Beers are normally broken down into two basic styles: Ales and Lagers. Both ales and lagers have a wide range of flavors and colors ranging from sweet to bitter, or light to dark.
Ales are fermented at relatively high temperatures (60-75 Fº) with top fermenting yeast, which usually creates a fruity taste. Ales are produced with a wide variety of colors, palates and alcoholic strengths. Lagers are fermented at low temperatures (35-45 Fº) using bottom fermenting yeast and then stored (lagered) in cool conditions in order to clear away imperfections to ensure a clean taste.
Some beers have characteristics of both ales and lagers and can combine characteristics of both. For example, some top-fermenting (ale) yeast can ferment fairly well at lower (lager) temperatures and can create a unique type of beer known as a hybrid.
Ales and lagers can further be broken down into many sub-categories. Including the hybrid style, a grouping of beer styles might look like this:
Amber Hybrid Beers are beers that combine some characteristics of ales and lagers into one brew. Often more aggressive in flavor than their Light Hybrid cousins, Amber Hybrids make more use of darker malts and can be more assertively hopped as well as darker in color.
Amber Lagers are a specialty of central and eastern Europe. Malty and rich in taste, they are popular with many non-beer drinkers! The Oktoberfest beers are among the most popular Amber Lagers and are a must during the Oktoberfest season, which starts in mid-September.
American Ales are usually bigger interpretations of the classic European Pale and Brown styles, featuring more malt and hops. American Ambers (also called Red Ales) are the most original style in this category and feature a strong, but balanced, combination of malt and hops.
Belgians have been master brewers for centuries. Sharing a border with France, the beer culture has developed a very distinct and sometime wine-like character. Belgian Ales like Witbiers, Saisons and Belgian Pales boast complexities to rival most wines, and typically cost a lot less!
Belgian brewers can be subtle, but Belgian Strong Ales are examples of extreme beers that are usually very high in alcohol content. High alcohol contents in Dubbels, Tripels, Blonds, Golden and Dark strong Ales are achieved with the addition of sugar to the fermentation process.
Bock Beers are stronger than average lagers that are typically amber to dark in color. Bock Beers are traditionally brewed in Germany and signal the end of winter and suggest the coming of warmer weather.
Dark Lagers are dark because of the liberal use of roasted malts. Malty is the best way to describe the dominant taste, but some Dark Lagers also make liberal use of hops as well.
English Brown Ales often have an initial malty sweetness followed by a moderate caramel flavor. England is the original home of English Brown Ales, though Americans have embraced them and created a more robust version of them known as American Brown Ales.
Most beers of this style are known as “bitters” in England. English Pale Ales feature earthy British hops like East Kent Goldings that do not completely dominate the malt, as they sometimes do in American Pale Ales. English Pale Ales are flavorful, yet low to medium alcohol beers.
Fruit Beers are flavored with fruits or fruit syrups. The ale itself is typically well balanced and light on flavor to allow the fruit itself to be the dominant taste. Many different kinds of fruits are used.
In southern Germany (Bavaria), wheat beers are traditional. By law, German Wheat beers replace at least 50% of their barley malt with malted wheat (or 50% rye for rye beer). The resulting beer is refreshing and flavorful. German Wheat beers often taste of banana, clove and bubblegum.
India Pale Ales get their name and unique style from British brewers who were making beer for export to India. The hops were used to preserve the beer for the long sea voyage. Not surprisingly, India Pale Ales are usually very hoppy!
Ales and Lagers are the two types of beer, but sometimes a beer has the characteristics of both. Light Hybrid Beers include Cream Ales, Blond Ales, Kolsch and American Wheat beers. Light Hybrids are typically lager recipes brewed with ale yeast and lagered at cool temperatures.
Light Lagers dominate the beer scene in much of the world as large brewers have made cheap versions of them a staple. Craft brewers still brew high quality versions of Light Lagers like Munich Helles or Dortmunder Export beers that contain no adjunct ingredients to lessen the flavor.
Pilsners popularized the lager style of beer with their distinctive crispness and golden, clear appearance. Czech and German brewers first explored this style that typically features a rich, malt flavor balanced with noble hop flavors that contribute to the crisp, dry, refreshing finish.
Porters are light brown to dark brown in color, often with ruby highlights when held up to light. Malt flavor includes a mild to moderate roastiness (frequently with a chocolate character) and often a significant caramel, nutty, and/or toffee character.
Scottish Ales are caramel in color and often have a high sugar content, lending them a sweet taste. Irish Style Ales are usually less sweet and red or amber in color. They are usually very well balanced.
Sour Ales, sometimes flavored with fruit, are very popular beers in Europe and gaining popularity in the US. Purists still enjoy the classic un-fruited Sour Ales like Flanders Red or Brown, or Gueuze, but many people enjoy Fruit Lambics with their refreshing tart and fruity flavors.
Spice/Herb/Vegetable beers should be a harmonious marriage of spices, herbs and/or vegetables and beer. The spices shouldn’t overwhelm the beer, but they should add a distinct flavor and character to it.
Stouts are brewed with roasted barley malt, which gives them their characteristic dark black color, as well as their roasted flavor. They often taste of chocolate or coffee, both of which are sometimes used to enhance the flavor.
Strong, intense and full of character, Strong Ales are usually the strongest beers offered by a brewer. strong Ales often taste of toffee, caramel or biscuits and they pair well with sharp cheeses and desserts. strong Ales are more commonly known as Old Ales and Barleywines.
Source: World Class Beverages
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