Guide to beer styles

 /Date : 2015-08-20

Belgian-style Ales

  • Abbey Dubbel: This style originated from Trappist Abbeys. Color varies from reddish to dark brown, with a thick and creamy head, that lasts for a long time. Aroma is malty, with hints of toffee, chocolate and dark fruits. Body is medium-low. Yeast on the bottom of the bottle is common.
  • Abbey Tripel: This style was created by the Westmalle Abbey. Tripels are strong, pale and cloudy, with a good white head. Aroma and taste are very complex, with lots of phenolic and fruity notes. They have stronger malt than hop character. Alcohol is prominent and yeasts are expected on the bottom.
  • Abt/Quadrupel: Quadrupels (or Belgian dark strong) were created by the La Trappe Abbey. They are dark brown to almost black, with a creamy and long-lasting head. Aroma and taste are very complex, with lots of phenolic notes, dark fruits, chocolate and dark malts. Body and alcohol perception are high.
  • Belgian Ale: This style involves a large number of sub styles. These beers have approximately 7% ABV or less. Color varies from golden to deep amber, with some darker exceptions. Body tends to be light to medium, with variations of the malts and hop levels. They also tend to be lighter and refreshing beers.
  • Belgian Strong Ale: Belgian Strong Ales can vary from golden, to pale and dark brown in color. Hop levels may vary from low to high, body is medium-high and alcohol perception is also high. Candy Sugar, herbs and various spices are commonly used.
  • Bière de Garde: A traditional French Farmhouse style. They can be blond or pale and cloudy. Malt character is prominent on the aroma, and may have some toasty and caramel notes. Body is medium-low and bitterness is medium. Alcohol perception is evident, as well as some fruity esters. Earthy and cellar notes can also be present, as well as Brettanomyces.
  • Saison: Saisons can be golden or pale. Fruity esters are dominant on the aroma. Taste has some malty notes, floral hops, herbs and spices. Brettanomyces and other phenolic notes may or may not be present. Bitterness is mild to high. Acid, earthy and cellar notes are welcomed on this style. Alcohol levels range from medium to high.

Sour Beers

  • Berliner Weisse: A wheat beer style from Berlin. Unlike its Bavarian counterpart, this style is very sour. They can be golden or pale, alcohol is very low, and the hops are almost not perceptible. They are often mixed with syrups to cut the intense acidity, but it can also be consumed without it is very refreshing.
  • Lambic Faro: Faro is a Lambic blend with the addition of sugar. They are light to dark amber with a medium head. The cellar, funky and barnyard notes are more subtle than in other Lambic styles. Because of the sugar, they are also sweeter and more refreshing. Flavor is sweet and sugary.
  • Fruit Lambic: Lambics are made on the region of Brussels. They have a lot of wheat malts and are fermented with wild yeasts and later have fruits added. This makes the beer very sour, and the fruits help to balance it with their sweetness. Leather and other phenolic notes are expected due to presence of Brettanomyces.
  • Gueuze Lambic: Gueuze is made from a blend of fresh and old Lambic. The hops used are old and serve only to preserve the beer, not adding much flavor or aroma. The proportion of the blend greatly influences the aromas and flavors, and each brewer has their own recipe. Gueuze Lambics are very complex, sour and dry.
  • Unblended Lambic: Also called Oude or Grand Cru, they are quite rare and more easily found on the region where they are made. These Lambics vary in character from barrel to barrel, and many are aged with fruits inside the cask. They are not blended, so their natural acidic character is kept.
  • Sour Red/Brown: Also known as Flanders Red/Brown Ale. Color is dark red to dark brown. Their sourness goes from medium to high, and is very well balanced with the sweetness of the malts used. Oak aging is common, which gives them some very pleasant wood notes. Some brewers also use fruits during the aging process.
  • Sour/Wild Ale: These beers include a number of non-traditional sour ales. Their color varies from pale to dark amber. They are brewed as any other ale but then are exposed to specific types of yeast that provide sourness, like Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus. Their alcohol level is low.


