Beer Style Information

When brewing your own beer it’s a good to know some of the styles that are possible to create. Throughout history different countries and cultures have developed beers. Bringing their own tastes and environment to the beers creating characteristic qualities.

This is by no means a definitive list and will be added to in the future. I’m not particularly of the opinion you need to adhere to any particular style guidelines.

However if you know what’s possible from the outset you can adapt your recipes and brewing process. This opens up all sorts of possibilities by adapting existing recipes when you know the style of beer already works.

I also recommend you try as many existing examples of these styles as you can. It’s all about broadening your horizons and getting a feel for the different characteristics for each type of beer. Experience will mean you have a good idea of what you want to create in your own home brewed beers.

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Altbier

Altbier Beer Style

 

The name Altbier means “Old Beer” and is a German top fermented beer. Dusseldorf is known for brewing classic examples of this style.

The most common examples of Altbier range from bronze to deep copper and are typically fermented at ale temperatures and then conditioned at lager temperatures. This provides the beer with a rich maltiness with a clean crisp palate.

IBUs: 35-50
SRM: 13-17
OG: 1.046-1.054
FG: 1.010-1.015
ABV: 4.5-5.2

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Barleywine

English Barley Wine

Barley Wine Beer Style

The term Barley Wine refers to the strength of the beer being similar to that of a wine and of course beer being made from barley. Traditionally Barley Wine originated in England and has a rich and robust malty flavour and alcohol content over or around 10% ABV. In relation to the malt in the beer there is often very low bitterness or hop aroma and the character leans toward treacle, dark stone fruits and sherry notes.

American Barley Wine

American versions of Barley Wine are notably bitter and often have a typical US hop aroma provided of course by US ingredients. The alcohol content of the American incarnations are often higher than the British counterparts.

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Belgian and French Ales

Biere De Garde

Biere De Garde is a style of beer that originated in Northern France, the name translates to “Beer for Keeping” or “Beer that is lagered” and is named so because of the way it is brewed, whereby it is made in the cooler months to be stored until it was needed to quench a thirst when it got warmer. Brewing during the winter was also more beneficial than in the summer as beer brewed at warmer temperatures often resulted in unpredictable quality especially with wild yeast activity being more likely to spoil the beer.

Biere De Garde is an old style of beer that you would call a Farmhouse beer, relating to where it was brewed. It was not necessarily made by commercial breweries and remained a farmhouse industry and the industrialisation of brewing almost made the style extinct. It has luckily however become more popular in recent years.

Biere De Garde is a malt accentuated beer and can vary in colour from blonde to amber to brown, most commonly there should be light body and not too much hop bitterness and next to no hop flavour.

IBUs: 18 – 28
SRM: 6 – 19
OG: 1.060 – 1.080
FG: 1.008 – 1.016
ABV: 6 – 8.5%

Saison

Saison is another historical Farmhouse beer or one where the prime intention is to provide the farm workers in Wallonia, Belgium with a quenching ale at the end of the day. Saison was originally a seasonal beer brewed in the cooler months for storage until the warmer months.

Saisons are most often a bronze colour but can range from straw to deep amber, some darker versions are rarer. A typical ABV is in the range of 6.5% but also as low as 5% and up to 9.5%. Often fruitiness and spiciness dominate and Saison is a great example of a beer that uses spices without throwing balance out of the window. Hop bitterness can be moderate to high and hop aroma is usually low to moderate. Yeast is important in brewing a Saison and the beer strain attenuates highly giving a dry finish.

IBUs: 20 – 35
SRM: 5 – 14
OG: 1.048 – 1.065
FG: 1.002 – 1.012
ABV: 5 – 7%

Witbier

The term Witbier simply mean “White Beer” and the appearance has a certain degree of milky whiteness to it. Most examples are typically somewhere between very pale straw to gold with an opaque cloudiness that gives it a white appearance. Witbier is a 400 year old style of beer descending from gruit ales which use a blend of herbs or spices instead of hops. Today hops are present and still some of the herbs and spices remain.

Witbier is a style that shows the use of spices or herbs in a beer doesn’t have to overpower the malt and hops. Spices like coriander and Orange peel are common as well as cinnamon, grains of paradise and cumin. Hop bitterness is low and aroma may be spicy or earthy and typically noble hop varieties. 50% unmalted wheat is used in most typical examples with pale malt making up the rest, this provides a smooth, silky mouthfeel.

