American Amber / Red Ale
Primarily a catch all for any beer less than a Dark Ale in color, ranging from amber (duh) to deep red hues. This style of beer tends to focus on the malts, but hop character can range from low to high. Expect a balanced beer, with toasted malt characters and a light fruitiness in most examples. The range can run from a basic ale, to American brewers who brew faux-Oktoberfest style beers that are actually ales instead of lagers.
American Barley Wine
Despite its name, a Barleywine (or Barley Wine) is very much a beer, albeit a very strong and often intense beer! In fact, it's one of the strongest of the beer styles. Lively and fruity, sometimes sweet, sometimes bittersweet, but always alcoholic. A brew of this strength and complexity can be a challenge to the palate. Expect anything from an amber to dark brown colored beer, with aromas ranging from intense fruits to intense hops. Body is typically thick, alcohol will definitely be perceived, and flavors can range from dominant fruits to palate smacking, resiny hops.
American Black Ale
Also referred to as a Black IPA (India Pale Ale) or Cascadian Dark Ale, ales of this style range from dark brown to pitch black and showcase malty and light to moderate roasty notes and are often quite hoppy generally with the use of American hops. Alcohol can range from average to high depending on if the brewery is going for a "dobule / imperial" version.
American Blonde Ale
More or less a creation from the craft-brewery movement, and also reminiscent of the German style Kölsch. Pale straw to deep gold for color. Usually an all malt brew, well attenuated with a lightly malty palate. Most have a subdued fruitiness. Hop character is of the noble variety, or similar, leaving a light to medium bitterness. A balanced beer, light bodied and sometimes lager like.
American Brown Ale
Spawned from the English Brown Ale, the American version can simply use American ingredients. Many other versions may have additions of coffee or nuts. This style also encompasses "Dark Ales". The bitterness and hop flavor has a wide range and the alcohol is not limited to the average either
American Dark Wheat Ale
An Americanized version of a Dunkel Weizen, these beers can range within the brown to garnet range. Often cloudy with long-lasting heads. Light to medium body with high level of carbonation. Hop characters will be low to high with some fruitiness from ale fermentation, though most examples use of a fairly neutral ale yeast, resulting in a clean fermentation with little to no diacetyl. Flavors of caramel and toasted malts might be present.
German Weizen flavors and aromas of banana esters and clove-like phenols will not be found.
American Double / Imperial IPA
Take an India Pale Ale and feed it steroids, ergo the term Double IPA. Although open to the same interpretation as its sister styles, you should expect something robust, malty, alcoholic and with a hop profile that might rip your tongue out. The Imperial usage comes from Russian Imperial stout, a style of strong stout originally brewed in England for the Russian Imperial Court of the late 1700s; though Double IPA is often the preferred name.
American Double / Imperial Stout
The American Double Stout gets some of it inspiration from the Russian Imperial Stout. Many of these are barrel aged, mostly in bourbon / whiskey barrels, while some are infused with coffee or chocolate. Alcohol ranges vary, but tend to be quite big, and bigger than traditional Russian Imperial Stouts. Most tend to have cleaner alcohol flavors, higher hop levels, and more residual sweetness. Very full-bodied with rich roasted flavors far surpassing normal stouts.
The American IPA is a different soul from the reincarnated IPA style. More flavorful than the withering English IPA, color can range from very pale golden to reddish amber. Hops are typically American with a big herbal and / or citric character, bitterness is high as well. Moderate to medium bodied with a balancing malt backbone.
American Pale Ale (APA)
Of British origin, this style is now popular worldwide and the use of local ingredients, or imported, produces variances in character from region to region. Generally, expect a good balance of malt and hops. Fruity esters and diacetyl can vary from none to moderate, and bitterness can range from lightly floral to pungent.
American versions tend to be cleaner and hoppier, while British tend to be more malty, buttery, aromatic and balanced.
American Pale Wheat Ale
An Americanized version of a Hefe Weizen, these beers range within the pale to golden range in color. Reminiscent of a Hefe Weizen in appearance, unless filtered. Long-lasting head with a light to medium body, higher carbonation is proper. German Weizen flavors and aromas of banana esters and clove-like phenols will not be found. Most use a substantial percentage of wheat malt. Hop character will be low to high but most are moderate in bitterness. There may be some fruitiness from ale fermentation though most examples use of a fairly neutral ale yeast, resulting in a clean fermentation with little to no diacetyl.
