Styles of beer

(according to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Wine Beer Spirits & Liqueurs, Stuart Walton and Brian Glover)

Ale

This is a general term meaning any top-fermented beer. It is one of the two main branches of the beer family, with the other being lager. Ale is the older of the two, dating back thousands of years. Ales have most commonly been brewed in England.

Brown Ale

This is a sweetish, bottled mild ale, dark in color and low in alcohol, mostly from England. The north-east  produces stronger, drier versions like the well known Newcastle Brown Ale.  Belgium has its own sweet and sour brown ales from East Flanders. The main producer is Leifmans of Oudenaarde. The sour taste is created from a slow simmering rather than a boil, and from lactic yeast being thrown into the mix. Other producers include Cnudde, also of Oudenaarde, the Roman Brewery and Vanden Stock.

Honey Beer

The celts and other ancient societies made mead from fermented honey. They also created a beer, and added honey as a soft sweetener. A honey brew called Golden Mead Ale was produced in England by Hope & Anchor Breweries of Sheffield, this brew was exported until the early 1960’s. These days a few breweries have revived the old style,  one of them is Ward’s of Sheffield with Waggle Dance and Enville Ales of Stsffordshire. Some American beer makers also use honey, as do the Belgian De Dolle Brouwers in their Boskeun beer.

Pale Ale

An English beer that is stronger than a light ale. Example: Palmers Classic Pale Ale.

IPA- India Pale Ale

This beer is strong and heavily hopped and was brewed in Britain, by companies like Allsopp and Bass. The recipe was created to stand up to the long sea voyages to distant parts of the British Empire like India.  American brewers like Bert Grant’s Yakima Brewing Company probably produce the most authentic versions, at this point.

Light Ale

This term means a bottled low gravity bitter, In England. In Scotland, however, it is thought of as the weakest brew, a beer light in strength even though it can be dark in color.

Alt

This is a bitter tasting beer that is made using top fermentation methods, which is an ancient style of brewing. The word Alt is German and means traditional or old. At around 4.5% alcohol this copper colored ale is primarily made in a few cities in Northern Germany. Some of the best known brands are Diebels, Schlosser, and Uerige.

Bitter

Typically a dry and hoppy ale with an alcohol content of 3%-5%. Versions of bitter that are stronger used to be called Best or Special. Historically reddish amber in color but some lighter varieties are popular as well. It typically has a fruity, flowery flavor and is not really bitter in taste, like one would expect. Examples are Freeminer Bitter and Marston’s Pedigree Bitter.

Irish Ale

A reddish ale that is soft and a bit sweet. It originally comes from Ireland but the style moved with the Irish as they went to other lands. Smithwick’s, which is owned by Guiness, in Kilkenny, is Irelands best known ale. George Killian Letts brewed Ruby ale until 1956, he since licensed the Pelforth Brewery to make George Killians Biere Rousse, and the Coors company to produce Killians Irish Red.

Kolsch

A top fermenting ale who’s alcohol content is 4-5%. It is a light, golden beer with a slight fruity taste. Kolsch is made in about 20 breweries near the cathedral city of Cologne, by companies such as Kuppers and fruh.

Scotch Ale

Ales brewed in Scotland are typically more malty  than English beers.  In Belgium, a bottled Scotch Ale is considered to be a strong, rich ale. In Silly, Belgium (you’ve got to love that town name) the De Dolle brewey makes a dark, Scotch ale.

Barley Wine

The English name for a strong ale that is powerful and thick. It varies in color and is often sold in smaller nip size bottles. Okells is one example of this brew.

Cream Ale

This ale from the United States is sometimes made by combining ales with bottom fermenting beers. It is a smooth, sweet, golden ale. It’s origin comes from brewers trying to copy the Pilsner style of beer.

Lager

Lager is one of the two main branches of the beer family. In Britain it refers to any golden, bottom fermented beer, but everywhere else it has little meaning and is basically used as another word for beer.

Bock

A German beer at about 6.5% alcohol which is strong and malty.  It originated in Einbeck but now people associate it more with Bavaria, however it is produced in other countries around Germany. The word actually means billy goat, in German. Doppelbocks are a very strong version and have more than 7% alcohol. Take another step up from that and you get to the Eisbocks which are about 10% alcohol. To reach this level frozen water is removed from the beer, during the brewing process. Reichelbrau is a maker of the eisbock beer.  It is said that monks who were fasting, originally drank Bocks because they were thought to be so nutritious.

Pilsner

This style originated in Plzen (1842), which is a Bohemian Czech town. In German, the name is Pilsen. Pilsner Urquell is the original and it is still brewed in the same town. It is a hoppy, golden, aromatic lager that has been imitated around the world. Germany’s pilsners are around 5% alcohol and are the most popular lager beers in the country. Other examples are Efes Pilsener, Jever Pilsener, Arcobrau Pilsener, and EB Special.

Ginger Beer

A soft drink with no alcohol or very low alcohol, which is flavored with ginger root. Ginger was used in beers long ago before hops were used, and some breweries are again using ginger in their beers.

Ice Beer

This approach became popular in the early 1990’s. While the beer is maturing, it is frozen thus purified.  The strength of the beer is increased with the ice crystals removed. Canadian brewers Labatt and Molson introduced these beers in 1993. The alcohol content reaches around 5.5%. Many US beer makers (including Budweiser and Miller) have their own version of ice beer, but it still accounts for a relatively small portion of the beer market.

Black Beer

Avery dark lager that is best known to come from Eastern Germany. It looks like a stout but shouldn’t be confused because of it’s strong taste and bitter chocolate character. The town of Kostritz as well as other towns around Bernau in Germany are producers of Black Beer. It is also made in Japan and England.

Steam Beer

Brewed by The Anchor Steam Brewery, in San Francisco. Steam beer first made in California during the gold rush days. The process consisted of  brewing at warm ale temperatures with lager yeasts, in broad, shallow pans. It is a cross between an ale and a bottom fermented beer.

Dunkel

Made mostly in Munich, Germany, these are a soft, malty brown brew. Also known as Munchner, they contain around 4.5% alcohol.  Gutstetter, Hopf, and Arcobrau are all examples of Dunkels