Anglo-American Styles

  • Altbier: Created in Dusseldorf, Germany, Altbiers are Ales fermented in warm temperatures but aged in cold temperatures, like Lagers. Color is copper or dark brown. They are very malty and hoppy, and may have some fruity esters too. Body is medium and the aftertaste is dry.
  • Amber Ale: Beers in this category may vary a lot. Their color ranges from light amber to dark amber and even some reddish. Aroma and flavor are usually malty and caramelized, with different intensities of hops and bitterness. Body and alcohol tend to be medium. Some brewers may call them Red Ales.
  • American Pale Ale: They are light to dark pale or even copper in color. APA´s differ from their English counterparts on the amount of hop usage. The intense use of American hops provides bitterness and a lot of citrus and fruity aromas to the beer, and a lot of brewers use dry-hopping to further enhance the hop character in the final product.
  • American Strong Ale: This is not a style properly, but a denomination to include a lot of modern American beers that are intense in all of its characteristics, from alcohol, to body, bitterness and the great amount of malts and hops used. These Strong Ales may be stronger variants of IPAs, Red Ales, Stouts and other styles.
  • Barley Wine: Color is copper, body and alcohol are high. They are very malty and have noticeable residual sweetness. Hop aroma and flavor is low to medium. Barley wines are strong beers that work well as a digestive or to be sipped with desserts. The American version may have more hops.
  • Bitter: Color is gold to copper, carbonation is low. Bitters are very well balanced, without having too much hop or malt on both the aroma and on the taste. Bitterness is also medium in most cases. Alcohol is low, usually below 5%.  
  • Brown Ale: Color may be reddish-brown or dark brown. The aroma and taste are very malty, with hints of caramel, toffee and dark malts. Hop aroma and taste is very low, as well as bitterness. The residual sweetness of the malts is evident on the mouth.
  • Cream Ale: Color is pale and the body is light. These beers are made with Ale yeasts on warm temperatures but are matured cold, or they can be made by blending Ales and Lagers. Hop flavor, aroma and bitterness are low.
  • English Pale Ale: Color can be gold, pale or copper. Their carbonation is low and they are made with English hops, which give them earthy and herbaceous notes on the aroma, very different from the American counterpart. Taste is malts, biscuit and caramel. The aftertaste is dry.
  • English Strong Ale: Color is pale to dark amber. Aroma hops is low, with more strength to the malts and some fruity esters. Taste is malts, biscuit, some caramel and they are usually sweet. The alcohol should be evident but not to overwhelming.  Body is medium to full.
  • Golden Ale/ Blond Ale: These ales are light brews with medium alcohol level. They vary in hop usage and body according with the country of origin. Malt taste is subtle and bitterness is low. Hop aroma is usually floral. This style is very refreshing and has a very good drinkability.
  • Double/ Imperial IPA: The color is orange to copper. They are very intense in all aspects. Alcohol is above 10% by volume, taste and body are strong, they are very bitter, hop presence is evident both on the flavor and taste, and dry hopping is also common, which make these IPAs very fresh-looking.
  • India Pale Ale: Created in England and particularly popular in the USA. Color is golden to copper. They have an intense hop flavor and aroma, and with medium presence of caramel malts. American IPAs tend to be more strong then the English counterpart, and are more citric on the nose, whereas English IPAs have a more earthy profile.
  • Irish Ale/ Red Ale: They are dark red or ruby in color, and their character is dominated by the use of dark and caramel malts, with a low hop profile. The alcohol level is medium, as well as the bitterness. Body is medium and they have good drinkability,
  • Kölsch: A style unique from Köln (Cologne), Germany. Although they are very golden, light and sometimes mistaken for a pilsner, but they are Ales that matured like lagers. This style has a distinct hop profile of German hops that is well balanced with the biscuit-like malts.
  • Mild Ale: Their color is dark brown and their character is dominated by the malts, having little or no hop aroma and taste at all. The alcohol is low, although there are some stronger versions. Some brewers may add caramel to darken its color and give it more taste.
  • Old Ale: This is style has many variants, but they tend to be dark, almost black. Their profile is dominated by dark malts and hop aroma and taste are very low, if present at all. Some of them consist of a blend, in which one of the beers was matured in wooden casks. Aging in wooden casks is common for this style, and this can give them many different notes, such as vanilla and low oxidation.
  • Premium Bitter/ESB: England has lots of bitters, and the name ESB refers to stronger versions, that are usually served directly from the casks, although there are many bottled examples. Their aroma and taste are dominated by biscuit and caramel malts, and despite being stronger than other bitters, they don´t have more than 6% Abv.
  • Scotch Ale: Also known as Strong Scotch Ale or Wee Heavy, this style is stronger than most British Ales. Color is dark brown to almost black, and taste comprises of dark and caramel malts, and sometimes with smoked notes, as well as some turf. Bitterness is medium-low due to the high use of malts.
  • Scottish Ales. They are dark in color and their character is very malty and the body is full. Hop bitterness, taste and aroma are low, if present. Smoked and earthy notes are common. Despite being full bodied, alcohol is usually very low, under 5%, but there are stronger versions.
  • Session IPA: This style was created recently in the United States. It has most of the characteristics of an ordinary IPA, from color to aroma, taste, bitterness and freshness, but their alcohol level is very low, making their drinkability considerably higher. 

