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The Beer Lovers’ Guide to

Beer Styles


beerloversguide.com.au


Contents 4. A journey in style 7. New world of beer styles 9. The flavour map 11. Beer styles 18. Map of beer styles 19. The Beer Lover’s Guide to Pale Ale 26. The Beer Lover’s Guide to Golden Ale 30. The Beer Lover’s Guide to Dark Beers

Contributors: Pete Mitcham, Matt Kirkegaard, Ian Watson, Laurie Strachan Photography: David Mitchener

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A JOURNEY IN STYLE by Ian Watson

Beer styles have existed for almost as long as beer. In the beginning though, there was just beer. Ancient Joe made beer from a bready porridge and it was good. His sister and three friends made beer to the same recipe and their beer was also very good. Each one of them made a beer that, while essentially the same, had slight differences due to little things such as how long they boiled the mixture, how heavy handed they were with spicing or even how deep the fermentation pot was. But still, the beer was very similar. Meanwhile across the other side of the mountain Ancient Bob was making beer from a recipe that had been passed down from a mutual ancestor to Ancient Joe. The difference was that in Bob’s village they didn’t have access to the spice seeds that Joe was seasoning his beer with and so they used ground nuts instead ....a new style of beer was born. As far back as the times of the Sumerians, there was a difference between types of beer. The Egyptians had names for various beer types based on strength, colour and many other properties. The means of differentiation that the Egyptians and others used is not much different to how modern beer styles have been categorised. Whilst wine types are most commonly categorised by a simple system of grape variety, beer styles take into account geographical origin, production technique and tradition, ingredients and impression (appearance, aroma and flavour).

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The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles


Perhaps the most simplistic of beer style origins and naming is that based around geography. Pilsner is a classic example of this in the sense that the very name is a reflection of the town from which the style originated. Plzen is the town, and the ‘er’ suffix means ‘from’. Essentially the style name just means a beer from Plzen. Generally now we don’t use the term Pilsner to indicate that a beer is from Plzen itself but rather that is in the same style as a beer from there. The same can be said of the Dortmunder, Munchner and Kölsch styles. They are beers from Dortmund, Munich and Cologne (Koln) respectively. Of course, this only explains their naming origin and not how the style actually originated. Many of the older beer styles such as Lambics, Wits, and Bocks had evolved over a long period of time, gradually shifting as agricultural crops and conditions changed and public flavour trends slowly moved. This was a process that could take decades, if not centuries, to occur. Modern beer styles on the other hand can evolve over a very short period of time – sometimes in the space of only a few years. If we were to go back only 20 years and ask the average craft beer lover about Double or Imperial IPAs we would be greeted with blank stares. As recently as five years ago the thought of a Black IPA or India Black Ale would have drawn similar reactions. Nowadays both styles are gaining momentum and are recognised by many beer drinkers, brewers, books and brewing associations. While the older styles evolved slowly, these newer styles more often form due to flavour adaptations or collisions of existing styles. The birth of Pilsner was both a little bit of old school evolution of style and modern revolution of flavour. In the early 1840s, the desire to create a lighter coloured beer, more akin to the pales ales of Britain, combined with the local lager brewing techniques to lead to the formation of a new style. Pilsener is today arguably the world’s most influential style. Interestingly, the pale ales that had emerged in Britain and had such an influence on Pilsner were not necessarily all that pale to begin with. Perspective and perception played a part in this description of style. The dominant beer of Britain had been for some time been a style known as porter, a beer known for its rich ruby-brown to black appearance. When new industrial age technologies meant that malts were able to be made to paler specifications, brewers eventually responded with moves towards paler beers. This wasn’t an immediate event. It took some time to come but was accelerated by the increased availability of glassware at much more affordable pricing. A clear drinking vessel was the perfect showcase for a brewer’s new pale ale over his older brownish beer offerings. This amber beer was only classified as pale because the alternative was so dark.

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In all but a few cases beer styles were born, not to a set of rules but rather to a set of circumstances

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If we were to fast forward about a century and a half and jump over the styles, such as mild ale, bitter and ESB, that followed and perhaps take a boat ride over an ocean, we would find another style about to be born. When a small American brewer interprets a classic British pale ale, but uses a relatively new local hop variety (and bucket loads of them), we see another style evolve. In this case American pale ale or APA was inspired by availability of ingredients. Similar style births to this are happening right at this very moment as Australasian brewers experiment more and more with new Australian and New Zealand hop varieties and use them to adapt traditional styles as well as in new and imaginative creations. In other cases we can even see beer styles with similar names follow different evolutionary paths leading to different beers. We can have British, Australian and American pale ales, all of them pale and all of them ales but also with unique styles of their own. It is this fluid evolution that brings about new styles both gradually and rapidly. What may have started out as a beer brewed to make use of excess crop may end up somewhere else as something else entirely. The legendary beer writer Michael Jackson was one of the first to go into great detail on beer styles around the world and his work encouraged others to do the same. Nowadays we have style guidelines available to us from many sources including the US-based Brewers Association, the homebrew-focused Beer Judge Certification Programme and websites such as Beeradvocate. com and Ratebeer.com. Many of these guidelines are written to provide a basis for competitions and awards and so can be quite tight in their terms, whereas some of the original writings by the likes of Michael Jackson, Roger Protz and Fred Eckhardt described the perception of the style and its feel in the glass. In all but a few cases beer styles were born, not to a set of rules but rather to a set of circumstances, from local crops and water profiles to flavour, fashion or marketing trends. On this basis it is the feel of the beer that matters more whereas, in a competition, tight structure helps in subjective evaluation. Some beer lovers like to work their way through style guidelines, ticking off styles and specific examples of the styles as they go, comparing them for adherence to style. Other beer lovers merely use them as a way to identify the basis of what may be in the bottle before them. In this same manner we find brewers differ in their approach. Some brewers like to brew historically accurate versions of a beer style. Others like to use styles as a conceptual basis for their beers and there are brewers that seemingly brew to no guidelines other than their own palette and imagination. All of these outlooks are valid. They allow us to set out on an adventure with beer from its past, to the present, to “what ifs� and even look at what the future may hold.

