Chapter 21

Beer Styles

American Beer Styles


Amber Ale

American amber ales range in color from amber to coppery brown and are characterized by American-variety hops used to produce high hop bitterness, flavor, and medium to high aroma. A citrusy hop character is common, but not required. Amber ales have a moderate to strong malt flavor with a moderate caramel character. Malt and hop bitterness are usually balanced and mutually supportive. Fruity esters can be moderate to none and diacetyl, if present, is barely perceived. Similar to American pale ales, but is usually darker in color, more caramel flavor, more body, and usually balanced more evenly between malt and bitterness.

India Pale Ale

American India pale ales range in color from medium gold to medium reddish copper. The style is characterized by prominent hop bitterness and a full, flowery hop aroma, although the malt backbone will support the strong hop character and provide the best balance. India pale ales possess low to medium maltiness and body, and are generally clean and malty sweet although some caramel or toasty flavors are acceptable at low levels. Fruity-ester flavors and aromas are moderate to very strong and diacetyl, if present, is perceived at very low levels.

Pale Ale

American pale ales range in color from deep golden to deep amber and are characterized by a moderate to high hop flavor, often showing a citrusy American hop character. Hop flavor and bitterness often lingers into the finish. American pale ales have medium body and low to moderate maltiness, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuity). Caramel flavors are usually restrained or absent. Fruity esters should be moderate to strong.


American Dark Beer

American dark beers are copper to dark brown in color, light to medium in body, and have low hop aroma and flavor. They are essentially colored versions of American standard lagers with minimal, or sometimes no, roasted or chocolate-like characters contributed by the darker malts. American dark lagers are usually not as dark as their German counterparts. They are usually a bit heavier than the lightest of the American lagers. Any aroma is usually indicative of its high adjunct grain recipe, i.e., corn.

Diet Light Beer

Diet/light lager is loosely based on the Czech Pilsner style and has a caloric value lower than conventional beer. It is extremely pale, with no malt flavor or aroma and a light, watery body compared to regular beers. Hop bitterness is usually below the threshold, and no hop flavor or aroma is detected. Esters or diacetyl are not desirable, but some dimethyl sulfide flavor and aroma is acceptable. Often, low-cal beers will have just as much alcohol as their American full-calorie counterparts.

Dry Beer

Dry beer is a low-alcohol-content beer that is very pale in color. It has almost no malt flavor or aroma. This style has no lingering malt or hop bitter aftertaste. It is very highly carbonated.

Premium Beer

Premium beer is light in body, with low malt flavor and aroma. Hop bitterness is low to medium, but it is usually just above the taste threshold, with hop flavor and aroma barely detectable. Color is very pale to deep gold. Original gravities also tend to be higher than standard beers. Many Canadian, Australian, Mexican, and U.S. lagers fall into this category. Esters or diacetyl are not desirable in these beers.

Standard Beer

Standard lagers are the most common style of beer produced in Canada and the United States. They are pale to deep gold in color, run the gamut from sweet to dry, and are lightly hopped, light-bodied, and highly carbonated. This style has low malt aroma and flavor. Hop bitterness is barely noticeable, with very low flavor and aroma, though Canadian light lagers have a bit more hop character. Esters or diacetyl are not desirable in standard lagers.

California Common (Steam) Beer

This style of beer has its origin in the California Gold Rush. It is considered neither an ale nor a lager but rather a distinct style in itself. It is brewed with lager yeast but at ale fermentation temperatures. California common has the roundness and cleanness of a lager, but some of the complexity of ale. It has a clean malt character, a light fruitiness, and a noticeable to intense hop bouquet, with a residual sweetness of crystal malt. This style of beer is straw-like in color. California common beer is often referred to as "steam beer," but only in reference to beer made by Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, since it is that company’s registered trademark.

Wheat Beer

There are really no parameters for this beer style since it is so new; interpretations by brewers vary. In general, wheat beers have light grain flavors and aromas characteristic of wheat. They are light to medium in body and are usually pale straw to gold in color, although dark versions do exist. Fruitiness and esters are common in this style. American wheat beers are similar to German wheat beers, but without the spicy/phenolic character of the German beers. Hop aroma and flavor can vary, with bitterness usually ranging from low to medium.

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