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Beer styles of the world.

In general terms, brewing beer is a relatively simple task. To begin with, any of a variety of grains are soaked in water to release the inherent starches within. Next, hops or some other ingredients are added to the concoction to further flavor and preserve the brew. Then, the mixture is boiled in is entirety. Once the liquor (now called wort) has cooled, yeast is added and the transformation of sugars to carbon dioxide and alcohol begins. After several weeks of fermentation has taken place, the brewer now has a product he can call beer. However, in their quest for further knowledge, the worlds' brewers have taken their art to ever-increasing heights.

As the fabric of the world's brewing history has unfolded, two distinct styles of brewing have evolved. The two are differentiated by 1) where the yeast ferments in the beer; whether it is top-fermenting or bottom-fermenting, and more importantly 2) at what temperature it is fermented. Most top-fermenting, or ale yeasts, prefer warmer temperatures as they work; usually 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit is normal. Bottom-fermenting yeast, referred to as lager yeast, came about in the mid-17th century, when German brewers developed a yeast strain that could work at lower temperatures than its top-fermenting counterpart. After fermenting their brews with this new strain at cool temperatures, brewers could then lager (the German word for "age or store") their beers at still colder temperatures. Although most lager yeast can convert sugars down to nearly the freezing point, most lager beers today are fermented at 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. The lagering method, which allows for a more complete ferment, produces a much smoother, less sweet beer than had ever been known to the ale brewers. The aging process also lets the insoluble particles in the beer settle to the bottom, thereby creating a brilliantly clear final product.

From the two brewing and fermenting methods have come a plethora of varying beer styles. Each region of the world it seems, and even different regions in a single country, has developed and refined a beer style (or styles) that has made that area unique within the beer world, but many of those styles have changed with time. For example, while Germany is known mostly for its larger beers, many world-class top-fermented products can be found there, including Bavaria's weizen bier. Likewise, the beverage of choice for ealy American settlers was ale; however, today, a large majority of American-brewed beers are lagers.

With these factors in mind, we will attempt to give a brief summary of many, though certainly not all, of the world's classic beer styles and their origins along with a list some products that typify that style.

ALES: The older of the two brewing methods, ale is defined as a brew utilizing a top-fermenting yeast and warm fermenting temperture that imparts a distinctive "fruitiness" to the product. Ales come in a variety of colors from dark golden to deep brown or black. Likewise, the flavor and strength of an ale can vary between a very delicate palate to a heavily hopped, extremely assertive flavor.

In several American states however, where the definition of an ale is skewed due to post-Prohibition laws, ale is falsely defined as any malt beverage with an alcohol content higher than 5 percent by volume.

Altbier (Germany): Refers to the "old" style or top-fermented beer. Originating in Dusseldorf, Altbier uses an all-barley mash which is later cold-conditioned more akin to a lager beer. Altbier brewers will sometimes add malted wheat to the mash (usually between 10-15 percent) to add body to the brew and aid in head retention. The resultant product is usually a copper-colored, medium-bodied beer.

Products available in this country include: Widmer Altbier and Pinkus Alt.

Barley Wine (England): Is not a wine at all, but a very strong top-fermented ale--usually over six percent alcohol by volume and very often examples of this style come in over 10 percent. A barley wine is quite malty but with an accompanying hop bitterness. Nonetheless, that bitterness is very often masked by a pervasive alcohol flavor. Barley wine, which was originally known as a "strong ale," is generally found packaged in small "nip" bottles in both light and dark verions.

Products available in this country include: Anchor Old Foghorn, Young's Old Nick, and BridgePort Old Knucklehead.

Bitter (England): The classic "English pub beer." Usually it is amply-hopped (hence its name) and served as a draught beer. A bitter's color may vary from amber to a deep copper. Alcohol content is generally 3.5-4 percent alcohol by volume, but can often be much lower. Variations of the style may be referred to as "Special bitter," which would have a slightly higher alcohol content, and the "Extra Special bitter," which is higher still, generally topping out at 5 to 5.5 percent alcohol.

