DEFINING BEER : STYLES AND SUBSTANCE
beers of antiquity, come in a wide range of flavours and styles.
with fruity and caramel aromas, complex malt flavors, and as much alcohol as
One of the
few beer styles that are noticeably stronger than other beers. Often served
in a wine or brandy snifter (after all, it is often called the beer version
of cognac, it ages well. Usually produced in limited quantities for winter’s
considered a specialty brew group or separate styles, or even a class by
unusual and never-subtle ales cover a wide spectrum of strong aromas and
flavours, including the fruity and intense Belgian ale; the complex, aptly
named Belgian strong ale; the intensely sour but refreshing Flanders brown
and red ales; the tart and fruity Lambrics; the sweet and sour faro (Lambric)
the extremely sour gueuze (blended Lambric) the dark, complex Trappist
Dubbel; Sweeter Trappist Tripel; and the last but not least, the spicy
isn’t really bitter-it’s betrayed by the name given it centuries ago when
hops were first used by English Brewers. A very common, popular beer in
British pubs. Bitters come in a range of sub styles, from subtle to robust.
and American versions. Good beginners beer for timid beer drinkers looking
to try something beyond the ordinary (not bad for old-timers either) Not too
malty, not to thin, with subdued fruity and caramel flavours. Mellow but
beers with nutty and toasty flavours and a pleasantly dry and often bitter
aftertaste. Despite their name, they’re generally golden to amber in colour.
Some U.S. brewers’ versions are labeled Amber Ale.
not imposing ale. Light malt sweetness and pleasant dark grain flavours;
makes a wonderful sipping beer. May range from medium bodied to big and
robust. Porter and its cousin, Stout is quite distinct from
close cousin, brewed in five distinct substyles. More roasty-flavoured and
coffee like than porter; one of life’s little luxuries. In the past it was
recommended for nursing mothers.
malty with a variety of buttery, nutty, and toasty flavours. These
heavyweight sippers are great for casual after-dinner or late night
imbibing. The two types of strong ale are of English
bitter old ale) and the Scottish (the maltier and subtly smoky Scottish ale)
ultimate summer quenchers. Their fruity-performy aromas, citrusy tanginess,
and spritzy effervescence make these ales especially easy to enjoy when the
weather is hot. Brewed in six substyles.
Lager is taken from the German word meaning “ to store”.
Most of the mass-produced beers of the world are lagers, but the wider range
of styles exists than those commercial brands lead you to believe.
AMERICAN PALE ALES
these beers differ greatly from brand to brand in the mind of the unknowing
advertising campaigns, they are for the most part identical in taste and
strength (about 4 to 5% alcohol by volume). All the light, standard,
and premium brands were originally based on the classic Pilsner
style, but they are now much different from that style. They are
light-coloured, gassy, and watery, with a delicate sweetness and an
adjuncty (corn or rice is the adjunct grain mixed with barley) aroma and
flavour (light versions have almost no taste or aroma). Primarily thirst
quenchers, they should be served ice cold.
AMERICAN DARK LAGERS
their pale counterparts, these lagers are timid versions of European
exemplars. They lack the fullness and rich chocolaty flavour of the German
dark lager style; more bark than bite – which is why they can easily be
man’s best friend.
Traditional bock beers are generally dark, strong, and pretty malty, but
with a chocolate-accented flavour that lasts long into the after taste. Six
very distinct substyles.
GERMAN PALE LAGERS
Mainstream examples of high quality everyday beers; mildly malty and
suitably bittered. Many regional brands are exported to the U.S. where they
are nationally known.
GERMAN DARK LAGERS
brethen of the German pale lagers, but slightly richer tasting.
like bock beers (malty and medium bodied), but without the chocolate flavour
and burnt amber colour. Easily consumed in quantity, especially at
spelt pils, pilsner, and in the Czech Republic, plzensky)
authentic beer from Czechoslovakia that many American brand name beers
aspire to be: an aromatic subtly malty, crisp, and refreshingly bittered
(hoppy) lager. A real classic, brewed since 1842 by the folks who originated
it (Pilsner Urquell was the first golden, clear beer); the most imitated
style throughout the world.
range from a friendly campfire like smokiness to an intense acrid pungency.
Definitely an acquired taste, but you haven’t lived till you’ve tasted one
with smoked ham or sausage. This beer is for sipping not inhaling!
medium-bodied cousin of Marzen beer.
beer styles don’t fit perfectly into the ale and lager categories because
brewers mix the ingredients and processes of both categories into one beer.
For example, a brewer may use an ale yeast but a lager fermentation
temperature. Where do hybrids fit into the beer family tree? Think of an
exotic, mysterious, well-traveled uncle: a bit off the chart, not to
everyone’s liking, but with a definite appeal for some of us.