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THE FLAVOUR MAP by Matt Kirkegaard

While many have tried, beer is a complex drink that doesn’t really lend itself to being charted in a ‘flavour map’ that charts malt and hops on a two dimensional, X and Y axis. Beer really is a symphony of its ingredients and, while one may be distinctive in a particular beer, all should be in balance in most styles. However, here is a quick guide to beer’s ingredients and which popular styles tend to exhibit these ingredients. As always, mileage may vary!

Styles & flavours associated with:

YEAST

MALT

Bavarian Hefeweizens (cloudy wheat beers) and Kristalweizens (filtered wheat beers) tend to strongly show yeast characteristics, expressed as banana, clove, bubblegum and sometimes smoky bacon.

Amber Ales and English Special Bitters (ESB) tend to be dark amber or red and show caramel and toffee flavours. While hop bitterness is present and balanced, it is these malt characteristics that make the style sing.

Australian Pale Ales can show gentle yeast characters expressed as fruits such as apricot. Saison. A French farmhouse style where the yeast gives peppery, spicy and almost funky aromas and a complex and dry palate.

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Dark Ales, Porters and Stouts. While all having varying degrees of hop bitterness, these styles develop malt characters that introduce burnt caramel, chocolate, mocha and roast coffee flavours, through to the classic dry, almost astringent, roastiness of Guinness. Porters and Stouts reveal a progression of malt flavours while still stopping well short of the dry roast of Guinness that finds favour with many palates and gives the style a wide range of food matching options. Dark Lager. Can be similar to dark ales, but brewed with lager yeasts to crispen the body slightly while still showing the caramel, chocolate and even coffee of the darker ales.

The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles


HOPS The American-style Pale Ale is the classic introduction to hop driven beers, with US hop varieties lending pine and citrus aromas to the style, while the style also shows an aggressive, but balanced, bitterness. Pilsener. A style that could easily appear in the ‘ensemble’ section below because a good example is very well balanced with the malt, but for a lager-style this is a beer that tends to be significantly more bitter than most golden lagers. Traditional styles tend to have a flowery, spicy or herbal hop aroma, while ‘new world’ versions using Australian and New Zealand hops varieties tend towards the fruity aromas more often found in American Pale Ales. India Pale Ale. While malt balance is important to this style, hops still dominate – especially in the one made in the American style. English-style IPAs, such as Gage Roads Sleeping Giant and James Squire IPA tend to be a little more rounded in their hop character. American-style IPA tends to be a little more assertive and strongly aromatic.

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Meilgaard Flavour Wheel Meilgaard Flavour Wheel The Beer Flavour Wheel was created in the 1970s by Dr Morten Meilgaard created. The Beer Flavour Wheel created in thebetween 1970s odour by Drand Morten The wheel has 14 categories broken down into 44was flavours that range taste.

Meilgaard created. The wheel has 14 categories broken down into 44 flavours that range between odour and taste.

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A journey in flavour

The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles


BEER STYLES by Laurie Strachan

Once upon a time, you went into a pub and asked for a beer. Nowadays you ask for the beer menu. Times have changed, and very much for the better, if you’re interested in beer as more than just a cold, fizzy drink that will quench your thirst on a hot day. The world of beer in all its glory has arrived, bringing with it a myriad of choices. Once it was Old or New, now it’s Belgian Wit versus Bavarian Weizen, Irish Red against English Bitter, India Pale Ale or Vienna Lager. It can be confusing if you don’t know what these names mean but don’t worry, you’re about to learn in our easy guide to beer styles. The first thing to understand about beer styles is that they haven’t just appeared out of nowhere. Someone didn’t just wake up in the morning and think ‘I’ll invent Pale Ale today’; these styles usually arose because they were the best way to brew with the techniques and ingredients available at that particular time and place. Or they were driven by some other innovation – like the sudden spread of glasses replacing stone jars. Now drinkers could see all the yeast haze and odd bits of unfiltered stuff in the beer so they gravitated to beer that was clearer and eventually to beer that is filtered so finely that it sparkles – ‘bright beer’, it’s called in the trade. New ingredients meant new beers – the classic being the invention in the city of Plzen (Pilsen to German-speakers), in what is now the Czech Republic, of a technique of roasting malt lightly so it barely turned pale beige. Now the local brewers could turn out a beer that was gold in colour and looked really good in a glass. The result was the beer that swept the world and inspired countless imitations and variations – Pilsener, or Pilsner as it is sometimes spelled. This was one of the two innovations that changed beer more than any others. The other, which actually predated it, was cold fermentation in which the yeast worked slowly then dropped to the bottom of the fermenter, which is why it is still often called bottom fermentation. The cities of Bavaria were often set on fortified hills riddled with caves, and the beer was left in those caves for as long as several months to ferment and clarify. The German word for resting is lagern so beers brewed in this way became known as lagers. Until this point beer was fermented at higher temperatures and drunk after a week or so. This old style is now usually referred to as ale and this is the key point of differentiation in beer styles, ales and lagers. The late Michael Jackson (no, not that one) compared this to the difference between red and white wines. Within these two families there are further divisions. Contrary to popular belief, lagers don’t have to be pale gold in colour and ales don’t have to be dark. Nor are dark beers necessarily stronger than pale ones; if you don’t believe me try a bottle of the Belgian specialty ale Duvel, it’s as pale as a lager and weighs in at 8 per cent alcohol by volume. Dark, almost black, lagers are also still brewed traditionally in Bavaria and in revivalist breweries throughout the world. Wheat beers can be considered a branch of the ale family but are so unusual that they almost deserve a category of their own. Stouts are firmly in the ale camp though some are brewed by bottom fermentation.