Products available in this country include: Young's RamRod, Hale's Pale American Ale, and BridgePort Ski Draught.

Brown Ale (England): Simply a darker ale by definition with a lower alcohol content than most English products. Brown ale can be similar to a porter, though it is sweeter, lighter and has a lower alcohol content. The style tends to differ slightly throughout England: in the south, it can be sweet and dark brown; while in northern England, brown ale is reddish-brown with a slightly drier taste and higher alcohol content.

Products available in this country include: Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, and Newcastle Brown Ale.

Cream Ale (USA): An American derivation of a light-tasting and light-bodied ale, which is sometimes referred to as a "sparking lager-ale." The style can be either top-or bottom-fermented warm, then cold-fermented in the lager style. According to Michael Jackson, many cream ales are a blend of ale and lager beers thereby giving the product almost identical characteristics as an American pilsner.

Products available in this country include: Labatt's 50 Ale, Genessee Cream Ale, and Weinhard's Light American Ale.

Old Ale or Strong ale (England): Usually refers to a medium to strong ale. However, in Australia, "old" can designate any dark ale. In the British Isles, this dark-hued brew is often heavily hopped with an equally strong malt character. Some old ales can mature in its bottle for years, resulting in what can only be described as "sherry-like" flavor. With this in mind, old ale drinkers frequently use a brandy snifter when drinking this product in order to fully appreciate the ale's many complexities.

Products available in this country include: Thomas Hardy's Ale.

Pale Ale (England): A bronze to copper-hued brew; usually premium English bottled bitters are referred to in this manner, though pale ale has more body, more hop bite, and higher alcohol content. Not really "pale" at all, pale ale's name refers to the fact that it was lighter in color and body than the porters and brown ales that were being brewed in England when this style first became popular.

A derivation of the classic English product, India Pale Ale came about in the days of the clipper ships. Originally, the brew was more heavily hopped with a higher alcohol content to ensure the beer's stability on its long shipboard passages to the British-controlled Indian subcontinent. Today the term generally refers to any "super premium" pale ale.

Products available in this country include: Bass Pale Ale, Samuel Smith's Pale Ale and Whitbread Pale Ale.

Porter (England): A London-brewed product that was the mainstay of the English pub drinker centuries ago. The porter style became extinct at some point in history, but many of today's microbrewers have renewed the style. A porter, which today has an alcohol content of around five percent by weight, is generally lighter in body and color than a stout, though the line between the two styles is a very fine one that is often blurred by modern-day brewers.

Products available in this country include: Anchor Porter, Samuel Smith Taddy Porter, and Young's London Porter.

Scotch Ale (Scotland): Unlike the English bitters, Scotland's ales have a distinctive malty character all their own. In earlier times within that country, Jackson reports, Scottish brewers may have designated their ales according to specific gravity and alcohol strength with names like Light, Heavy, Export and Strong. Today's Scotch ale possesses a strong malt flavor and can be quite high in alcohol content.

Products available in this country include: Belhaven Scottish Ale, McEwan;s Scotch Ale, and Traquair House Ale.

Stout (Ireland): First brewed in Ireland as a derivation of the English porter style. Stoug is a deep black, top-fermented brew which incorporates roasted barley in the mash. The barley imparts a distinctive "roastiness" to the style. Sweet, or milk, souts have a relatively low alcohol content, usually 3.5-4 percent by volume, and, as the name implies, a slightly sweet flavor due to the lactose sugars added to the brew during fermentation. Dry Stout is the Irish style which uses unmalted roasted barley, creating a drier palate than its English counterpart. Imperial stout, originally brewed to chase away winter's chills in Russia, is a medium to heavy product with a greater alcohol content--often 7-10 percent.

Products available in this country include: Guinness Extra Stout, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, and Grant's Imperial Stout.