Often served with a lemon wedge (popularized by Americans), to either cut the wheat or yeast edge, which many either find to be a flavorful snap ... or an insult and something that damages the beer's taste and head retention.
Inspired from the now wavering English Porter, the American Porter is the ingenuous creation from that. Thankfully with lots of innovation and originality American brewers have taken this style to a new level. Whether it is highly hopping the brew, using smoked malts, or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the burnt flavor associated with this style. Some are even barrel aged in Bourbon or whiskey barrels. The hop bitterness range is quite wide but most are balanced. Many are just easy drinking session porters as well.
Inspired from English & Irish Stouts, the American Stout is the ingenuous creation from that. Thankfully with lots of innovation and originality American brewers have taken this style to a new level. Whether it is highly hopping the brew or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the roasted flavors associated with this style. Some are even barrel aged in Bourbon or whiskey barrels. The hop bitterness range is quite wide but most are balanced. Many are just easy drinking session stouts as well.
American Strong Ale
Catch all style category for beers from 7.0 percent alcohol by volume and above. Some may even be as high as 25% abv. Characteristics will greatly vary; some have similarities to Barley-wines and Old Ales. Barrel aging is certainly not out of the question.
American Wild Ale
Sometimes Belgian influenced, American Wild Ales are beers that are introduced to "wild" yeast or bacteria, such as: Brettanomyces (Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus or Brettanomyces Anomolus), Pediococcus or Lactobacillus. This introduction may occur from oak barrels that have been previously inoculated, pitched into the beer, or gained from various "sour mash" techniques. Regardless of which and how, these little creatures often leave a funky calling card that can be quite strange, interesting, pleasing to many, but also often deemed as undesirable by many.
Black & Tan
This applies to pre-blended packaged beers, where a brewery will blend a dark ale with a light ale or lager. It's by no means a traditional style of beer, but rather brewers capitalizing on the concept practiced at bars where the beers are physically layered.
Typically basic light colored ales, but sometimes lagers, brewers will add various hot pepper juice, oils, or actual peppers to the beer - jalapeño chiles being the most common pepper used. Hotness can range from a subtle spiciness to palate scorching.
Cream Ales, spawned from the American light lager style, are brewed as an ale though are sometimes finished with a lager yeast or lager beer mixed in. Adjuncts such as corn or rice are used to lighten the body. It is no uncommon for smaller craft brewers to brew all malt Cream Ales. Pale straw to pale gold color. Low hop bittering and some hop aroma though some micros have given the style more of a hop character. Well carbonated and well attenuated.
Often released as a fall seasonal, Pumpkin Ales are quite varied. Some brewers opt to add hand-cut pumpkins and drop them in the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavoring. These beers also tend to be spiced with pumpkin pie spices, like: ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Pumpkin Ales are typically mild, with little to no bitterness, a malty backbone, with some spice often taking the lead. Many will contain a starchy, slightly thick-ish, mouthfeel too. In our opinion, best versions use real pumpkin, while roasting the pumpkin can also add tremendous depth of character for even better results, though both methods are time-consuming and tend to drive brewmasters insane.
Not to be confused with a German Roggenbier, beers that fall into this category contain a notable amount of rye grain in the grist bill. Bitterness tends to be moderate, to allow the often spicy and sour-like rye characteristics to pull through.
A somewhat recent and over-looked American strong ale, the Wheatwine (or Wheat Wine) is akin to a Barleywine in strength, but contains a large portion of wheat malt; upwards of 50%. The wheat provides a soft and fluffy mouthfeel. Color and bitterness varies.
Belgian Dark Ale
Belgian Darks offer a massive range of characters. Colors play within the amber to light brown to deep garnet hues, with thick, rocky heads of great retention. Aromas can be anywhere from traces of yeast, spiced, malty, floral and even slightly intoxicating. Flavors from dry and spiced, to sweet and malty. Most have a low level of bitterness.
Inspired by the American India Pale Ale (IPA) and Double IPA, more and more Belgian brewers are brewing hoppy pale colored ales for the US market (like Chouffe & Urthel), and there's been an increase of Belgian IPAs being brewed by American brewers. Generally, Belgian IPAs are considered too hoppy by Belgian beer drinkers.
Various malts are used, but the beers of the style are finished with Belgian yeast strains (bottle-conditioned) and the hops employed tend to be American. You'll generally find a cleaner bitterness vs. American styles, and a pronounced dry edge (very Belgian), often akin to an IPA crossed with a Belgian Tripel. Alcohol by volume is on the high side. Many examples are quite cloudy, and feature tight lacing, excellent retention, and fantastic billowy heads that mesmerize (thanks, in part, to the hops).