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LAGERS The cities of Bavaria were often set on fortified hills riddled with caves and the beer was left in those caves for as long as several months to ferment and clarify. The German word for resting is lagern so beers brewed in this way became known as lagers. PILSENERS: BOMEHIAN PILSENER - Pilsener originates in the town of Plzen (German name Pilsen) in the Czech Republic, where maltsters first discovered how to produce pale malt, allowing the brewers to brew a much paler beer than the then standard dark lager. However, the style is still darker than most other lagers. The original, still sold all over the world as Pilsner Urquell, uses another classic product of Bohemia, Zatec or Saaz hops. GERMAN PILSENER - German Pilseners tend to be paler and lighter bodied than the original Czech version. There are distinct variations among them, but they are usually well-balanced, clean and refreshing with a big, tightly matted head. EUROPEAN PILSENER - The northern brewers took the German style of light Pilsener even further. Carlsberg is probably the classic example of the style, very pale, very fresh with a slightly floral hop aroma and a relatively mild bitterness in the finish. AMERICAN LIGHT - The United States is the biggest single beer market in the world, though its per capita consumption is relatively modest compared with Germany and the Czech Republic. American light has some hoppiness but it is concentrated in the nose and the early palate, and there is little bitterness in the finish. The light in the designation refers to the colour, not the alcoholic strength. AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND LAGERS. - Most of the beer sold and drunk in Australia comes under the general heading of Pilsener-derived lager but Australian brewers have put their own particular stamp on the style. For various reasons, most of them probably economic, Australian brewers have tended to use a large percentage of cane sugar adjuncts in their beers. Cane sugar imparts little flavour to a beer and tends to thin out the body; so it’s not surprising that Australian lagers have tended to be mild tasting, light bodied and very similar in flavour profile right across the country.

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OTHER LAGER STYLES: MUNICH HELLES - The brewers of Bavaria, despite being adjacent to Bohemia, were slow to adopt the paler style of beer, partly because they liked their dark dunkel lager and partly because their water supplies were relatively hard and they found it difficult to use the kind of heavy hopping required for a Pilsener without turning out a beer that was just too aggressively bitter. So they developed an alternative style of pale lager known simply as Helles from the German word hell meaning light or bright. Helles is not as bitter as Pilsener but is more malty and smooth. VIENNA, MÄRZEN AND OKTOBERFEST. - The Vienna style originated in Vienna, Austria and the neighbouring Bavarians developed their own version which is known as either Märzen or Oktoberfest. All three styles have one thing in common - they are amber lagers using the more highly kilned Vienna and Munich malts and giving a strong emphasis on malt flavour. MUNICH DUNKEL - The style of beer popular in Bavaria before the arrival of pale malts was the Dunkel or dark lager. A Dunkel bears a superficial resemblance to an ale but the fruity esters found in a top-fermented beer are or should be absent from this style. BOCK AND DOPPELBOCK - Bock beers are lagers which can be either pale or dark but are usually very strong (6-7%, 5-6%). Even stronger, and even maltier, are Doppelbocks - distinctively darker beers with an enormous kick in them, provided by an alcohol content of between 8 and 12 percent (6.5-9.5%). RAUCHBIER - The name means literally smoke beer and this is an ancient style which derives from the way the malt is kilned over smoking beech logs, providing both the dark colour and the smoky tang. STEAM BEER - A style that is unique to the United States and still being brewed is Steam Beer. Steam Beer is a hybrid of the lager and ale brewing methods.

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ALES The original beers For the sake of definition, we can say that ales are simply beers fermented by the traditional top fermentation system. Though ales retain only a tiny fraction of the world beer market, their devotees consider that fraction to be by far the most interesting part of the entire spectrum of beer. BRITISH ALES - BITTER - English Bitter is more a range of styles than a single entity. Ideally a Bitter, to live up to its name, should have strong hop character and bitterness but even that cannot be taken for granted. Colour also varies enormously. There are basically three levels of Bitter, in ascending order of alcoholic strength - Ordinary Bitter (3.5-4% alc/vol, 2.8-3.2% alc/wt), Special Bitter (4-5%, 3.2-4%) and Extra-Special Bitter (5-6%, 4-5%). PALE ALE - Despite the name, Pale Ale is not particularly pale, more a rich amber. It is also usually well hopped and relatively strong as British beers go - between 4.5 and 5.5 percent (3.5%-4.5%). A subdivision of this style called India Pale Ale (IPA) was originally brewed at a a higher strength to be transported to India. There are number of recent variations on the theme, including the aromatic and quite pale Golden Ale, the slightly darker Amber Ale and the aromatic American Pale Ale. MILD - A flattish dark brown ale with a low hop bitterness. The name Mild appears to refer to the low level of bitterness compared with the aptly-named Bitter rather than the fact that the beer is not strong in alcohol; however, most Milds are mild in both senses and rate at around 3-3.5% alc/vol (2.4-2.8%). BROWN ALE - The obvious characteristic of Brown Ale is its colour but it differs in other ways from Bitter. The most obvious is in a lower level of bitterness, more akin to that of a Mild but with an alcohol level of around 4.5-5% by volume (3.54%). It is also more highly carbonated in the northern English manner. American Brown Ales are usually drier and more highly hopped. IRISH OR CELTIC RED ALE - A variant on Brown Ale that has surged in popularity in recent years, Red Ale, like its brown cousin, is a dark beer with a reddish tinge to its colour, as the name implies. It is usually lightly hopped and served on tap under nitrogen pressure. SCOTTISH ALES - To the casual observer, Scottish beers are scarcely distinguishable from their English relatives though they carry different designations. Where England has Bitter and Mild, Scotland has Heavy and Light. There are also two stronger grades, Export and Wee Heavy, this last a very strong beer, almost a barley wine. Scottish beers have traditionally never been quite as bitter as their English equivalents, though that is changing.