Trappist ale (Belgium): By law, only five breweries, owned by Belgium's order of Trappist monks, may use this term for their top-fermented products. The style is distinguished by the monks' use of candy sugar during the brewing process. The finished product, which has an alcohol content of between six and nine percent by volume, is usually bottle-conditioned. The Double and Triple ales, which contain significantly more alcohol but are more pale than the original Trappist ale, are brewed for special occasions and holidays. Since this beer style was often consumed during the Lenten season when fasting was the rule, Trappist ale often substituted as a sort of "liquid bread."

Products available in this country include: Chimay, Orval, and St. Sixtus.

Weisse or Weizenbier (Germany): Weiss, the German word for "white," also designates a pale product brewed from a high proportion of malted wehat--from 40 to 75 percent, in some cases. Wheat beer is top-fermented but uses a special strain of yeast that produces a distinctive, slightly sour flavor. That subtle sourness is sometimes enhanced with a squeeze of lemon.

Although not exclusive to the area, weizenbier is most commonly brewed in the southern regions of Germany. The Bavarian weizen very often has a clove-like fruitiness, created by the yeast strain during the conversion of sugars to alcohol. Color tends to range from very pale to a deep golden or even bronze hue, while alcohol content is usually between 5 and 6 percent. Dunkelweizen, meanwhile, is the darker version of the style with a stronger malt character than the light version.

The unfiltered version of the weizen--Hefe-weizen--is bottle-conditioned, with yeast present in the bottle. Though the yeast is harmless, most wheat beer connoisseurs carefully decant their bottles, leaving a crystal-clear product in the glass.

Products available in this country include: HackerPschorr Weiss, Hofbrau Weiss, and Paulaner Weiss.

LAGER: Refers to any bottom-fermented beer. These products can run in color from the lightest American "light" beer to the very dark brews found throughout Europe. Perhaps running on an even wider scale than ale styles, a larger's alcohol content may run from next to nothing as found in today's non-alcohol brews to more than 12 percent as is the case with Switzerland's Samichlaus, "the world's strongest beer," according to the Guinness Book of World Records in 1982.

American Pilsner (USA): These beers are ubiquitous in today's marketplace, and are usually light in body and bitterness. The typical American pilsners are made even lighter in character by using grain adjuncts (usually corn or rice) in the mash and fewer hops. Although these products, which have a brilliant golden color and an alcohol content between 3.5 and 4 percent by weight, depart from their European origins, millions of American beer drinkers can't be wrong.

Products available in this country include: Budweiser, Miller Genuine Draft, and Coors Extra Gold.

Today, with the continued growth of the nation's microbreweries, a consumer can find several American pilsners that are more true to the pilsners of 'Europe. These all-malt brews can range from very light to assertive hop flavor and bitterness, and possess more body than the typical American "premium" beers.

Products available in this country include: August Schell Pilsner and Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Canadian Lager (Canada): Another variation on the pilsner style hails from north of the border. For years now, Canada's brewers have produced smooth, clean, golden lagers that are characterized by a greater hop character and slightly more body than most American lager products. Although a myth exists that Canadian lagers contain more alcohol than those brewed in the States, the difference lays in the fact that Canadian breweries measure alcohol content by volume, while their American brethren identify it by weight.

Products available in this country include: Labatt's Blue, Moosehead, and O'Keefe.

Bock (Germany): The style was probably developed in the northern German town of Einbeck. It is usually served as a "warmer" in later winter, early spring or autumn.

Bocks are generally quite malty due to an all-barley mash with an alcohol content of no less than 5. Despite the malt assertiveness, bock beers also sport a distinctive hop finish.

A bock's color is often on the dark side, though, contrary to some beliefs, it is not made from the degs of the barrel. While darker versions tend to be the rule, several pale varieties are produced and a brewery may brew both versions.

