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Guide to the types of craft beer

Style Guide

mug of beer


Have you ever gotten lost in the meanders of the shelves of beer shops and pubs looking at all the different craft beers that exist? And with your eyes wide open admiring the labels, like a child in front of sweets, you exclaimed "how many fucking ones exist?" Here I am to your rescue to try, at least I hope, to make a little distinction between the various craft beers.

I still remember when, entering the first beer fair I attended - as a drinker - I was dazed by all the varieties there were. To my rescue there were huge banners with a small classification of craft beers written on them, but with just enough to enter his world. Needless to say, I immediately took a photo of him, which I always carry with me on my phone... If I find it among the 2000 images on my phone (yes, I should clean it up) I'll put it here. But we'll leave the useless pleasantries aside and set off.

What are the types of craft beers?

Billboard with beer stylesBillboard with beer stylesBillboard with beer styles

Beer is a product characterized by a notable variety of types, which are called "styles". Styles are a sort of identity card. By knowing the style you can already get an idea of ​​the color, how it is produced, the alcohol content, the scents you might find inside and many other characteristics. You can already know what you are going to drink without even having put your lips on the mug.

To define which style a beer belongs to, it is necessary to analyze: the degree of bitterness (IBU), the sweetness, the alcohol volume, general organoleptic characteristics, the color (EBC) and other more or less incisive qualities.

Beer is a product within which you can find a multitude of smells and flavors thanks to the two main ingredients that compose it: Malt and Hops. Depending on the roasting of the malt, notes of chocolate, coffee, bread crust, caramel can be perceived; and the color can vary from a clear clear to a pitch black (perhaps a little exaggerated, but that's the point). Furthermore, based on which type of hops, and quantity, is used, exotic fruits, herbaceous and citrus notes can be perceived. The percentage of bitterness in a beer also depends on hops. But this is a separate discussion which, if you want, we can delve into another time.

Ale - Lager - Lambic the main types of beers

3 pints of beer

This is intended as a first guide for those who are not familiar with craft beers and want to start exploring this vast world. We group craft beers into 3 macro categories: ALE (top fermentation), LAGER (bottom fermentation) and LAMBIC (spontaneous fermentation). In turn they have subcategories and even more subcategories. However, we always keep in mind that this is a list of the main styles of craft beers, however (cit. Albus Dumbledore) there are a multitude of variations given that each master brewer calls his own creation whatever he likes (to give you a quick example you can also find IPA milkshakes… and I said it all).

Ale (Top Fermentation)

Ale beers are brewed at temperatures between 16 and 23°C. This is possible thanks to the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae which works precisely at those temperatures. Ales are craft beers with more intense flavors and aromas. While they provide the greatest variety in terms of styles, they are not among the most consumed beers in the world. The wings in turn are divided into other categories, which within them have all the various styles of this large family.

LIGHT ALE : beers born in the second half of the 19th century as a lighter version of pale ale

  • Blonde Ale : usually produced from malt alone, they have typical malty and fruity aromas
  • American Wheat : usually straw yellow in colour, they are light and characterized by the use of wheat
  • Cream Ale : derives from American light lager
  • Kolsch : very pale German ale named after the Koln area. They are typically characterized by a slightly fruity aroma, dry and delicate to the taste.

BITTER (BRITISH BITTER): derived from pale ales, they are the classic English beers par excellence, characterized by intense hopping, which makes them bitter beers, with light alcohol content and an excellent aroma of hops. The first bitters created were nothing more than IPAs, in fact for many there is no difference between bitters and IPAs, while for others they must be separated. The fact is that bitters have sub-styles

  • Ordinary Bitter : low alcohol content. Some give a quite strong bitter sensation, which tends to cover the malt, but which makes them extremely thirst-quenching.
  • Best Bitter : similar to Ordinary Bitters, but stronger and more robust, with a more evident malt flavor.
  • Strong Bitter : full-bodied, alcoholic beer, dark copper in color. Very interesting for its olfactory profile, characterized by very complex and intriguing malt aromas.