Belgian Pale Ale
Belgian Pales consume the Belgian brewing scene, and were initially brewed to compete with Pilseners during the WWII time frame. They differ from other regional Pale Ale varieties, by traditionally being less bitter, using aged hops for a delicate hop finish, and boasting sweetish to toasty malt overtones. They should be decanted properly, leaving the yeast in the bottle. This will showcase their brilliant color range from pale straw yellow to amber hues. Most will be crowned with thick, clinging, rocky white heads. Flavors and aromas will vary. Some have natural spice characters from yeast and hops, while others are spiced.
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
On the same path as the Belgian Dark Ale but obviously higher in alcohol with more of an all around character. The alcohol character can be deceivingly hidden or can be very bold and in your face. Look for lots of complexity within a delicate palate. Hop and malt character can vary, most are fruity and may have mild dark malt flavors. Phenols will range from minimal to high and most will be light on the hops. All in all most are spicy and alcoholic.
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Like a Belgian Pale Ale, the strong versions will also be pale to golden in color. What sets them apart is a much higher alcohol content that can range from hidden to spicy to devastatingly present. Expect a complex and powerful ale, yet delicate with rounded flavors and big, billowy, rocky, white head. Hop and malt character can vary, most are fruity and quite hoppy, but hop flavor and aroma will generally be within the low range and artfully balanced.
Duvel is the quintessential example of this style, and many others have tried to imitate it with similar references to the devil.
Biere de Garde
The Biere de Garde is golden to deep copper or light brown in color. They are moderate to medium in body. This style of beer is characterized by a toasted malt aroma, slight malt sweetness in flavor, and medium hop bitterness. Noble-type hop aromas and flavors should be low to medium. Fruity esters can be light to medium in intensity. Flavor of alcohol is evident. Earthy, cellar-like, musty aromas and flavors are okay. Diacetyl should not be perceived but chill haze is okay. Often bottle conditioned with some yeast character.
The Belgian Dubbel is a rich malty beer with some spicy / phenolic and mild alcoholic characteristics. Not as much fruitiness as the Belgian Strong Dark Ale but some dark fruit aromas and flavors may be present. Mild hop bitterness with no lingering hop flavors. It may show traits of a steely caramel flavor from the use of crystal malt or dark candy sugar. Look for a medium to full body with an expressive carbonation.
Traditionally a Trappist Ale, many brew similar "Abbey Dubbels" to try and emulate the originals (Trappist Westvleteren 8, Westmalle Trappist Dubbel & Chimay Première).
Inspired by the Trappist brewers of Belgium, a Quadrupel is a Belgian style ale of great strength with bolder flavor compared to its Dubbel and Tripel sister styles. Typically a dark creation that ranges within the deep red, brown and garnet hues. Full bodied with a rich malty palate. Phenols are usually at a moderate level. Sweet with a low bitterness yet a well perceived alcohol.
Saison / Farmhouse Ale
Saisons are sturdy farmhouse ale that was traditionally brewed in the winter, to be consumed throughout the summer months. Not so long ago it was close to being an endangered style, but over recent years there's been a massive revival; especially in the US.
This is a very complex style; many are very fruity in the aroma and flavor. Look for earthy yeast tones, mild to moderate tartness. Lots of spice and with a medium bitterness. They tend to be semi-dry with many only having touch of sweetness.
The name "Tripel" actually stems from part of the brewing process, in which brewers use up to three times the amount of malt than a standard Trappist "Simple." Traditionally, Tripels are bright yellow to gold in color, which is a shade or two darker than the average Pilsener. Head should be big, dense and creamy. Aroma and flavor runs along complex, spicy phenolic, powdery yeast, fruity/estery with a sweet finish. Sweetness comes from both the pale malts and the higher alcohol. Bitterness is up there for a beer with such a light body for its strength, but at times is barely perceived amongst the even balance of malts and hops. The lighter body comes from the use of Belgian candy sugar (up to 25% sucrose), which not only lightens the body, but also adds complex alcoholic aromas and flavors. Small amounts of spices are sometimes added as well.
