Introduction to Beer Styles
Below is a list of basic beer styles. Believe it or not, there are quite a few more than listed here. We'll be adding a more complete list of beer styles in time, so check back for updates.
We are proud to announce that many beers of these styles (including all Barleywines, Russian Imperial Stouts and Double IPAs) previously not available in Alabama are now on sale in many locations!
Belgian Dark Ale
Belgian Pale Ale
Belgian Strong Dark
Belgian Strong Pale
A mostly American and French style, the Amber Ale (also called Amber or Red Ale) is based on a pale ale but with some more highly-roasted malts. Amber Ales are sweeter than Pilsners or Pale Ales, and would pair well with seafood. Like all ales, this style is brewed with top-fermenting ale yeast which allows a good amount of residual complex sugars to sweeten the taste.
A very strong ale which originated in England, the name comes from the intention of the brewers: that it be sipped and savored slowly like a good wine. An example of the finest of the brewer's craft, like all of the high gravity beers, it is often intensely flavored with lots of hops backed up by a heavy punch of caramel maltiness. The Barleywines are usually assertively flavored, and can stand up to spicy, heavy, or gamey food like venison, or be served and savored on their own.
Belgian Dark Ale
Hard to define, this style has a massive range of character, from dry and spicy to sweet and malty.
They range from 4%-7% ABV.
Examples of the style: Rare Vos (Cooperstown, NY), Chambly Noire (Unibroue, Canada), Tilburg's Dutch Brown (Netherlands).
Trappist ales using double the malts of a "Simple" Abbey ale, they are rich and malty with dark fruits on the palate. They tend to have massive carbonation.
They range from 6.5%-9% ABV.
Examples of the style: Ommegang Abbey Ale (Cooperstown, New York), Chimay Premiere--Red (Belgium) Westmalle Trappist Dubbel (Belgium).
Belgian Pale Ale
These feature delicate flavours, a lovely golden yellow colour similar to Pilseners and are only gently hopped.
They range from 4%-7% ABV.
Examples of the style: Orval Trappist (Belgium), Leffe Blonde (Belgium), Avery Karma (Colorado), Saranac Belgian Ale (Utica, New York).
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
This is a very complex style that tends to be fruity and malty in taste. They range from 7-15% ABV.
Examples of the style: Chimay Grand Reserve--Blue (Belgium), Maudite (Unibroue, Canada), Trappistes Rochefort 8 (Belgium), Gulden Draak (Belgium).
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Golden in colour, rich, full bodied and spicy in flavour, these beers pour with huge fluffy white head which has to be seen to be believed.
They range from 7-12% ABV.
Examples of the style: Duvel (Belgium), Delirium Tremens (Belgium), Don De Dieu (Unibroue, Canada), Pranqster (North Coast, California).
Trappist style beers, they get their name from using triple the malt of a "Simple" Abbey Ale. Slightly darker than a Pilsner but still golden yellow in colour, they have a huge fluffy head. Taste is complex, with spicy and sweet following into the aroma, they use candy sugar for lighter body. They are still powerful, high ABV beers.
They range from 8%-12% ABV.
Examples of the style: La Fin Du Monde (Unibroue, Canada), Chimay Tripel--white (Belgium), St Bernardus Tripel (Belgium).
Made with a darker roast of malt, some of the sugars in the malt caramelize and give a lingering sweetness and caramel taste to most brown ales. Easy to drink and full-flavored, these beers pair very well with beef and other red meats. You can also try it as an accompaniment to pulled pork BBQ.
The India Pale Ale (IPA) originated from the time of the Raj, when breweries in England sent their Pale Ales to India by sea. By the time they arrived, the beer was undrinkable - it had soured on the long, hot journey. The breweries increased the amount of hops in the Pale Ale, as hops are a natural preservative. To counteract the hop bitterness, they added more pale malt as well - more malt means more sugars, which means more alcohol. The end result is an intensely hoppy, bitter beer with a strong malt backbone and a higher alcohol content than a typical Pale Ale. IPAs pair nicely with spicy food.
Produced with a unique style of fermentation, proper Lambic beers are only brewed in a small area in Belgium, southwest of Brussels. Unlike regular beers which are brewed with carefully selected yeasts, the Lambic style uses wild yeast for natural spontaneous fermentation. Cherries and other fruits are often added to lambics producing variations on the style. Pair a sour Lambic with an assertive cheese.
Most countries with a brewing tradition have Pale Ales. They are brewed with ale yeast and lightly-roasted malts, and are generally more lightly hopped than other beer styles. They will normally be a light golden in color, darker than lagers but paler than Brown Ale. These beers will pair happily with any food that is not very intensely flavored or very spicy, otherwise the beer's taste will be swamped.
Pilsner (or Lager)
The words Pilsner and Lager are interchangeable. All Pilseners are derived in style from Pilsener Urquell, from the Czech Republic. The town where Pilsener Urquell is brewed is Plzen, Pilsen in German. In German, Pilsen-er means "in the style of the town of Pilsen", leading to the name for this style of beer. Pilseners are brewed in cool temperatures (50-55F) with lager yeast, which is a bottom-fermenting yeast. This means the yeast can eat more of the sugars to turn them into alcohol. The flavor profile is very crisp and clean with a hoppy bitterness and very little residual malt sweetness. This style is a good all-rounder: enjoy with pizza!
Porter or Stout
Porter and Stout are often confusing as they are both dark in color and may share similarities in taste as well. These beers are dark, usually dark brown to black, made from darker malts which impart a dense taste usually compared to dark chocolate or coffee. "Stout" in reference to beer is used in the archaic meaning of "strong or full-bodied", so one can generally say a brewery's Porter has lower alcohol and lower calories than their Stout, but one company's porter could be higher alcohol than another company's stout! These dark, dramatic beers are good companions to desserts - you can treat them as you would coffee and serve them with cheesecake, cakes, and other hot or cold desserts.
Saison (or Farmhouse Ale or Biere de Garde)
The French and Belgian rustic farmhouse ales, they are largely self-defining. Tend to be dry and thirst-quenching with explosive carbonation.
They range from 5%-8% ABV.
Garde Dog (Frederick, Maryland), Hennpin (Cooperstown, NY), Saison Dupont (Belgium).
Wheat beers (also called Wit, Witbier, Witte, or Hefeweizen, depending on country of origin) are, as the name implies, made with a high proportion of wheat. Brewed with a top-fermenting ale yeast, there tends to be a lot of residual sugar providing a delicate sweetness. Many breweries add orange peel or spices to their wittes lending another component to the flavor. The delicate flavor of these beers make them great to sip on a hot summer day, possibly being used to chase down a light salad, but it requires a gentle touch when pairing wittes with food, or else the beer will be swamped by your meal.