BROWN ALE : Dark English beers, usually brown in color with hints of caramel

  • Mild Ale : A light-bodied Ale. Usually with a dry palate, but there are examples that are vinous, liqueur-like, fruity, very malty, or even chocolatey.
  • Southern Brown : dark brown and rather opaque, has a decidedly sweet flavor due to the use of caramel malts.
  • Northem Brown : drier and nuttier version of Southern Brown.
  • Newcastle Brown Ale : Low in alcohol as per Anglo-Saxon tradition, it is soft and round, with pleasant sensations of barley candy in the mouth. Emblem of the city of Newcastle has achieved worldwide fame by having its own derivation
  • American Brown Ale : American homebrewers' adaptation of Newcastle Brown Ale, they are characterized by higher alcohol and hop levels than Newcastle

ALTBIER : these are typical German beers produced in Düsseldorf. The term alt means old and refers to the old production method

  • Dusseldorfer : copper or dark brown, similar to British pale ales, but with the use of German malts, yeasts and hops and produced at lower temperatures
  • Northem German : lighter and less bitter than dusseldorfer

STRONG ALE : refers to pale ale style beers, in which the typical malts of this style are predominant, but with a higher alcohol content

  • Old Ale : British style, but with higher alcohol levels. Many have a fruity malty aroma.
  • Strong Scotch Ale : full-bodied beer, with a slightly toasted note given by the use of toasted malts
  • Barleywine : The strongest and richest of the ale styles. There are all shades of it. Many have fruity notes

STOUT : derived from Porters, they indicated stronger Porters

  • Dry : dry, almost black ale. Its flavor comes from the use of unmalted and toasted barley
  • Sweet : English version of Stouts. The sweetness is given by the presence of added sugars
  • Oatmeal : variant of the sweet, but with the addition of oatmeal to increase the body and taste

PORTER : English dark beer made with dark malts

  • Robust : beer with a strong body of almost black colour. Often with a dry hint of coffee
  • Brown : less alcoholic and with less toasted malt character than Robust

PALE ALE : it is a balanced beer, not too carbonated and with well-defined aromas of hops and malt

  • British Pale Ale : copper-colored beer. The aroma is given by British hops
  • American Pale Ale : similar to British pale ale, but with a massive use of hops
  • IPA : often lighter than pale ale, characterized by higher alcohol and hop levels. It is unbalanced in favor of hops, prevailing over malt. IPAs are now one of the most famous styles in the world. So famous that it has its own substyles.
  • Session IPA : increasingly popular; the characteristic that differentiates it from the classic IPA, hence the term session, is the lower alcohol content
  • Doupel IPA : like the session counterpart only with a higher alcohol content than the classic IPA

SCOTTISH ALES : Scottish beers focused on the taste of malt. Similar to English bitters, but more full-bodied and malty, less bitter and with the use of peat-roasted malts it gives a sense of smoke

  • Light 60 : similar to ordinary bitter, but more full-bodied and less bitter
  • Heavy 70 : similar to best bitter, but maltier and less bitter
  • Export 80 : Scottish variation of strong bitter and, like its counterparts, sweeter and fuller-bodied than its English counterpart

BELGIAN ALE : Most common and widespread Belgian style. Particularly aromatic, they are usually fruitier than British ales. Often spicy, citrusy, malty, rarely acidic. Medium body, with a bitterness and moderate alcohol content.

  • Oud Bruin Ales and Flanders Red Ales : beers with strong acidity and aged. They are mixed with "younger" beers to give it a more harmonious and complex profile.
  • Witbier (Blanche): beers with 50% unmalted wheat. Often very pale and opaque with hints of coriander and orange peel which, together with hops, are reminiscent of honey
  • Saison : A summer style. Orange color with dense foam. Very refreshing and slightly acidic
  • Pale Ale : Belgian version of British pale ale, but more aromatic
  • Strong Belgian Ale : as stated by the name, these are the classic Belgian ales, but with a higher alcohol content. There are many variations of strong Belgian ales to have sub styles:
  • Dubbel : Dark amber ale with rich malty flavors and aromas
  • Tripel : strong and pale, brewed with pils malts and added candy sugar
  • Strong Golden Ale : Clear and with the addition of candy sugar, they have a rich fruity aroma and can have a vinous character.
  • Strong Dark Ale : dark, rich and creamy, they are usually sweet with added spices to increase complexity

WEIZEN : style that differs in the cereals used in the must

  • Bavarian Weizen : Traditional beer from southern Germany that ranges from straw to amber in color. Characterized by the aroma of cloves.
  • Bavarian Dunkelweizen : dark version of Bavarian Weizen with a stronger and smokier flavour
  • Berliner Weizen : pale wheat beer, low in hops and alcohol and slightly acidic
  • Weizenbock : Similar to a Weizen, but with higher alcohol levels and a darker color.