IBUs: 10 – 20
SRM: 2 – 4
OG: 1.044 – 1.052
FG: 1.008 – 1.012
ABV: 4.5 – 5.5%

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Berliner Weisse

Berliner Weisse Beer Style

As you could probably guess Berliner Weisse is a beer most closely associated with the northern part of Germany and Berlin in particular.

It is best described as a sour or tart, low alcohol wheat beer. Historically it was one of the most popular styles of beer brewed in Berlin but that is no longer the case with true Berliner Weisse (the name is protected by law meaning only those made in Berlin are true Berliner Weisse) a lot harder to come by.

The appearance is most usually very pale to light straw coloured, and the predominant character is the tart acidicness that is produced by adding Lactobacillus to the fermentation. The alcohol content is usually around 3% ABV.

The grain bill should have around 50% or more wheat along with Pilsner malt and hop bitterness and aroma are usually very low.

IBUs: 3 – 8
SRM: 2 – 3
OG: 1.028 – 1.032
FG: 1.003 – 1.006
ABV: 2.8 – 3.8%

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English Bitter

Bitter is the term given to British ales and is more of a catch all than a defined style and is one of the reasons I don’t like styles. It is the most popular of all ales sold in Britain today. The most notable characteristics are the colour is between straw and amber, too dark and you are going to brown ale territory. Bitters are lightly to moderately hop accentuated and most often are English hop varieties although that is beginning to change.

British bitters can vary widely and so the category has been broken up into subcategories, the ones listed below are most commonly what you will find

Best Bitter

Most examples of best bitters range between gold to deep copper in appearance, malt is on the palate and fruity esters are typical for the style. Most grain bills include a Pale malt such as Maris Otter and crystal malt of some sort to round the beer out. Hop bitterness is usually high and aroma is moderate and typically English varieties of hops such as East Kent Goldings and Fuggles. Most examples are cask conditioned and served with low carbonation and very fresh often only a few weeks old.

IBUs: 25 – 40
SRM: 5 -16
OG: 1.040 – 1.048
FG: 1.008 – 1.012
ABV: 3.8 – 4.6%

Extra Special Bitter

ESB Beer Style

 

The Extra Special Bitter or ESB as it is commonly known is a bigger, maltier, hoppier version of the best bitter and is not as common as it typically was in the UK. Fullers ESB is synonymous with the style and displays the typical characteristics of the style.

Fruity notes from the extra malt and yeast esters are apparent and a good balance is still required between malt and hops, floral, earthy English varieties of hops are the norm and strength ranges up to around 6.5% ABV

IBUs: 30 – 50
SRM: 6 – 18
OG: 1.048 – 1.060
FG: 1.010 – 1.016
ABV: 4.6 – 6.2%

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Blonde Ale

Kolsch

Kolsch is a style of beer brewed in Cologne and is a local speciality beer that is protected by the Kolsch Konvention an association of brewers in the Cologne region.

As for the beer itself, it is easiest to describe it as a beer very similar (not the same) in taste and appearance to a traditional Pilsner except it differs in the fact it is dosed with top fermenting yeast making it an ale. It’s use of traditional German hops and pilsner malt leave it clean and refreshing but not massively full of flavour.

Kolsch is a very pale gold ale with delicate flavour, the merest hint of fruitiness and a clean refreshing palate, hop bitterness is moderate and aroma is low.

IBUs: 20 – 30
SRM: 3.5 – 5
OG: 1.044 – 1.050
FG: 1.007 – 1.011
ABV: 4.4 – 5.2%

Cream Ale

The beer designated “Cream Ale” came about when brewers in Northwest America brewed a lager style beer with ale yeast wanting to compete with the popular US lagers, the result is a style of beer of its own.

The best way to describe Cream Ale is as a thirst quencher,a popular term in the US is a lawnmower beer. Usual examples are Pale gold to straw coloured, low to moderately bitter and next to no hop aroma and often a corn like quality. The ideal quality of a Cream Ale is to quench a thirst on a warm day or as a session beer

IBUs: 15 – 2 0
SRM: 2.5 – 5
OG: 1.042 – 1.055
FG: 1.006 – 1.012
ABV: 4.2 – 5.6%

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Brown Ale

Brown Ale Beer Style

English Brown Ale

At certain points in time the Brown ale was a very popular beer in Britain, it is of course named for it’s colour and another characteristic is they are fairly sweet. The English Brown ale has largely fallen from grace with the trend being toward pale beers or more bitter amber coloured bitters.

