Beer style is a term used to differentiate and categorize beers by various factors such as color, flavor, strength, ingredients, production method, recipe, history, or origin. The modern concept of beer style is largely based on the work of writer Michael Jackson in his 1977 book 'The World Guide To Beer' in which he categorized a variety of beers from around the world into local style groups according to local customs and names.
The study of what constitutes a beer's style can be broken down into various elements. These may include the amount of bitterness imparted to a beer from bittering agents such as hops, roasted barley, or herbs; the amount of sweetness from the sugar present in the beer; the strength of the beer from the amount of fermentable material converted into alcohol; the smoothness or viscosity of the beer in the mouth, commonly described as mouthfeel; and the appearance of the beer, including the color.
- Ale is beer that is brewed using only top-fermenting yeasts, and is typically fermented at higher temperatures than lager beer (60–75°F). At these temperatures, ale yeasts produce significant amounts of esters and other secondary flavors and aromas, often resembling those of apple, pear, pineapple, grass, hay, banana, plum or prune. Principal styles of ale include Old Ale and Barley Wine, Belgian Trippel, Belgian Dubbel, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Porter (including Stout), and Wheat beer. Ales typically take 3 to 4 weeks to make, although some varieties can take as long as 4 months. Lagers take significantly longer to brew than ales and tend to be less sweet.
- Pale ale - Pale ale is a term used to describe a variety of beers which use ale yeast and predominantly pale malts. It is widely considered to be one of the major beer style groups. All of the major ale-producing countries have a version of Pale Ale: England has Bitter, Scotland Heavy and IPA, America has American pale ale, France has Bière de Garde, Germany has Altbier, etc.
- Light ale - In England, a light ale is the bottled version of a basic bitter. In Scotland, "Light" indicates the lowest gravity draught beer, which is often dark in color. In neither case does the term imply "low-calorie".
- Red ale - Red ale is a type of ale originating in Ireland. The slightly reddish color comes from the use of roasted barley, in addition to the malt. The beers are typically fairly low in alcohol, although stronger export versions are brewed. A red ale tastes less bitter or hoppy than an English ale, with a pronounced malty, caramel flavor.
- Brown ale - A darker barley malt is used to produce brown ales, of which the English mild and Belgian oud bruin are examples. They tend to be lightly hopped, and fairly mildly flavored, often with a nutty taste. In the south of England they are dark brown, around 3-3.5% alcohol and quite sweet; in the north they are red-brown, 4.5-5% and drier. English brown ales first appeared in the early 1900s, with Manns Brown Ale and Newcastle Brown Ale as the best-known examples. The style became popular with homebrewers in North America in the early 1980s; Pete's Wicked Ale is an example, similar to the English original but substantially hoppier. Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula, MT also brews brown ale.
- Lager is a type of beer that is stored for at least three weeks before being served. It is a general term that includes several variations or styles, such as Pilsener, Export and Märzen. The average lager in worldwide production is light in color and usually represents the helles, pale lager or Pilsener styles. The flavor of these lighter lagers is usually mild and the producers often recommend that the beers be served refrigerated. However, the examples of lager beers produced worldwide vary greatly in flavor, color, and composition. The flavor of a lager can be quite simple, with the most mild being light lagers. Lagers with the most complex flavors are typically the darkest, although few lagers feature strong hop flavoring compared to ales of similar alcohol by volume. In general, however, lagers display less fruitiness and spiciness than ales, simply because the lower fermentation temperatures associated with lager brewing cause the yeast to produce fewer of the esters and phenols associated with those flavors. In strength, lagers represent some of the world's most alcoholic beers.
- Dark ales are brewed using dark-roasted barley malts. Porter was a London style that became extinct but has been revived in recent years, particularly in North America by companies such as the Deschutes Brewing Company
and Sierra Nevada
. Porters range from brown to black in color; a stronger version of porter was known as a "stout porter", or simply "stout". Historically, many American breweries had a porter in their product range, including P. Ballantine & Sons (who were well known for other specialty styles as well, including a well regarded India Pale Ale and a Brown Stout). The Yuengling brewery in Pennsylvania
has long had a Porter among its offerings and continues to do so today. Another well known Pennsylvania porter was Stegmaier; while the original company is defunct, the brand is still produced by the Lion Brewery
. The microbrewery revival of the past twenty five years has led to a resurgence in the popularity of the style, with many new varieties available around the world, including offerings from Deschutes, Sierra Nevada, Anchor
, Catamount, and many others.
- Stout like a porter is a dark beer, and more specifically an ale, made using roasted malt or barley, hops, water, and ale (top fermenting) yeast. Stouts were traditionally the generic term for the strongest or stoutest beers, typically 7% or 8%, produced by a brewery. Stouts have a number of variations including Dry or Irish stout, Imperial stout, Baltic porter, Milk stout, Oatmeal stout, Chocolate stout and Coffee stout.
- A pilsener is a type of pale lager beer. It takes its name from being developed in the 19th century in the city of Pilsen, Bohemia (Plzeň in the Czech Republic). A modern pilsener has a very light, clear color from pale to golden yellow, and a distinct hop aroma and flavor. Czech pilseners tend toward a lighter flavor (good examples being Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen), while those in a German style can be more bitter (particularly in the north, e.g. Jever) or even "earthy" in flavor. A pilsener is generally regarded as different from other pale lagers by a more prominent hop character, particularly from the use of Saaz noble hops. While pilsener is best defined in terms of its characteristics and heritage, the term is also used by some brewers (particularly in North America) to indicate their "premium" beer, whether or not it has a particular hop character.