Beer is beer is beer. Isn’t it? Well, it is until people start talking about ale and lager and pilsner. And then throwing around words such as stout and lambic and IPA. And going even further with complicated debates about the point at which a beer stops being a mild and becomes a stout or a porter. It seems that beer is more than just beer, because some beers are different. Different enough for people to notice.
The first modern people to seriously notice were ^^lt$$a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/ViewUser.asp?UserID=5762^^gt$$Fred Eckhardt^^lt$$/a^^gt$$ and Michael Jackson. Not that people hadn’t noticed before - indeed, from the earliest records of beer, we have different types of beer being noted.
However, both of these writers used the term "beer style" and started to differentiate and categorise beers by various factors such as colour, strength, ingredients, recipe, production method, origin or local name.
<table border=0 cellpadding=0 cellspacing=0 align=right> <tr><td class=beerfoot align=center><IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/WorldBeer.jpg>Jackson’s World Guide to Beer</td><td> </td></tr></table>
Although Eckhardt published his A Treatise on Lager Styles back in 1969, that book was - as the title indicates - focused on lager; and was a series of recipes for homebrewers. It wasn’t until Michael Jackson published The World Guide To Beer in 1977, with its more encompassing approach and general appeal, that the modern theory of beer style took hold of the public imagination.
History of beer style <sub>From Best Ale to ESB</sub>
The history of beer style is the history of beer itself. The Alulu Tablet - a receipt for "best" ale found in Ur - shows that even in 2050 BC there was a differentiation between at least two different types or qualities of ale. In addition, the work of Bedrich Hrozny on translating Assyrian merchants’ tablets found in Hattusa, revealed that approximately 500 years later the Hittites had over 15 different types of beer.
Documents in various countries over the years reveal comments on different local brewing methods or ingredients. Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia wrote about Celts brewing ale "in Gaul and Spain in a number of different ways, and under a number of different names; although the principle is the same." (A surprisingly modern post-BJCP view which a number of people empathise with.) Anglo-Saxon laws reveal they identified three different ales. While the Normans mention cervisae (ale) and plena cervisia (full bodied ale) in the Domesday Book.
By the 1400s brewers in Germany and the Low Countries were using hops to flavour and preserve their ale - this new style of ale was called beer. When this trend came to Britain and brewers of beer in Southwark, London started to take sales away from the traditional brewers of unhopped ale, there were complaints and protests. Various laws were passed favouring either beer or ale for a number of years, until hopped beer became the standard style throughout Europe.
Also in the 1400s, brewers in Bavaria were storing beer in cool caves during the summer months in order to stop it spoiling. The ale yeast mutated into a slow fermenting lager yeast which allowed the beer to drop bright and remain stable. The beer became known as lager from the German name for store: lagern. This clean, light-bodied and stable lager style of beer initially became popular with brewers and drinkers in Germany and the Czech lands, then gradually spread over the globe.
Although beers using malt dried naturally would have been pale, by the 1600s almost all malts in Europe would have been dried over a fire, and so become dark, resulting in a dark coloured beer. When coke started to be used for roasting malt in 1642, the resulting lighter coloured beers became very popular. By 1703 the term pale ale was starting to be used. In the mid 1800s Gabriel Sedlmayr took pale ale brewing techniques back to the Spaten Brewery in Germany and made the first pale lager.
However, despite an awareness by commentators, law-makers and brewers that there were different styles of beer, it wasn’t until that World Guide To Beer by Michael Jackson was published in 1977 that there had been an attempt to group together and compare beers from around the world.
Jackson’s book had a particular influence in North America where Fred Eckhardt’s exploration of the nature of beer styles had paved the way. The wine importing company Merchant De Vin switched to importing beers mentioned in Jackson’s book. Small brewers started up, producing copies and interpretations of the beer styles Jackson mentioned. And home-brewers started to construct recipes around the beers which eventually resulted in the formation in 1985 of the BJCP, an organisation originally set up to judge home-brewed beers brewed to specific styles but which eventually developed into something of a guide for American commercial brewpubs and craft brewers.