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PORTER - Porter became completely extinct in the 20th century and has only been revived in the past 20 years. The problem is we now don’t really know exactly how porter looked or tasted. We do know that it was a dark beer of reasonable strength but working out how dark, how strong and how bitter is close to guesswork. Baltic Porter is a variation on the theme with higher alcohol contents, sometimes close to a strong ale, while Chocolate Porter uses a high proportion of chocolate malt giving it a rich, sweetish profile. STOUT - In the 18th and 19th centuries the word generally meant “strong” rather than “fat”, so it may well have been the custom to describe a strong porter as a Stout Porter. However Stout has evolved into a quite distinct style of its own (with one or two sub-styles). It’s even darker than porter, using either black malt or roasted barley or a combination of the two to get its black colour. Irish Stout is at the bitter end of the scale while Milk Stout, so called because it is brewed with a little of the milk sugar, lactose, has a little more residual sweetness. OLD ALES/STRONG ALES/ BARLEY WINES - Old ales form a rather vague classification somewhere between Milds and Porters. They are usually dark in colour and often quite strong in alcohol. Like Bitters and other British styles, they vary enormously from one beer to another but they usually have a slightly winey character and are not highly hopped. Barley Wines are even stronger rating at around 9-12% alc/vol (7.2-9.6%). BELGIAN ALES - TRAPPIST BEERS - For centuries, the old Belgian craft brewing traditions have been preserved in the five Trappist monasteries that are dotted around Belgium - in Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvletteren. Trappist beers vary enormously one from the other, though there are two reasonably constant styles, Trippel and Dubbel. The Trippel is the strongest beer the Trappists make (around 9% alc/vol, 7.2% alc/wt) and is usually a pale beer while dubbel is more amber to dark in colour. Abbey beers are much the same styles but brewed commercially. SAISONS - Saisons originated as a seasonal beer for the summer but are now drunk all year round. Unlike most of the other Belgian ale styles they are neither extravagantly flavoured nor particularly strong. The French Biere de Garde or Farmhouse Ale is an off shoot of this style, sometimes brewed stronger to be put down and matured.

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GERMAN ALES - KÖLSCH AND ALTBIER - Ales were brewed in Germany for many centuries before the idea of lagering became widespread and they are still popular in many parts of the country. The stronghold however is in the Rhineland, where Cologne (Köln) swears by its very special beer, Kölsch, while its neighbour city and deadly rival, Düsseldorf specialises in another and very different top-fermenter, Altbier. WHEAT BEERS - Though the great majority of beers are made from malted barley, there is a whole sub-genre of beers that also use a proportion of malted wheat, or even raw wheat, in the mash. This, often in combination with special yeasts, gives them a quite different fl avour from malt-based beers. The proportion of wheat used varies greatly from beer to beer and from place to place but the usual mix is around half and half, barley and wheat. These days wheat beers are found all over the world but the historic centres of wheat beer production are Germany and Belgium. GERMAN WHEAT BEERS The purity law, the Reinheitsgebot, prevents brewers from using anything but malt, hops, yeast and water to produce beer. Thus German wheat beers universally use malted wheat in the mash, whereas in Belgium it is not unusual to find as much as 40% raw, unmalted wheat in the mix. The region of Berlin in the east of the country is the home of a quite unique specialty, Berliner Weisse. Weisse is simply German for white and the beer is low in alcohol, very pale and cloudy and drunk usually in the summer. The other great German wheat style is Bavarian Weizen - from the German word for wheat. Weizen is traditionally served unfiltered and sometimes known as Hefeweizen but a filtered version is available nowadays under the designation Kristall Weizen. The dark style of German wheat beer is known as Dunkel Weizen. BELGIAN WHEAT BEERS WIT BEER Wit beers are a distinct style of their own but subject to some very individual interpretations. They tend not to be particularly highly hopped, of about average strength (4-5%, 3-4%) and are often cloudy, partly because of the amount of proteins yielded by the raw grains and partly because they are bottle-conditioned and thus have a fair amount of yeast in suspension. As with Berliner Weisse, the name Wit comes from the white, cloudy appearance.

