the beer community, it generally refers to pale, hoppy lagers, ranging from 28IBUs and up. Pilsners that do not meet the specific characteristics of a German or Bohemian pils will be given this generic classification.
Black or chocolate malt gives the porter its dark brown color. Porters are well hopped and heavily malted. This is a medium-bodied beer. Porters can be sweet. Hoppiness can range from bitter to mild. Porters are often confused with stouts (and with good reason, but that’s for another day).
Premium Bitter / ESB
In England, many breweries have a number of bitters in their range. The style that has come to be known as Premium or Special Bitter generally includes the stronger (4.6%-6%) examples. These are mostly served in the traditional way from the cask, but some are also found in bottle form where the extra malt allows them to stand up better than the more delicate ordinary Bitter. In the US, the designation ESB is common for this style, owing to the influence of Fuller’s ESB, the London brew that was among the first to be exported to the States. In the US, some ESBs are made with American hops and a clean yeast, but the alcohol range is the same, as is the range of bitterness, usually between 25 and 35 but occasionally creeping higher.
A beer that straddles between the mainstream Pale Lager and Pilsner. Not all beers that call themselves Premium Lager are, but those that are will typically have a deep gold to light bronze color, and distinct influence of malt and hops. They should be free of adjuncts and will have a softer carbonation than Pale Lager or Classic German Pilsner. IBUs will typically range in the 20’s, and lagering times will typically be 4-6 weeks, more in line with what pilsners have. Overall accent will be malty-to-balanced, alcohol in a slightly tighter range than either Pale Lager or Pilsner (4.5-5.5%). Most often the product of a microbrewery or brewpub, but macrobreweries can make this style if they jack up the hops a bit and make it all-malt.
Fruity esters dominate the aroma. Clarity is good with a large foamy head on top. The addition of several spices and herbs create a complex fruity or citrusy flavor. Light to medium bodied with very high carbonation. Alcohol level is medium to high.
Dark brown to black. Medium body. Roasted malt evident. Low sweetness in aroma and flavor. Low to medium bitterness. Low bitterness from roast malt. Hop flavor and aroma, “noble-type” OK. No fruitiness, esters.
Scotch Ale was the name given to a strong pale ale from Edinburgh in the 19th century. This was typical of the strong pale ales brewed in Britain at that time – mainly pale barley malt and moderate hopping, and were not that stylistically different to English Strong Ales or Barley Wines. The name however became regionalised so that a strong pale ale from Scotland became known as a Scotch Ale or Wee Heavy. Beers using the designation Scotch Ale are popular in the USA where most examples are brewed locally. Examples of beers brewed in the USA under the name Wee Heavy tend to be 7% ABV and higher, while Scottish brewed examples, such as Belhavens Wee Heavy, are typically between 5.5% and 6.5% ABV.
Scottish ales are generally dark, malty, full-bodied brews. Many examples have a hint of smokiness derived from the use of peated malt. 60, 70, and 80 shilling examples are all session ales under 5% ABV, but the stronger “wee heavies” can range closer to 8%, with the accompanying increase in alcohol flavor and esters. Works well as an accompaniment to hearty meat and game dishes, sharp cheddar, atholl brose and shortbread.
The classic smoked beers hail from Bamberg in Franconia, Germany. These are made using malt that has been smoked over beechwood. The insistent smokiness may be applied to any lager style. In North America, the same technique has been used to make smoked porter. Whiskey malt beers are made using peat-smoked malt.
Sour Ale / Wild Ale
Sour ale is a broad spectrum of wild ales, from the fruity Flemish sours such as Rodenbach Red and Liefmans Goudenband, to the experimental wild ales recently gaining popularity in the United States.
Any beer made with a speciality grain, most typically rye, but also common are rice, sorghum, millet, corn, buckwheat, oats and spelt.
Spice / Herb / Vegetable
Any ale or lager made with herbs, spices or vegetables. The additive should be distinctive in the aroma. See beer description for flavor. Body, color, hop character and strength vary depending on the type of spice, herb or vegetable used.
Many stouts do not fit the classic “Irish” definition as exemplified by Guinness, either due to their hop or roast rates, or higher gravity (in the case of many American stouts). They are still basic stouts, however, not falling into any of the subclasses.
Strong Pale Lager / Imperial Pilsner
Most commonly found in Poland, but also in other European countries as well, especially the East. These are essentially stronger versions of pilsners, though the increased malt and alcohol will noticeably reduce the hop accent. Because these are usually all-malt, and comfortably hopped, they are easily distinguishable from malt liquors. Without the malt character of bocks, these are worthy of a style all their own. In the US, a similar idea has been derived and is usually called Imperial Pilsner.
Dark brown to black in color. Sweet stouts come in two main varieties – milk stout and oatmeal stout. Milk stouts are made with the addition of lactose, and are sweet, low-alcohol brews. Oatmeal lends a smooth fullness of body to stouts. All of the sweet stouts are noted for their restrained roastiness in comparison with other stouts, and low hop levels.
A catch-all category that we use to classify all of those ancient or resurrected styles of antiquity that are appearing more and more in brewing today. From sahti to heather ale to sorghum beer to gruit, and beers like Adam and Midas Touch, these ales will vary tremendously in character from one another. Many are unhopped, strength can vary, but all are a glimpse into brewing’s past.
No description for Trappist.
Given this name because the style was developed around Vienna, Austria. A light to medium body, with a malty aroma. Beers produced and labeled as Marzen or Oktoberfest are likely to be of the Vienna Lager style.
Strong, dark wheat beers. Weizenbocks typically have a high ester profile, with more malt and alcohol than is typically associated with a wheat beer.
Golden to light amber in color, the body is light to medium. The wheat lends a crispness to the brew, often with some acidity. Some hop flavor maybe be present, but bitterness is low. Not as estery as German or Belgian-style wheats.
Zwickel / Keller / Landbier
Three related, minor, lager styles most common in Franconia. Essentially, these are hoppier versions of a helles, served with natural carbonation and unfiltered – they are the lager world’s answer to real ale. Kellerbier will on average be hoppier than zwickelbier. There is also Landbier, which is more malt-accented, may be filtered, but is similarly lacking in carbonation. Gravity is standard, hop rates ranging from 22-40 IBUs, the color from pale to reddish-amber and the palate should be balanced with a hop accent. Zoigl is also included in this category.