<table border=0 cellpadding=0 cellspacing=0 align=center> <tr><td> </td><td class=beerfoot align=center><IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/ESB_no_background.gif>Charles Finkel imported the strong British Bitter, Fuller’s ESB, through his Merchant du Vin company, and accidently created a new beer style in America</td></tr></table>
While North America developed beer styles into a serious study with fixed parameters of bitterness, colour, aroma, yeast, ingredients and strength, other counties continued to mainly categorise beers loosely by strength and colour, with much overlapping of naming conventions.
Determining a beer’s style
Historically the differentiation between beers produced by the same brewery or in the same locality has, from documentary evidence, been in terms of quality and strength. Traditional brewing methods involved using the first wash of the mash or grains to make a strong beer, and subsequent washings to make gradually weaker beer. Sometimes only two washes were done, but a third, mid-strength beer, could be made from mixing the strong and weak beers together.
Better quality and fresher ingredients make better quality beer, and this is a style differentiation that has remained constant from the earliest days of beer making - as shown by the Alulu Tablet.
The types of grain or starch based material used in making beer form the basis for another differentiation. The main grain used in Europe has been barley, though wheat is also used. In Africa beer has been made from sorghum, millet and cassava root. In South America the main grain was maize, though potato in Brazil and agave in Mexico have been used.
In Japan rice is used to make sake. Russians used rye to make kvass. And so on. In modern brewing a mix of grains may be used. A barley and wheat mix is popular in Northern Europe, while a mix of barley and maize is a popular way of making pale lager in Third World countries. The American Budweiser lager is made from barley and rice.
Different flavourings, such as hops, herbs, fruit or lemonade differentiate beers, as well as the yeast, the amount of roasting or kilning the malt had, the filtering techniques used, and the packaging and serving method. In the UK a number of drinkers and commentators, influenced by CAMRA, differentiate between unfiltered beers, termed real ale, and filtered beers, often termed keg beer; additionally, beers which are force-carbonated, either in the packaging or during the serving, are classed apart from naturally carbonated beers.
So some of the main differences in beer style can be summarised as strength, quality, colour and flavour, with minor differences applied to such matters as filtering and serving.
The differences in strength, quality, colour and flavour come from the type and amount of ingredients - that is, the starch source, the flavourings, the yeasts and even the water; as well as the brewing method.
Style by ingredients
Pale barley-based beers
The main beer style development and the overwhelming majority of beers produced globally are based on barley lightly kilned to produce a pale malt. The main flavouring ingredient for such beers is hops. The majority of such beers fall within a strength range of approximately 4% abv to 5.5% abv. When the strength of such beers starts to climb much above 6% they tend to be classed as strong, with a variety of style names to differentiate them from the average strength beers.
Beers below 4% are common in North European countries where beer is consumed in large quantities, and such beers may be referred to as session beers or, in the UK, as a session bitter. Sweden has lower taxes for beer under 3.6%. Other countries have lower taxes at 2.8%, and the USA and nearly all European countries regard 0.5% as the point at which beer is regarded as a soft drink or non-alcoholic. Pale beers may be flavoured with lemonade or other soft drink to create a shandy, also known as panaché or radler, which would typically be under 2.8% for lower tax reasons or on the 0.5% borderline to be classed as both a beer and yet taxed and sold as a soft drink.
Pale barley-based beers may use a mix of both lager and ale brewing techniques - Steam beer, Kölsch and some modern British Golden Summer Beers use elements of both lager and ale production. However the two main strands of these pale beers are: pale ales, produced through standard ale production methods, and pale lagers, produced through standard lager production methods.