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ODDS AND ENDS SHANKBIER, KELLERBIER AND ZWICKELBIER Low-alcohol beers (around 2.5%), both top and bottom fermented, usually served on tap in Germany. The make up a very small proportion of the market. LAMBIC BEERS True Lambics are the only beers in the world brewed by spontaneous fermentation, using only wild yeasts; no other yeasts are pitched. After cooling, the wort is transferred to wooden tuns where it picks up further yeasts and bacteria resident in the wood and in its tiny cracks and crevices. So begins a long and complex fermentation process sometimes involving the addition of fruits to start a new fermentation – resulting in beers like Kriek (cherries) and Framboise (raspberries). FRUIT AND HONEY BEERS It is possible to turn any style of beer into a fruit beer by adding fruit to the mash in the style of Belgian lambics, but ales and wheat beers seem to work best. Cherries have long been considered the most suitable because of their high sugar content and low acidity so Cherry Ale is appearing more and regularly on beer lists. Similarly, honey, though mostly sugar, imparts its own character, hence such specialities as Honey Wheat Beer. LOW-CARB BEER Beer usually mashed to produce a higher proportion of convertible sugars, thus leaving fewer carbohydrates in the finished beer. CIDER Fermented apple juice, varies enormously in flavour and strength. RADLER German version of a shandy or lager and lime. An ordinary lager, originally a Helles, mixed with a citrus soft drink and served to thirsty cyclists (radler) in the Bavarian Alps.

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Map of Beer Styles Remember, this is just a guide. There are a number of beer flavour maps available that look at a beer’s relative colour, maltiness and bitterness. They plot characteristics on an XY axis but don’t necessarily help to find beers that might be move on from one that you like to another with slightly richer flavour. This attempts to do that, but this is just one suggested route map. Drink widely and drink well and look at the steps that you followed to get somewhere and develop your own flavour map for your clients. Just like a real railway map, it’s not to scale and distance from central on the map doesn’t necessarily correlate with strength of flavour.

Belgian Dark Ale

Stout

Dubbel

Porter

Scotch Ale Brown Ale

Celtic Red

Alt Beer

ESB US IPA

English Barley Wine

Amber Ale

Strong Ale Sparkling Ale

English IPA American Pale Ale

Australian Pale Ale

Bohemian Pilsener

Golden Ale

German Pilsener

Kolsch Dortmunder Weizenbock

Dunkelweizen

Witbier Saison

Hefeweizen

Australian Pale Lager

Premium Lager

Helles

Vienna Lager

Marzen

Dunkel

Bock

Doppelbock

Schwarzbier

Biere de garde Belgian Pale Strong Ale Tripel

Gueze

Lambic

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THE BEER LOVERS GUIDE TO

PALE ALE Pete Mitcham samples your new favourite beer

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PALE ALE

So you’re standing in the bottle shop looking at the shelves wondering what to buy... What’s that one, there? Summer Ale. Hmmm. That one? Vienna Lager? Farmhouse Ale? Black India Saison? Framboise? Apricot Wheat Beer? Where do I start?! Well, this book is a pretty good place to begin but even we can’t explain every style and type of beer available to you today so it’s best that we narrow our focus a little and look at just one style. Although, to be fair, it is a fairly broad and inviting category. When beer was first brewed in the Colony of Australia the choice was simple; Ale, or another Ale? The introduction of refrigeration and the new-fangled lager brewing towards the end of the 1800’s meant drinkers could choose between a warm, fruity and fairly dark ale or a crisp, relatively clear and refreshing lager well suited to our sunny climate and cheerful disposition. The only problem was that the brewers, not wanting to confuse – or lose – their loyal drinkers, switched the beer in the bottle from ale to lager but kept the familiar name on the label, so that we had Victoria Bitter and XXXX Bitter Ale and Cascade Pale Ale and Melbourne Bitter which were all lagers with ale names. Today we are far more educated about the differences between ales and lagers. We better understand that ales are warmer and fruitier in character due to fermentation at higher temperatures whereas lagers are brewed at lower temperatures to achieve a clean and crisp finish. If you are still unsure visit the library, use the Google Machine or pop in and talk to your friendly local brewer. Retail shelves are today filled with beers from both sides of the beer family but one category still seems to cause some confusion. Let’s visit the land of Pale Ales, shall we?

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PALE ALE

HISTORY OF PALE ALE Most readers will be familiar with the beer known as English Bitter. It’s the one you’ll see being pulled skilfully and labouriously by big jolly landlords into large pint glasses in most episodes of your favourite British TV series and which most Australians tend to assume is drunk flat and warm. It is, in fact, a popular style of ale bearing a strong hop character and varying in colour from pale straw through to dark brown. It is also the beginning of our journey into Pale Ale. It fits into our story here as it is possible that Pale Ale grew from Bitter or, alternatively, that Bitter grew from Pale Ale. Confused? Stay with me. It was once thought that pale ale was merely the term given to bitter in bottled form (rather than from the tap) but this definition hit the wall once brewers began bottling their bitters and serving pale ales on tap. In any case, Pale Ale soon became a firm favourite with drinkers and it wasn’t long before the style was known worldwide. The first pale ales were the result of technical developments in producing malt for brewing. Where previously grain was kilned over wood fires a somewhat uneven and dark roasting occurred. Coke fired kilns allowed maltsters to achieve a lighter end result. The beers produced using these malts were called Pale Ales because they were lighter in comparison to the rich and cloudy dark amber or brown ales and porters before them although to us they would still seem rather less than ‘pale’. This book is not the place to accurately proclaim the first historically recorded mention of the term ‘pale ale’ but let’s say that it lies somewhere between 1675 and 1709. In England. On a Wednesday. Around lunchtime. TYPES OF PALE ALE The confusion surrounding Pale Ales does not stop at debates over its origins, however, with several sub-categories of the style making the drinkers’ choice even more challenging. A quick glance at the bottle shop shelves reveals vast ranges of English and American Pale Ales as well as Australian style Pale Ales and even India Pale Ales. Many other beers which can be classed as Pale Ales do not have the descriptor on the label and, while they are all pale as defined by their colour, the differences in taste are wide and varied.