FRENCH ALES (BIÈRE DE GARDE): beer from northern France. Compact foam with an aroma reminiscent of malt and characterized by strong spicy hints

Lager (Low Fermentation)

different types of beer

Lager beers are produced at lower temperatures than ales and use Saccharomyces carlsbergensis as yeast. The beers produced in this way have a clean taste, are light and fragrant. Lagers are the most consumed type in the world. Suffice it to say that almost all commercial beers come from this macro-category.

AMERICAN LAGER : These are very light, very carbonated beers with a low level of bitterness

  • Light/Standard/Premium : the color varies from light straw to light gold, with slight fruity nuances. Very light body with the addition of unmalted cereals such as rice or wheat. The light ones have 1/3 less calories than the standard ones while the premium ones have greater quantities of malt
  • Malt Liquor : They have a higher alcohol content with little bitterness
  • Dark : “Colored” version of American lager. The color comes from the use of dark caramel syrups

EUROPEAN LAGER : lager par excellence, typically golden and rich in aromas

  • Bohemian Pilsner : The style that inspired all other lagers. Golden colour, rich aroma with aromas of malt and spices.
  • Northern German Pilsner : Similar to Bohemian pilsner, but drier and with prominent hop bitterness
  • Scandinavian-Dutch Pilsner : similar to German Pils, but more fragrant and lighter
  • Dortmunder Export : stronger than other lagers with a strong sweet touch
  • Munich Helles: Bavarian version of a light lager with a distinct sweet profile

GERMAN AMBER LAGER : German version of lager using purely German malt

  • Vienna Lager : This is the original amber lager. It is precisely the Vienna malt that gives all the characteristics to this beer
  • Oktoberfest/Maerzen : it is the Munich lager with a distinct sweet hint given by the malt and an aroma of toasted malt.

EUROPEAN DARK LAGER : dark version of European lager

  • Munich Dunkel : similar to Munich lagers. They are produced with higher densities and a more pronounced profile
  • Continental Dark : dark, very hoppy with a dry flavor and light body
  • Schwarzbier (Black Beer): Moderate in bitterness from hops and toasted malts, they are distinguished by typical notes of dry and bitter chocolate

BOCK : Very strong amber to dark brown lager. With an intense malt flavor and aroma that brings sweet sensations

  • Hellesbock/Maibock : Light version of the bock. It tends to be maltier and more alcoholic
  • Doppelbock : bock with 7.5% alcoholic strength. Light or dark brown. Rich on the nose with intense malt aromas
  • Eisbock : stronger version of bock. Made by freezing a Doppelbock and removing the ice.

Lambic (Spontaneous Fermentation)

Lambics are produced without the use of any added yeast, but ferment naturally with the yeasts it obtains itself. These are the beers with the most complex and particular flavours. Also known as sour beers because they are characterized by this note of acidity. In the market they represent a niche of enthusiasts. They are the most difficult beers to approach, but also the ones that give you the most sensations.

They have a fruity complexity and intense acidity. They are distinguished into:

  • Faro : caramelized sugar is added to the must, which is why the beer takes on a sweet and sour aftertaste, very different from the typical acidic flavor of Lambic.
  • Gueuze : it is obtained from the mixture between barrel-matured Lambic and young beers. It can be flavored with various types of fruit
  • Fruitbeer : these are Lambics to which fruit syrups are added to tone down the acidity, some examples are Abricot (apricot flavoured), Càssis (blackcurrant), Druiven (with grapes), Framboise (raspberry lambic , tart, dense, slightly hoppy), Kriek (re-fermented following the addition of cherries, it has a lively and almondy flavour) and Peche (peach flavoured).

What is your favorite type of beer?

beer tap

And with this we have finished this long and untangled list of all the "mother" styles from which craft beers start. Now - when on that endless and colorful shelf of your trusted beer shop you find Blond Ale, Dark American Lager or Strong Scotch ale written - you will know what it is and what you are going to try, so as to make the best choice for your tastes... Or simply ask the high eminence who sells it to you. He will certainly be able to advise you on the best way to drink.

I hope I have been of help and I refer you to our shop to try some of this very long list of styles. So you can find YOUR beer. Just to tell someone... My style is strong ale. And which is yours?


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