Porters and Stouts

  • Baltic Porter: The main difference from this style to other porters is that the Baltic version is bottom-fermented. They lack the strong roast character of other porters and stouts, but they have a strong malt character nonetheless. Their body is full and bitterness is medium-low, with some sweetness from the malts.
  • Black IPA: Also called India Black Ale, this is a very recent style that has all the characteristics of an IPA like high alcohol level, hoppiness, bitterness and body, but with a distinct toasty and dark malts profile. Dry-hopping is common. Although they are not so roasted other dark beers, it´s still very clear on the taste.
  • Dry Stout: They are very dark and have low carbonation and a very thick head, due to the use of nitrogen. Their character is mild in everything. Roastiness is present but subtle, bitterness is medium, and hops are not present either in the flavor or aroma. On the taste the presence of dark malts and caramel is clear, as well as some coffee-like acidity.
  • Foreign Stout: Originally a beer made for exportation, this version of the Dry Stout is stronger and more robust. It is still sweeter than a common stout and more full bodied. The addition of hops is more generous than in other stouts and their presence is clear both in the aroma and in the flavor. 
  • Imperial Porter: Imperial Porters are very dark and robust. Their profile is dominated by the use of dark and roasted malts, yet they are not as roasted as an Imperial Stout. Their alcohol level is high, starting at 7 but often above 10% Abv. Bitterness and hop presence are medium.
  • Imperial Stout: They are very dark, with strong notes of roast, coffee and chocolate both in the aroma and taste. Hops are also very present. They often gave a very thick and creamy head. Bitterness is medium and alcohol is very high, with a clear warming sensation on the aftertaste. Residual sweetness is also very perceivable.
  • Porter: They are very dark and with a strong presence of dark and roasted malts, but hops are also present. Chocolate and coffee are present both in the aroma and taste. Despite the great use of malts, they are not so full bodied and are very easy to drink.
  • Stout: They are very dark with lots of roast, chocolate and coffee notes on the aroma and taste. There are a lot of variations of this style, but all tend to have a strong roast character and medium to high alcohol levels. They are full bodied and may have some light acidity.
  • Sweet Stout: Also known as milk stout or oatmeal stout. They are dark brown to black. Milk stouts have the addition of lactose and have a sweet finish. They are also very creamy and have a thick head. Oatmeal Stouts are more full bodied viscous due to the addition of oats.

Wheat beers

  • Dunkelweizen: Made with more dark malts, they have the same characteristic fruity aromas of the hefewezein, as well as some chocolate, caramel and toasted notes. They are very refreshing, while at the same time being more robust than the hefeweizen and not as strong as a doppelbock. They are not very bitter and are very carbonated, with a thick and lasting head.
  • Hefeweizen: They can range from pale to dark brown, are always cloudy and have a thick head. They are very refreshing and full bodied at the same time. The aroma is very characteristic, with lots of fruity esters of banana and clove, and biscuit-like malts. They also have a good nutritional value. Bitterness is low.
  • Kristallweizen: They have most of the characteristics of the hefeweizen, but they are filtered. This makes them very bright and clear, and also more light bodied. The aroma and taste are the same as the non-filtered version. Lots of banana, clove and other fruity esters.
  • Grodziskie/Gose/Lichtenhainer: These are sour wheat beers. They can be pale or golden. Grodziskie can be tart, Gose is seasoned with salt, and can also have some smoked malts. They all have very low alcohol and are very refreshing. The Berliner Weisse does not use smoked malts, and is sometimes consumed with some sweet syrup to balance the sourness.
  • Weizenbock: They are cloudy and can range from light pale to dark brown in color. They are full bodied and are very alcoholic. They have the same characteristic aromas of other German wheat beers, like biscuit and dark malts and fruity esters, but the alcohol is evident on the aftertaste.
  • Wheat Ale: They are golden to amber in color and the body is light to medium. Bitterness is low. They are light and refreshing beers, but not as estery as most European wheat beers. They don´t need to have only wheat malts on their recipe, and the combination of different malts and ingredients creates various different versions of wheat beers.
  • Witbier: Also known as Belgian White, this style of wheat beer is very light, refreshing and pale in color. They are more citric the other wheat beers, and the use of orange peel and coriander is very common in this style, but there are many different spices that can be used, which gives a lot of room to different versions of this style.