Brown ales are named for their colour but can range up to very dark mahogany coloured beers, the aroma is malty sweet and the hop bitterness is very low as well as next to no hop aroma. The flavour is toffee and malt sweetness that gives the beer a full body, alcohol content is at the lower end. Manns Brown Ale is a good example.

IBUs: 12 – 20
SRM: 19 – 35
OG: 1.033 – 1.042
FG: 1.011 – 1.014
ABV: 2.8 – 4.1%

American Brown Ale

The American Brown ale originates from brewers attempts to recreate traditional English Brown Ales with an American style of bold flavours and hoppiness. The US brown ale is dryer and more hop forward than the traditional English Brown Ale and also has a high gravity than the English style.

The US Brown ale is malty and has the same caramel quality as the English incarnation but with a more noticeable hop presence and less of the sweetness. Colour is light to dark brown.

IBUs: 20 – 40
SRM: 18 – 35
OG: 1.045 – 1.060
FG: 1.010 – 1.016
ABV: 4.3 – 6.2%

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Helles

Helles Beer Style

Helles is a style of beer that comes from Germany and the word Helles loosely translates as “light”. This name relates to the colour of the beer rather than the body or calories in it. Helles (pronounced “Hell-us”) is a basic everyday German lager. Helles came about from a fear among German brewers in Munich that the increasingly popular Pilsner beer brewed in Bohemia would gain more headway in Germany.

The Helles style is most commonly between 4.7% and 5.4% alcohol by volume and is of course a pale golden or straw coloured lager. The hop bitterness is very low in particular because of the high carbonate water in Munich creating harsh bitterness with the hops. This makes helles a subtle malty lager in comparison to a beer like Pilsner. Hop aroma is often moderate and is almost always a German noble hop variety.

IBUs: 16 – 22
SRM: 3 – 5
OG: 1.045 – 1.051
FG: 1.005 – 1.012
ABV: 4.7 – 5.4%

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India Pale Ale

IPA or India Pale Ale has it’s origins in the UK as a style of beer that was able to withstand the conditions it was subjected to on board a ship to India. The early India Pale Ales were highly hopped pale ales that were brewed at the time. The extra bittering units from using more hops gave the beer qualities making it less prone to spoil.

IPA has evolved to incorporate a variety of styles, typically they are English IPA’s, American IPA’s and Double IPA’s

English IPA

There are many beers brewed commercially in the UK that have the term IPA on the product that are in fact not much more than ordinary bitters. The are a growing number of brewers making IPA that more accurately reflect the original beer.

The primary goal of an IPA is higher bitterness, higher ABV and more maltiness than an ordinary pale ale, Meantime Brewings India Pale Ale is a good example of an authentic English IPA using English hops and malt. Many IPA’s brewed in the UK make use of more citrus or aromatic American hops and this is where the line blurs between UK and US versions of the IPA.

Overall the English IPA should have pronounced bitterness and aroma with dry hopping playing a part with UK hop varieties, a colour somewhere between light amber and copper and a medium to dry mouthfeel and generally slightly more subtle than the american counterpart.

IBUs: 40 – 60
SRM: 8 – 14
OG: 1.050 – 1.075
FG: 1.010 – 1.018
ABV: 5 – 7.5%

American IPA

The American IPA is clearly the same as the English version predominantly using US ingredients. In many ways it is truer to the historical original than many English IPA’s but more free range has taken hold with bolder flavours and bigger grain bills bumping up the alcohol content.

The key qualities of the American IPA are an intense hop aroma and bitterness, again dry hopping is almost always the par for this style. Big citrus hops are the most frequently used varieties and lots of them. The hops are the main drive here maltiness is subtle as are fruit notes from esters. Colour is somewhere between golden and reddish copper.

IBUs: 40 – 70
SRM: 6 – 15
OG: 1.056 – 1.075
FG: 1.010 – 1.018
ABV: 5.5 – 7.5%

Double IPA / Imperial IPA

The double or imperial IPA is a result of US craft brewers pushing the boundaries of the IPA style and going bigger and bolder. The Double IPA is a higher alcohol by volume and more intensely hopped version of the US IPA. Reaching 10% ABV or more the bittering units needed to balance the malt are higher however with more grain the style shouldn’t be overly malty all the flavour should be from aroma hops and dry hopping.

IBUs: 60 – 120
SRM: 8 – 15
OG: 1.070 – 1.090
FG: 1.010 – 1.020
ABV: 7.5 – 10%

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