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PALE ALE

English Pale Ales Since the style was made most popular in England it seems only fair to begin with this branch of the family. English pale ales tend to be malt based with caramel and sometimes toffee or rich ‘bready’notes and their hop character is a more fruity or floral one often appearing only to balance the sweet malt rather than to highlight the respective charms of the hop variety. East Kent Goldings and Fuggles are traditional English hops found in English style Pale Ales. Despite the name, English Pale Ales can be light golden or deep copper with a generally bright clarity and a medium body with low to moderate carbonation. The lower bitterness imparted by the hops allows for a very drinkable – Australians might say ‘sessionable’ – beer. India Pale Ales While in the general region of The British Isles we should visit the India Pale Ale style before moving forward. India Pale Ale is, if you like, a subcategory of the Pale Ale style which has become a category of its own – and one of the world’s most popular styles. Its history is the subject of as much misinformation and conjecture as any beer style with various misconceptions about its ‘invention’ and origins continuing centuries after its appearance on the beer scene. What we can be sure of is that a beer style developed over time and became known as India Pale Ale due to its export to the East India Company employees and military personnel stationed in India and distinctive in its higher level of alcohol and more prominent hop bitterness. Its firm malt backbone and generous hopping would surely have provided for a more enjoyable product at the end of a long sea voyage.

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PALE ALE

American Pale Ales While it is often unfair to categorise a nations’ product by the stereotypical traits of its peoples, it’s fair to say that American style Pale Ales are much more like Americans than they may care to admit. Louder, bolder, more ‘brash’ and ‘upfront’ they overflow with hop character dominated by big fresh and punchy aromas. The first American Pale Ales followed closely the footprint of the India Pale Ales we have just visited, due in part at least to the British colonial involvement in that part of the world, and quickly became popular with craft beer drinkers. It is probable that the early American Pale Ales were a fairly strongly flavoured and well-hopped brew and that the demise of many small local breweries during and following Prohibition forced these colourful beers into the shadows in favour of a wave of generic and comparatively bland mainstream lagers. It was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that American Pale Ales resurfaced through the efforts of craft breweries like Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. As the English Pale Ales are distinguished by the mellow and floral qualities of their hops, so too are the US Pale Ales distinguished by the brightness and strength of theirs. The intense tropical fruit aromas and firm bitterness makes the US version quite different from the ‘original’. Keen to showcase the very citrusy, piney and resinous nature of the Pacific Northwest hop varieties like Cascade, Chinook and Centennial, American brewers seemingly packed as much of the hoppy goodness into each brew as was possible to create beers with depth and character.

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PALE ALE

Australian Pale Ales Here in Australia we have often followed the lead of other markets and drawn ingredients or production techniques from afar or from our own immigrants to create a sort of hybrid version to suit our climate and lifestyle. Brewing in general and Pale Ales in particular is no exception with brewers here taking their cues from elements of English, American, IPA and New Zealand brews. The more recent availability of the best ingredients from overseas and the development of home-grown hop varieties have seen our own brand of Pale Ales come to the fore. Australian Pale Ales have comfortably straddled the dividing line between the two types of Pale Ale styles. Our British heritage has seen many variations on the softer English malt-driven styles alongside interpretations of the bigger and more bitter American brews. Australian hop varieties like Galaxy with its distinctive passionfruit aroma and beautiful bittersweet taste have shown drinkers what our brewers are able to produce to slot into a Pale Ale style that is all our own. Worthy of mention at this point is Little Creatures Pale Ale. Released in 2000 it was modelled squarely on the US style and soon found favour with a steadily growing band of drinkers looking for a beer that would provide a doorway into the world of craft beer. The first commercially successful Australian beer based on the iconic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, it seems implausible that at one stage it was selling so little that the accountants were set to pull the pin. Thankfully the public discovered the beer in time to ensure its well deserved success. A growing band of ready and willing beer drinkers looking to drink ‘quality’ rather than ‘quantity’ has allowed the brewers in Australia to try different things and find favour with bars and retail outlets as well. If anyone had suggested ten years ago that beers brewed specifically to showcase a single hop variety or big bold ales in fancy bottles with cork stoppers and beers made by collaboration between competing breweries would be available, let alone become limited release sensations, you would have been laughed out of town.

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PALE ALE

PALE ALE IN AUSTRALIA

It is a wonderful time to be a beer lover in Australia. New breweries, new beers – and new beer styles – are appearing with a pleasing regularity. More operators appear willing to take a chance and open their taps and their fridges to these exciting offerings while retailers are now beginning to see a greater return from stocking a wider range. This all makes for a terrific landscape of choice for the discerning drinker. While the style guidelines and label definitions may be confusing, one thing is certain – in Australia today Pale Ale is the new black. Or Yellow. Or Straw, Golden or even Light Amber. Whichever way you define it, Pale Ale is the category to which many of us are turning to in greater numbers as we discover the ‘all year ‘round’ nature of these beers. Perfect for quenching a (dare I say it?) a ‘hard earned thirst’ and equally at home during cooler days or for sharing over a meal, Pale Ales in any form look set to sit towards the top of the beer popularity ladder. Hopefully this second edition of The Critics Choice will assist you in finding a beer – any beer – that suits your taste and helps you to make sense of what can be a confusing landscape of brands and styles and bottle types and brewery names. No matter which Pale Ale you prefer or which Lager you long for remember this – sometimes the journey is as interesting as the destination and it’s just a matter of getting out there to find your new favourite beer. And when you find it? Keep looking! Cheers, Pete Mitcham.

