Beer Styles

Beer styles

Ales; Top fermented

Blonde Ales – Pale Ales -India Pale Ales – Amber Ales – Brown Ales – Porter – Stout –

Barley Wine – Belgian Trippel –  Belgian Dubbel –  Altbier –  Bitter –  Kölsch – Wheat beer.

 Lagers; Bottom fermented

American Adjunct Lager – Light Lager – American Amber/Red – American Pale lager – American Double / Imperial Pilsner – Bock – Dunkel – Helles – Oktoberfest bier / Märzen – Pilsner – Schwarz bier – Vienna lager – Steam beers.

 Most of the descriptions here are from magazine articles or the web with some of my own put in to it! For a simpler but intense brake down of many more go here.


Blonde Ales – 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. (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

 Pale Ales – 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. (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

 India Pale Ales – First brewed in England and exported for the British troops in India during the late 1700s. To withstand the voyage, IPA’s were basically tweaked Pale Ales that were, in comparison, much more malty, boasted a higher alcohol content and were well-hopped, as hops are a natural preservative. Historians believe that an IPA was then watered down for the troops, while officers and the elite would savor the beer at full strength. The English IPA has a lower alcohol due to taxation over the decades. The leaner the brew the less amount of malt there is and less need for a strong hop presence which would easily put the brew out of balance. Some brewers have tried to recreate the original IPA with strengths close to 8-9% abv. (abv) range: 5.5-7.5%

 Amber Ales – 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 basic ale, to American brewers who brew faux-Oktoberfest style beers that are actually ales instead of lagers. (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

 Brown Ales – Spawned from the Mild Ale, Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate, with a fuller body. Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness.

Porter – are red-brown to black in color, medium to medium-full bodied, and characterized by a flavor profile that can vary from very subtle dark malts to fully roasted, smoky flavors. Roasted malt provide the flavoring character, the influence of hops can often be notable in the richer craft brewed examples of the style. Although Porter was the drink of the masses of the 1700s London, it is not a significant factor in the British market today, (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

 Stout – are very dark, almost black beers, and feature a heavily roasted flavor profile. This is achieved by brewing with malt that has been kilned until it resembles burnt toast. Although not always considered ales by consumers, these beers use top fermenting yeasts and as such are members of the ale family. Roasted barley provide the flavoring character. The term “Stout” was used to denote the strongest and weightiest beers in a brewer’s portfolio. (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

 Barley Wine – Despite its name, a Barley wine (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.
English varieties are quite different from the American efforts, what sets them apart is usually the American versions are insanely hopped to make for a more bitter and hop flavored brew, typically using American high alpha oil hops. English versions tend to be more rounded and balanced between malt and hops, with slightly lower alcohol content, though this is not always the case. (abv) range: 7.0-12.0%

 Trippel – 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. Are actually notoriously alcoholic, yet the best crafted ones hide this character quite evil-like and deceivingly, making them sipping beers. (abv) range: 8.0-12.0%

 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. (abv) range: 6.5-9.0%

 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.
“Sticke” is a stronger version of an Altbier, thus a bit more malty and hoppy to boot. (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%  

 Bitter – is a British term – belongs to the pale ale style and can have a great variety of strength, flavour and appearance from dark amber to a golden summer ale. It can go under 3% ABV – known as Boys Bitter – and as high as 7% with premium or strong bitters. The term pale ale or ESB (for “Extra Special Bitter”) is more commonly used in the United States. Where bitter is used it indicates a pale ale of lower alcohol content brewed in a less hop-focused style than typical American pale ales. American bitters often use British varieties of hops. (abv) range: 3.0-5.0%

 Kölsch – 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. (abv) range: 4.0-6.0%  