Aside from color, bock beer is separated into still more categories. Maibock, a bock beer that is available to consumers in Germany from March through the end of May in celebration of the coming of spring, is very often brewed much paler than other bock styles. A double bock, or doppelbock, refers to a still-stronger form of bock. Today, dopplebocks, which end with the "-ator" suffix, are quite high in alcohol content--usually more than 7 percent--with a deep amber to brownish color. Another nuance is the eisbock, or "ice" bock, a beer that has been frozen to remove excess water, thereby creating a much more concentrated and potent beer.

Products available in this country include: Ayinger Celebrator, EKU 28, and Paulaner Salvator.

Dortmunder (Germany): Also referred to as Export, this lager is a pale, bottom-fermented product favored by the brewers in Dortmund, Germany. The product is sweeter and has much more body than a pilsner. Its alcohol content also surpasses that of a pilsner or Munich pale beer.

Products available in this country incude: DAB Orginal.

Dry (Japan): According to beer guru Fred Eckhardt, this style was first introduced in Japan by Asahi Brewing Co. in 1987. The style is not as sweet as most beers and leaves little or no aftertaste. The dry beer style is particularly appealing to American consumers who have been weaned on less characterful products than those found in Europe. Dry beers use a special strain of yeast that transform normally unfermentable ingredients into fermentable sugars. This process results in an extremely thorough fermentation and a very clean, crisp, pale lager product taht tends to go well with fine cuisine.

Products available in this country include: Asahi Dry, Sapporo Dry and Kirin Dry.

Marzen (Germany): Also referred to as "Oktoberfest" beer, it is a medium-bodied deep-golden to amber lager with a rich maltiness about it. Originally, marzen beers were brewed in March and April and stored in caves throughout the summer months when the heat made brewing impossible. During the hot months, reserves would be taken from these stores which would finally be depleted at Oktoberfest time. Today's version, which is served as a specialty during Oktoberfest season, has a relatively potent alcohol content of 5.5 to 6 percent by volume.

Products available in this country include: Hofbrau Oktoberfest, Paulaner Oktoberfest, and Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest.

Munchner or Munich (Germany): Generally a dark brown, spicy lager produced in its namesake city, although paler versions are produced. In Munich, such a style is identified by the word "dunkel" on the beer's label. Most classic versions of the Munchner style contain 5 to 5.5 percent alcohol.

Products available in this country include: Augustiner Hell, and Paulaner Original Munchner Hell.

Pils or Pilsner (Czechoslovakia): Probably the world's most widely-known beer style, pilsner (or pilsener) was originally brewed in the Bohemian province of today's Czechoslovakia. The year was 1842 when brewers in the now-famous brewing city of Pilsen produced the world's first golden-colored, crystal-clear, bottom fermented lager. Prior to that time, ales and lagers alike tended to be dark and somewhat unstable. In current times, the name generally refers to any golden-colored larger with a lightish character. The name "pilsner," however, was meant to identify only those brews that were of the highest quality. Authentic pilsners are a rich golden color possessing a flowery hop character and dry finish and moderate alcohol content.

Products available in this country include: Becks, Pilsner Urquell, and Pinkus Ur-pils.

Vienna (Austria): This amber- to darker-colored lager was probably inspired by Germany's marzen bier. The still-distinctive color of the Vienna style is attributed to the Vienna malt that continues to be used in the brewing process. The style produces a relatively sweet malty flavor but with a dry finish.

Products available in this country include: Dos Equis Amber, Coors Winterfest, and Newman's Albany Amber.


A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best Beer, by Christopher Finch. Copyright 1989. Published by Abbeville Press Publishers, New York.

The Essentials of Beer Style, by Fred Eckhardt. Copyright 1989. Published by Fred Eckhardt Associates, Portland, OR.

The New World Guide to Beer, by Michael Jackson. Copyright 1988. Published by Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia.

The Pocket Guide to Beer, by Michael Jackson. Copyright 1991. Published by Simon & Schuster, New York.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Business Journals, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:the world's classic beer styles, origins and some typical products
Author:Schutz, Glenn W.
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Jul 15, 1991
Previous Article:The global perspective: an interview with Michael Hughes, president of Guinness Import Co.
Next Article:United we stand?

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