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THE BEER LOVERS GUIDE TO

GOLDEN ALE Pete Mitcham samples your new favourite beer

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The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles


GOLDEN ALE

Legend has it that Midas found a drunken Satyr passed out in his rose garden. He recognised the Satyr as the favourite of his Dad, Dionysus, and returned him safely. Nice bloke. Dad was so pleased he granted the lad a single wish. Midas selected ‘golden touch’ whereby all he touched would turn to gold and, despite his father’s warnings, took the gift. All was well for about an hour until Midas tried to pour himself a nice beer to celebrate and discovered the limitations of his newly acquired gift. This ‘golden touch’ caper was a bit more complicated than Midas first thought. Today many beer drinkers are finding themselves in a similar state of confusion – although the consequences are far less permanent and have a much more pleasant ‘impact’. Golden Ales are what Pale Ales were a few years back; plenty of them and very different from one end of the scale to the other. So how do you choose a Golden Ale and have the confidence to know what will pour from the bottle? Well, if you’ve read thus far, you’re on your way! What’s in a name? Retail beer shelves are heaving with new brands and new offerings from more brewers and it would seem at the moment that many of these are Golden Ales. Like Midas, many of us are irresistibly drawn to the concept of ‘gold’ and so it is not surprising that brewers are answering the call and adding Golden Ales to their portfolios. But what makes an Ale ‘Golden’? One retail expert cheekily posed that any pale coloured beer can be called a Golden Ale and it will sell in no time but the reality is that there is a little more to story than mere naming protocols. When technology allowed for malt to be produced without toasting it black, brewers and drinkers alike began to embrace the concept of clear golden beers. Lagers and ales could be brewed that were as pleasing to the eye as they were to the palate and marketing soon caught up and began to extol the visual virtue of a pale, golden beer. While gold usually referred to the colour alone, now we see Golden Ale coming into its own as a style – but colour alone does not define this category. It’s not just a ‘trend’ Why the sudden influx of Golden Ales on the Australian market? Feral Brewing’s Steve Finney reckons it pretty simple; “Some of the largest selling beers in Australian “craft” beer are of the lighter style American Pale Ales and Golden Ales and these beers are lighter, approachable, sessionable and are often a stepping stone into the world of more flavoursome beers.”

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GOLDEN ALE

It’s not just a colour Golden Ales are fairly easy to identify by colour so let’s, for now, look at flavour, aroma and taste to see if we can nail down what forms the basis of a good Golden Ale. Like Pale Ales, Golden Ales cover a fair spread of characteristics and for this reason can confuse a drinker. And we can’t have that, can we? Think about some of those Pale Ales – James Squire 150 Lashes, Cooper’s Pale Ale and Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale – all ‘Pale Ales’ but all vastly different and pigeon-holed by malt, yeast and hops in very different ways. Now think of Golden Ales in the same way and we’re ready to move on. Golden Ales can have a subtle hop aroma and a pleasantly balanced bitterness or they can be very ‘hop-forward’ and showcase the punchy zing of the hop variety chosen. Jamie Cox from Kooinda says of their Valhalla Golden Ale; “We love the Amarillo hop and the nice balance between fruity sweetness and firm bitterness it gives the beer. It gives a bit of interest but is still an easy-drinking beer” Feral’s new offering, Sly Fox Golden Ale is already gaining a strong following due in no small part to its neat balancing act of drinkability countered with brewer Brendan Varis’ judicious use of a US hop blend providing aroma and interest. Melbourne’s craft beer pioneers, Mountain Goat have produced two very sessionable Golden Ales in the past few years and they have ‘merged’ to become a canned brew called ‘Summer Ale’ – a Golden Ale by any definition and one that is selling as quickly as it can be brewed. Other beers, like 4 Pines Kolsch rely on mimicking more traditional styles, in this case the classic refresher from Cologne, which is subtle, mildly aromatic and has a gentle yeast profile. It also provides an opportunity for a little ‘Beer Education’ for the drinker as well. General Manager Jaron Mitchell says; “We thought about changing the name ‘Kolsch’ but realised that we could educate new drinkers and introduce them to a style that has forged a niche in beer history. We changed the label recently to say ‘German style Golden Ale’ to help with that education process.” Another indicator of this style’s successful penetration into the market is Bridge Road Brewers Golden Ale which recently replaced the Beechworth outfit’s original brew, The Australian Ale. When asked to explain the ‘overnight success’ of Golden Ales, Bridge Road Brewers owner Ben Kraus said; “If I knew what made a beer popular my name would be Brad Rogers! I think the styles of beers considered Golden ales by craft brewers in Australia, have always been popular. The easiest description of the style is an entry level or gateway beer that is all about presenting moderate flavours, whilst not being a total cop-out. I guess it’s about approachability first and foremost and secondly balance, with enough flavour and a touch of complexity to keep you contemplating and coming back for another taste.”

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GOLDEN ALE

What they have in common So, Golden Ales can be light in flavour and aroma with little to medium bitterness or they can have hints of sweetish malt and a firm bitterness and they can also display a friendly smack of hop character for those seeking something between a mainstream lager and bolder, full-flavoured ale. What is clear is that Golden Ales provide a safe and pleasant launching pad from which to begin – or take a rest during – this journey through the wonderful world of beer. Another indicator of this style’s successful penetration into the market is Bridge Road Brewers Golden Ale which recently replaced the Beechworth outfit’s original brew, The Australian Ale. When asked to explain the ‘overnight success’ of Golden Ales, Bridge Road Brewers owner Ben Kraus said; “If I knew what made a beer popular my name would be Brad Rogers! I think the styles of beers considered Golden ales by craft brewers in Australia, have always been popular. The easiest description of the style is an entry level or gateway beer that is all about presenting moderate flavours, whilst not being a total cop-out. I guess it’s about approachability first and foremost and secondly balance, with enough flavour and a touch of complexity to keep you contemplating and coming back for another taste.” What they have in common So, Golden Ales can be light in flavour and aroma with little to medium bitterness or they can have hints of sweetish malt and a firm bitterness and they can also display a friendly smack of hop character for those seeking something between a mainstream lager and bolder, full-flavoured ale. What is clear is that Golden Ales provide a safe and pleasant launching pad from which to begin – or take a rest during – this journey through the wonderful world of beer.