 Wheat beer – there are four main styles of Weissbier: Southern German Weissbier, Berliner Weisse, Belgian Wit bier and American Wheat Beer. The Southern German Weissbier, more commonly known as Weizen or Hefeweizen. Kristal Weizen or Kristal Weissbier, which is the filtered offering of that breweries Hefeweizen and the Dunkel Weizen, is the darker version that is usually unfiltered. Belgian Witbier or White Ale is similar in many ways to unfiltered wheat beers. highly carbonated brews and when poured these magnificent beers should be cloudy (from the higher proteins contained in wheat malt) pale gold to a spectrum of amber shades, with an almost on the verge of overflowing meringue-like crown. (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%


 American Adjunct Lager – Light bodied, pale, fizzy lagers made popular by the large macro-breweries (large breweries) of America after prohibition. Low bitterness, thin malts, and moderate alcohol. Focus is less on flavor and more on mass-production and consumption, cutting flavor and sometimes costs with adjunct cereal grains, like rice and corn. (abv) range: 4.0-6.0%

 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 shows 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. (abv) range: 2.5-5.0%

 American Amber/Red lager- these lagers boast a bit more malt backbone and overall character than their lighter sister styles. Bitterness is generally low. (abv) range: 4.0-6.0% 

 American Pale lager- traditionally made and consumed in North America. It derives ultimately from the Czech Pilsner, but is characterized by a much lighter color and body and the frequent use of rice or corn as adjuncts. (abv) range: 4.0-6.0% 

 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. (abv) range: 6.5-9.0% 

 Bocks – were dark beers, brewed from high-colored malts. Modern Bocks can be dark, amber or pale in color. Bock was traditionally brewed for special occasions, often religious festivals such as Christmas, Easter or Lent. (abv) range: 5.5-7.5%  

 Dunkel – is the German word meaning dark, and typically range in colour from amber to dark reddish brown. They are characterized by their smooth malty flavor. (abv) range: 4.0-6.0%  

 Helles – When the golden and clean lagers of Plzen (Bohemia) became all the rage in the mid-1800, München brewers feared that Germans would start drinking the Czech beer vs. their own. Munich Helles Lager was their answer to meet the demand. A bit more malty, they often share the same spicy hop characters of Czech Pils, but are a bit more subdued and in balance with malts. “Helles” is German for “bright.” (abv) range: 4.0-6.0%  

 Oktoberfest bier / Märzen – 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 they’d 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. (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

 Pilsner – first brewed in Bohemia, a German-speaking province in the old Austrian Empire. Pilsner is one of the most popular styles of lager beers in Germany, and in many other countries. It’s often spelled as “Pilsener”, and often times abbreviated, or spoken in slang, as “Pils.” Classic German Pilsners are very light straw to golden in color. Head should be dense and rich. They are also well-hopped, brewed using Noble hops such has Saaz, Hallertauer, Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Tettnanger, Styrian Goldings, Spalt, Perle, and Hersbrucker. These varieties exhibit a spicy herbal or floral aroma and flavor, often times a bit coarse on the palate, and distribute a flash of citrus-like zest–hop bitterness can be high. (abv) range: 4.0-5.5% 

 Schwarz bier – German for black beer. It doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily heavy or light in body, although they tend to lean towards light. Unlike other dark beers, like porters or stouts, they are not overly bitter with burnt and roasted malt characteristics that the others tend to depend on. Instead, hops are used for a good portion of the bitterness. Very refreshing and soul lifting beers, they also make a great alternative for the Winter. Especially when you are looking for a lighter beer, but one with depth of colour and taste.

 Vienna lager – Named after the city in which it originated, a traditional Vienna lager is brewed using a three step decoction boiling process. Munich, Pilsner, Vienna toasted and dextrin malts are used, as well wheat in some cases. Subtle hops, crisp, with residual sweetness.
Although German in origin and rare these days, some classic examples come from Mexico, such as: Dos Equis and Negra Modelo. A result of late 19th century immigrant brewers from Austria. (abv) range: 3.5-6.5%

 Steam beers – were invented by German immigrants living in California and are made with a type of bottom-fermenting (lager) yeast that can ferment at warmer (ale) temperatures. The name “steam beer” is a trademark of the Anchor Brewing Company, though other brewers brew this beer under the designation “California common”. (abv) range: 4.0-6.0%

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