A Belgian Style ale that's very pale and cloudy in appearance due to it being unfiltered and the high level of wheat, and sometimes oats, that's used in the mash. Always spiced, generally with coriander, orange peel and other oddball spices or herbs in the back ground. The crispness and slight twang comes from the wheat and the lively level of carbonation. This is one style that many brewers in the US have taken a liking to and have done a very good job of staying to style. Sometimes served with a lemon, but if you truly want to enjoy the untainted subtleties of this style you'll ask for yours without one. Often referred to as "white beers" (witbieren) due to the cloudiness / yeast in suspension.
English Pale Ale
The English Pale Ale can be traced back to the city of Burton-upon-Trent, a city with an abundance of rich hard water. This hard water helps with the clarity as well as enhancing the hop bitterness. This ale can be from golden to reddish amber in color with generally a good head retention. A mix of fruity, hoppy, earthy, buttery and malty aromas and flavors can be found. Typically all ingredients are English.
Porter is said to have been popular with transportation workers of Central London, hence the name. Most traditional British brewing documentation from the 1700s state that Porter was a blend of three different styles: an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown or pale ale) and a weak one (mild ale), with various combinations of blending and staleness. The end result was also commonly known as "Entire Butt" or "Three Threads" and had a pleasing taste of neither new nor old. It was the first truly engineered beer, catering to the public's taste, playing a critical role in quenching the thirst of the UKs Industrial Revolution and lending an arm in building the mega-breweries of today.
Milk / Sweet Stout
Milk / Sweet Stouts are basically stouts that have a larger amount of residual dextrins and unfermented sugars that give the brew more body and a sweetness that counters the roasted character. Milk Stouts are very similar to Sweet Stouts, but brewers add unfermentable sugars, usually lactose, to the brew kettle to add body and some sweetness.
These are generally medium to full bodied stouts that have an unreal smoothness to them from the addition of oats to the mash. The oats not only add a lot of smoothness to the mouth feel but give a touch of sweetness that is unlike any other type of stout. Both levels of roasted flavor and hop character will vary.
Old Ales, also referred to in the past as "Stock" Ales, are low attenuated beers with high levels of dextrins, creating a full malt body with plenty of character. Old Ales of a hundred plus years ago were often transfered into vats to mature, hence the name.
Rich dark amber in color to a very dark brown; near black. Tamed aromatics. Although bittering levels can greatly vary, expect common fruity, vinous, intense malts and sharp alcohol characteristics. The often racy but mellow attitude of the beer may also include acidic notes, raisins and black currants. Vintage varieties may have a low level of oxidation. Stronger versions may have similarities to a port wine. Brewers may also inoculate a portion of the batch with Brettanomyces lambicus and age for an extended period of time to achieve an old-school acidic character.
Russian Imperial Stout
Inspired by brewers back in the 1800's to win over the Russian Czar, this is the king of stouts, boasting high alcohol by volumes and plenty of malt character. Low to moderate levels of carbonation with huge roasted, chocolate and burnt malt flavours. Often dry. Suggestions of dark fruit and flavors of higher alcohols are quite evident. Hop character can vary from none, to balanced to aggressive.
These malty sweet offerings tend to be a favorite winter seasonal. Big malt presence, both in flavor and body. The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black. Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balanced, but hop character can be pronounced. Alcohol warmth is not uncommon.
Many English versions contain no spices, though some brewers of spiced winter seasonal ales will slap "Winter Warmer" on the label. Those that are spiced, tend to follow the "wassail" tradition of blending robust ales with mixed spices, before hops became the chief "spice" in beer. American varieties many have a larger presences of hops both in bitterness and flavor.
A Düsseldorf specialty, an Altbier is a German style brown ale, the alt literally translates to "old" in German, and traditionally Altbiers are conditioned for a longer than normal periods of time. Other sources note that "alt" is derived from the Latin word "altus," which means "high" and refers to the rising yeast. Take your pick, but the extended conditioning mellows out the ale's fruitiness and produces an exceptionally smooth and delicate brew. The color ranges from amber to dark brown, medium in carbonation with a great balance between malt and hops.
Similar to a Hefeweizen, these southern Germany wheat beers are brewed as darker versions (Dunkel means "dark") with deliciously complex malts and a low balancing bitterness. Most are brown and murky (from the yeast). The usual clove and fruity (banana) characters will be present, some may even taste like banana bread.
A south German style of wheat beer (weissbier) made with a typical ratio of 50:50, or even higher, wheat. A yeast that produces a unique phenolic flavors of banana and cloves with an often dry and tart edge, some spiciness, bubblegum or notes of apples. Little hop bitterness, and a moderate level of alcohol. The "Hefe" prefix means "with yeast", hence the beers unfiltered and cloudy appearance. Poured into a traditional Weizen glass, the Hefeweizen can be one sexy looking beer.
