Chapter 21

Beer Styles

(book excerpts)

Although beers are brewed from similar materials, beers throughout the world have distinctive styles. Their uniqueness comes from the mineral content of the water used, the types of ingredients employed, and the difference in brewing methods. In a strict sense, there are two classical beer styles, ales and lagers. However, in addition to ales and lagers, there are other classical beer styles such as wheat beers, porters, stouts, and lambics - to name a few - that merit differentiation.

Traditionally, ales are most associated with Britain, Ireland, and Scotland. British variations include mild, bitter, and pale ales; Indian Pale Ale; brown ale; old ale; and barley wines. Today, ales are produced throughout the world. The ale family also includes Belgian specialty beers, German specialty beers, and American ales. Ales tend to have a fruity aroma and palate, and often a complex flavor varying considerably among ales in bitterness, color, sweetness, and harshness.

Lagers are a whole family of beers ranging from the light delicate Pilsner beers, to the dark, aromatic Munich types identified as "dunkels" and the strong lagers known as bocks. There is a tremendous variety of German and Continental style lager beers. Lager is mostly known to people in the United States as a golden-colored beer that is heavily carbonated and served chilled to accentuate its clean, refreshing flavor. Characteristically, lagers are low in esters and VDKs and are lightly hopped, with the important exceptions of Pilsner and German export. Lager beers, like ales, are available to the beer drinker pasteurized or not, filtered or unfiltered, on draft or bottled.

With any beer style, there are no hard rules, and variations within the styles are to be expected concerning flavor, ingredients, and methods of brewing. Brewmasters each have their own interpretation of what they consider appropriate for the style.

The descriptions of classic beer styles below are not comprehensive and definitive but are regarded merely as descriptions of the styles' flavor notes and the ingredients.

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Within This Chapter: Beer Styles