The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles

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THE BEER LOVERS GUIDE TO

DARK BEER Pete Mitcham samples your new favourite beer

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The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles


DARK BEER

“Nah thanks, I don’t like Guinness.” If I had a beer for every time I’ve offered someone a dark beer and received this response I’d have 734 beers by now. It highlights how well-marketed is the classic Irish Dry Stout and just how little we know about beers that are not the everyday-pale-golden lager colour. Let’s take the first misconception and knock it out of the park, shall we? The famous Irish stout is almost a style unto itself, so different is it from even other styles of stout. There are six categories of stout in the BJCP* and all are quite different so, in the same way that all dark beer is not stout, even Guinness is different to most other stouts! Confused? Read on.

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DARK BEER

HISTORY Once upon a time, in countries far, far away, brewers made many different beers. They used locally sourced or readily available ingredients to create distinctive beers for their community. They may have used honey in Egypt or heather flowers and bog myrtle in Scotland, fruit in some European regions and vanilla bean and spices in South America but they all shared a common trait – where they used malted grain they produced pretty dark beers. You see, before the Industrial Revolution and the development of coke from coal** it was nigh on impossible to kiln your malt without imparting a toasty burnt edge to it. As a result, all beer made from this darkened grain came out, you guessed it, dark. In 1642 the first coke-fired oven was used to make a lighter coloured malt and, many decades later lighter malts were produced commercially. In Australia the pale golden lager beer that makes up about 95 percent of the beer we drink today became the popular tipple as a result of refrigeration after the Gold Rush. It might be this saturation of pale beer that has led to our aversion to darker beers. This is an illogical standpoint when you consider that we don’t shy away from dark chocolate or charred steaks or cola flavoured Slurpees.

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The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles


DARK BEER

DARK BEER STYLES Lagers The next misconception that needs debunking is the one that suggests all dark beers are ales. Many newcomers to ‘the Dark Side’ assume that if it’s dark it’s also a fruity, aromatic ale meant for sipping in quiet contemplation rather than for sharing around a BBQ or that they are the domain of wizened old miner-types who seem to prop up the front bar of country hotels in black and white TV shows. Not so. If lagers are generally thought of as clean, crisp and refreshing, then dark lagers can be all of that – and more! Lager-like in body and mouthfeel, dark lagers can add just a hint of roastiness, of dark chocolate and even slightly burnt toast – none of which you may feel has a place inside a beer – yet they combine to deliver a complex but easy drinking brew. Look for these under; Dark Lager, Schwartzbier or even Bock (strong and often dark) Ales The world of dark ales covers more styles and variations on style than we have space for here so let’s take just a quick look at some of the more accessible and available ones you might find on the shelves. Brown Ale has been around for a while with the most popular offering being Newcastle Brown. While still not too prevalent, there are some very good local brews representing this style which should reach you in better condition than an import. Cavalier and Mornington Peninsula Brewery have two of the best. Dark Ales can range in colour from amber to near black and in flavour from warm, rich and malty to strong, punchy and hoppy. Sourcing these from the brewer or cellar door, or from a good beer venue which can allow you a little taste, will help you to discover the sort of dark ale which best suits your palate. The female beer drinker is actually driving much of the new beer trend and, with a more sophisticated palate, is finding a more rewarding experience in dark ales particularly.

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DARK BEER

Porter has been around since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and, while it suffered exile to the beer wilderness in the last century, is now making a bold return and finding a place in the portfolio of breweries around the globe. They can be malty and soothing as well as big and flavoursome with varying degrees of bitterness. Stout straddles no less than six different categories when it comes to beer judging and the range of flavours and tastes that these iconic and misunderstood beers offer means that there really is a stout to suit everyone. Oatmeal, Milk, Oyster, Russian Imperial, Dry, Sweet or Foreign Export are all prefixes leading the drinker to a whole new world of dark beers. Other dark styles Once you realise how the addition of a handful of darker or roasted malts to a brew can greatly affect the depth of colour achievable, you begin to see what many modern brewers have come to embrace – the world of new beer styles is an endless palette of colours and tastes. The judicious use of these darker malts has given us new styles based on many old favourites. IPAs, usually a deep golden or burnished copper coloured ale becomes a Black IPA or Cascadian Ale with just a slight tweak of the recipe. Likewise, a citrusy-sweet and refreshing wheat beer takes on a more mysterious and complex nature when the brewer adds dark malts to craft a Dunkelweizen. So, in essence, forget whatever prejudices you may have held against dark beers and, using this guide as inspiration, put on the Darth Vader mask and embrace the force that is The Dark Side. *The Beer Judge Certification Program, founded in 1985 is the non-profit body which looks to oversee the judging of beer and establishing the various categories or styles by which beer can be judged. **Coke, basically a more refined form of coal, burns cleaner and more reliably than coal. Mass production during the Industrial Revolution meant that grain could be dried at lower temperatures and malted without colouring it thus allowing for the production of lighter, golden coloured beers.

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The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles


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The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles  

The Beer Lovers Guide to Beer Styles gives you an introductory and in depth look at the different styles of beer. For those wanting more inf...

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