Often served with a lemon wedge (popularized by Americans), to either cut the wheat or yeast edge, which many either find to be a flavorful snap ... or an insult and something that damages the beer's taste and head retention.
First only brewed in Köln, Germany, now many American brewpubs and a hand full of breweries have created their own version of this obscure style. Light to medium in body with a very pale color, hop bitterness is medium to slightly assertive. A somewhat vinous (grape-y from malts) and dry flavor make up the rest.
A more powerful Dunkel Weizen (of "bock strength"), with a pronounced estery alcohol character, perhaps some spiciness from this, and bolder and more complex malt characters of dark fruits.
Irish Red Ale
A bit sweet, with a lightly hopped tea-like flavor, and an even dextrinous body, Irish Red Ales are easy to please. Look for well-rounded and blanced flavors, and a pleasant toasted malt character in many examples. A drying finish is common.
Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy
Scotch Ales are strong ales, also known as "Wee Heavy." In the 19th century Scotland, they'd also be known as 160/-, a nomenclature based on the now obsolete shilling currency.
Scotch Ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort. This produces a deep copper to brown in colored brew. Compared to Scottish Ales, they'll be sweeter and fuller-bodied, and of course higher in alcohol, with a much more pronounced malty caramel and roasted malt flavor. A low tea-like bitterness can be found in many examples. Best served in a "thistle" glass.
The Scottish style of ales break down into Light, Heavy and Export. In the 19th century Scotland, a nomenclature, based on the now obsolete shilling currency, was devised in order to distinguish each. 60/- (light), 70/- (heavy), 80/- (export), 90/- to 160/- for Scotch Ales.
Scottish Ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort. This produces a deep copper to brown in colored brew and a higher level of unfermentable sugars which create a rich mouthfeel and malty flavors and aromas. Overall hop character is low, light floral or herbal, allowing its signature malt profile to be the highlight. Smoky characters are also common.
American Amber / Red Lager
A sort of catch-all category, these lagers boast a bit more malt backbone and overall character than their lighter sister styles. Bitterness is generally low.
American Double / Imperial Pilsner
Similar to a Pilsner in appearance, but expect a more pronounced malty backbone and an intense bitterness. Malt flavors tend to be quite sweet in many examples. Alcohol can be quite aggressive and lend some spicy notes to the flavor.
The Light Lager is generally a lighter version of a breweries premium lager, some are lower in alcohol but all are lower in calories and carbohydrates compared to other beers. Typically a high amount of cereal adjuncts like rice or corn are used to help lighten the beer as much as possible. Very low in malt flavor with a light and dry body. The hop character is low and should only balance with no signs of flavor or aroma. European versions are about half the alcohol (2.5-3.5% abv) as their regular beer yet show more flavor (some use 100% malt) then the American counterparts. For the most part this style has the least amount of flavor than any other style of beer.
The origins of Bock beer are quite uncharted. Back in medieval days German monasteries would brew a strong beer for sustenance during their Lenten fasts. Some believe the name Bock came from the shortening of Einbeck thus "beck" to "bock." Others believe it is more of a pagan or old world influence that the beer was only to be brewed during the sign of the Capricorn goat, hence the goat being associated with Bock beers. Basically, this beer was a symbol of better times to come and moving away from winter.
As for the beer itself in modern day, it is a bottom fermenting lager that generally takes extra months of lagering (cold storage) to smooth out such a strong brew. Bock beer in general is stronger than your typical lager, more of a robust malt character with a dark amber to brown hue. Hop bitterness can be assertive enough to balance though must not get in the way of the malt flavor, most are only lightly hopped.
Bocks--you know, those beers with goats on the label--are relatively strong German lagers. Doppelbocks--as the name might suggest--are typically even stronger and contain enough malty goodness that theyve been considered a meal in a glass for centuries. Generally they have a very full-bodied flavor and are darker than their little Bock brothers and sisters and a higher level of alcohol too. They range in color from dark amber to nearly black, and dark versions often have slight chocolate or roasted characters.
Maibock / Helles Bock
The Maibock style of beer tends to be lighter in color than other Bock beers and often has a significant hop character with a noticeable alcohol around the same as a traditional Bock. Maibocks are customarily served in the spring and are oftentimes interrelated with spring festivals and celebrations more often in the month of May.
Marzen / Oktoberfest
Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so theyd keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content.
The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies'n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains roughly 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style.