  • Amber/Vienna Lager: Their color is amber to copper due to different amounts of caramel malts. They are light bodied beers, with medium bitterness. Most of them have a very malty profile, with lots of biscuit and caramel on the aroma and taste, but some can be hoppier and still maintain the medium bitterness.
  • California Common: Sometimes called Steam Beer. This style was created in the 18th century California. Despite not having refrigeration equipment, they used lager yeasts and let them work at warm temperatures, creating a dark and medium bodied beer that was a success and was rediscovered on the second half of the 20th century.
  • Czech/Bohemian Pilsner: This is the original pilsner, the first beer to have a golden and crystal clear appearance. They have a malty profile of biscuit and bread, and hops are also noticeable. Their body is medium and bitterness can be medium or medium-high. Very refreshing.
  • Doppelbock: They are stronger versions of the German Bockbiers, not necessarily double in terms of alcohol, but still much stronger and full bodied. They are dark brown or almost black in color and have a strong malty profile, with significant residual sweetness from caramel malts.
  • Dortmunder/Helles: They are pale in color and can be crystal clear or a bit cloudier. They are well balanced on the hop and malt character, with the use of German hops and biscuit and bread-like malts. They are refreshing and have great drinkability. The Helles is often served in one liter glasses (Mug/Maβ) in Germany.
  • Dunkel: Their color is dark brown to almost black. Their head is thin and doesn´t last long. They have lots of caramel and toffee notes on the aroma and taste, and shouldn´t have roasted notes like the Schwartzbier. Bitterness is medium-low and body is medium.
  • Dunkel Bock: Like the traditional bock and doppelbock, this is a stronger version of the Dunkel. The color is dark brown to black. The body is medium to full, and there are notes of caramel, nuts and light roast on the aroma and taste. Hop presence is very low. Bitterness is also medium.
  • Eisbock: An even stronger version of the doppelbock. The color is copper to black. The characteristics are very much the same of the doppelbock, but the Eisbock is obtained by freezing a doppelbock and removing the ice to increase the alcohol level, which becomes very clear on the mouth.
  • Heller Bock: This style follows the same line as the other bocks, but this one is clearer and has a more light color, although some can be light brown. The hops are also more evident than on other bocks that favor the malty character. They have a good white head, are full bodied and have medium to high bitterness.
  • Imperial Pils/ Strong Pale Lager: They are stronger versions of pilsners, with alcohol levels ranging from 6,5 up to 10% Abv. The malt character remains dominant over the hops in most versions of this style, and the alcohol is very evident, giving warming sensations on the aftertaste.
  • Malt Liquor: They are dark brown in color and have a strong profile. The alcohol is very evident, and they are very malty, leaving lots of residual sweetness on the mouth. Aroma and taste may vary, but usually have lots of caramel malts. Body is full and bitterness is medium-low.
  • Oktoberfest/Märzen: Brewed exclusively for the German Oktoberfest, they are brewed in March and then left to ferment slowly during the summer. They used to be dark beers, ranging from copper to dark brown, but for the last 30 years they have been golden in color. However some American versions have remained dark amber.
  • Pale Lager: They can be an almost transparent yellow to a more pale color. Alcohol level is medium-low. This style was created to be very easy to drink. Aroma of hops and malts are very low, as is the bitterness. Alcohol tends to be medium-low and the use of cheaper adjuncts than Barley malt is common.
  • Pilsener: Very similar to the Bohemian Pilsner, they are golden and clear beers, with different profiles of hops and malts depending on the origin. They may also vary in alcohol levels but is never to high. Bitterness tends to be medium-high, as it is on the Bohemian Pilsner.
  • Polotmavý: An amber lager style created in the Czech Republic. It resembles a Vienna lager, having a strong malt character, with caramel and biscuit notes, and more generous amounts of hops. Body and bitterness are medium, as is the alcohol level.
  • Premium Lager: They have a golden color and a good balance between malts and hops. They are all malt, have no adjuncts and are not so bitter as Pilseners and Bohemian Pilsners. Body and alcohol are medium-low. This style has a very good drinkability.
  • Radler/Shandy: This is a mix of beer and a soft drink or a juice. They are mixed in equal parts. Their alcohol level is very low and they are supposed to be very refreshing. The aroma and taste profile are very different from traditional beers.
  • Schwartzbier: They are dark brown to black in color. The aroma and taste consist of roasted malts and coffee, sometimes with some chocolate notes. They are bitterer than a Dunkel and the hops are a bit more evident. Body is medium to medium-high, depending on the brewer.
  • Zwickel/ Keller/ Landbier: This German style is often not filtered or pasteurized. It can be top or bottom-fermented. The name refers to “cellar beer”. It is cloudy due to a lot of yeasts that are still suspended on the beer. This style is usually served directly from the barrel, but it can also be bottled.