ALT OR ALTBIER
ale (a rare bird, indeed). Alt means “old,” referring to the fact
that the beer is fermented the “old” way- with top-fermenting ale yeast
strains. Modern altbiers are fermented warm, like ales, but aged cold like
lagers. The typical altbier is malty with an assertive palate and a fair
amount of hop bitterness, though the hop blend, because it’s complex, tends
to differ from one brewery to the next.
The terms top-fermenting yeast and bottom-fermenting yeast are
based on where the yeast choose to feed in the unfermented beer.
(Formerly known as steam beer)
Steam predecessor, this beer features a medium body, a toasty/malty palate,
and a fairly aggressive hop presence in aroma, flavour and bitterness.
light-bodied, thoroughly American invention. As American brewers continued
to produce light-bodied ales, they tried making them with longer and colder
fermentations, as was being done with lager beer (these ales weren’t spared
the introduction of adjunct grains, either). The resulting beer is similar
to American lagers and its often noted for its obvious corny aroma and
flavour, along with a mild, perfumy-sweet grain palate. Pale and highly
kelsh. Named after the city of Koln (cologne), Germany, and indicates
that the beer was brewed in the traditional style of that city. In Germany,
only members of the Koln Brewer’s Union may call their beer a kolsh.
Noticeably pale and hazy, partly due to the addition of wheat, but mostly
the result of being unfiltered. Clean on the palate, with a slight lactic
(milky) sourness. Relatively thin-bodied and not very strong. Medium hop
bitterness has a drying effect; overall, a refreshing, summery type of beer.
Whereas ales are typically fermented at warm temperatures, cream ale, kolsh,
and altbier are brewed as ales (with top-fermenting yeast strains) but
undergo a cold fermentation or aging period. California common beer, on the
other hand, is fermented warm like an ale, but with a lager (bottom
beer category is more or less a catch-all for the beer styles that don’t
elsewhere. When it comes to specialty beers’ place on the beer family tree,
the wild artiste cousin is the model: bold, loud, experimental, often goofy,
and always controversial. Usually quite memorable. Lovable despite having
flouted convention. Specialty beers are typically regular beers brewed to a
class style (porter, stout, pale ale) but with some new flavour added;
others are made from unusual foods that are fermented. The addition of
fruits, herbs and spicies,miscellaneous flavourings (such as licorice,
smoke, and hot pepper) and odd fermentables such as honey, maple syrup, and
molasses, turn an ordinary beer into a specialty beer. In many ways,
specialty beers are the most fun to try. People who are new to drinking beer
or perhaps those who claim not to be beer fans seem especially surprised and
pleased when they try these exotic brews, especially fruit-flavoured beers,
for the first time. This fact is not lost on brewers, for whom crating new
beers with broad appeal is now a high priority. Urge them on. Brewmasters
take a great deal of pleasure and artistic liberties when creating specialty
beers. Everything but the kitchen sink can be added to the beer, and I’m not
so sure how long it will be until someone tries the sink, too. After all,
people have tried garlic beer (very, very bad idea) and even hot chili
pepper beer (it’s sort of like drinking liquid heartburn). Caveat emptor.
Some of the more subtle blends are often the most outstanding – a black
berry porter comes to mind.
Generally light – to medium-bodied lagers or ales that have been given a
fruity flavour by the way of real fruit or fruit extract. Tend to have a
sweeter finish than other beers. Cherry, raspberry, and blueberry are the
popular flavours, but a beer that tastes of apricot, peach or meroinberry
beers are also fruited, but they are in a class by themselves.
HERB AND SPICE BEERS
anything from cinnamon to tarragon; any beer style can be made with any
herbs or spices. Summer and winter seasonal brews are typical. Although
pumpkin beers have been made with real pumpkin, the big-name commercial
versions are generally just laced with the spices that are reminiscent of
pumpkin pie (cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).
Any beer style
that has been given a smoky character, though one style in particular lends
itself well to a smoky aroma and taste; porter. The flavour profile of the
underlying beer should always show through the smoke.
traditional style of spiced beer that is brewed for Christmas and the
holiday season. Wassail is often called by other names, like the holiday
beer, yule ale, winter warmer, and if it contains fruit, mulled ale.
(Wassail can be grouped with the fruit or spice beer – it’s hard to plug
neatly into a slot – but as an old standard, it merits it own listing). The
word wassail (rhymes with fossil) comes from the Old English
waeshael – “be hale or “be whole”, both of which meant “be of good
health”. This was considered the proper toast when presenting someone with a
libation. The drink of choice back then was usually mulled ale, a warmed up
strong ale laden with spices like nutmeg and ginger and sweetened with sugar
or spices of fruit, usually roasted crab apple.