The hop flavouring of these pale beers varies considerably, and is seen by most observers as being a key indicator to differentiation. The pale lagers use aromatic hops, known as noble hops, and when such hops add significant flavour and aroma to the lagers they are normally classed as pilsener. British and Belgian pale ales mostly use earthy flavoured hop varieties such as Fuggle, Golding and Bullion. While North American pale ales mostly use citric and pine flavoured American hops such as Cascade, Columbia, and Willamette. There is, however, much cross over and blending of such hops. When the hop flavour and aroma becomes fairly intense the pale ales are normally classed as an India Pale Ale.
A modern ale is commonly defined by the strain of yeast used and the fermenting temperature.
Strain of Yeast: An ale yeast is normally considered to be a top-fermenting yeast, though a number of British brewers, such as Fullers and Weltons, use ale yeast strains that settle at the bottom. Common features of ale yeasts regardless of top or bottom fermentation is that they ferment more quickly than lager yeasts, they convert less of the sugar into alcohol (giving a sweeter, fuller body) and they produce more esters (which give a fruity taste) and diacetyl (which gives a buttery taste).
Fermenting Temperature: Ale is typically fermented at higher temperatures than lager beer (15–23°C, 60–75°F). Ale yeasts at these temperatures produce significant amounts of esters and other secondary flavor and aroma products, and the result is a beer with slightly "fruity" compounds resembling but not limited to apple, pear, pineapple, banana, plum or prune.
Stylistic Difference to Lager: Stylistic differences between some ales and lagers can be difficult to categorize. Steam beer, Kölsch and some modern British Golden Summer Beers are seen as hybrids, using elements of both lager and ale production. While Baltic Porter and Bière de Garde may be produced by either lager or ale methods or a combination of both. However, commonly, lager is perceived to be cleaner tasting, drier and lighter in the mouth than ale.
Lagers are the most commonly-consumed category of beer in the world. They are of Central European origin, taking their name from the German lagern ("to store").
Lager yeast is a bottom-fermenting yeast, and typically undergoes primary fermentation at 7-12°C (45-55°F) (the "fermentation phase"), and then is given a long secondary fermentation at 0-4°C (30-40°F) (the "lagering phase"). During the secondary stage, the lager clears and mellows. The cooler conditions also inhibit the natural production of esters and other byproducts, resulting in a "crisper" tasting beer.
Modern methods of producing lager were pioneered by Gabriel Sedlmayr the Younger, who perfected dark brown lagers at the Spaten Brewery in Bavaria, and Anton Dreher, who began brewing a lager, probably of amber-red color, in Vienna in 1840–1841. With modern improved fermentation control, most lager breweries use only short periods of cold storage, typically 1–3 weeks.
Most of today’s pale lager is based on the Pilsner style, pioneered in 1842 in the town of Plzen, in the Czech Republic. The modern pale lager is light in colour and high in carbonation, with a noble hop flavour and an alcohol content of 3–6% by volume. The Pilsner Urquell or Heineken brands of beer are typical examples of pale lager.
Dortmunder and Helles were originally late 19th century regional German names for successful pale lagers; the terms spread to be used by breweries throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and became popular in America in the late 20th century.
After the success of Pilsener, the town of Dortmund in Germany started brewing pale lager in 1873. As Dortmund was a major brewing centre, and the town breweries grouped together to export the beer beyond the town, the brand name Dortmunder Export became known.
A little later, in 1894, the Spaten Brewery in Munich utilised the methods that Sedlmayr had brought home over 50 years earlier to produce their own pale lager. They named it Helles, which is German for "light coloured", "bright" or, in beer terms, "pale", in order to distinguish it from Dunkel bier (dark beer).
Brewers using the terms Helles or Dortmunder will usually be applying them to pale lagers that are between 4.4 and 5.8%, with a moderate hop bitterness and moderate to full malt flavour. Lagers termed Helles are more likely to be at the lighter end of the strength range, while lagers termed Dortmunder will tend to be at the stronger end. They are normally all malt beers.
As Helles was brewed in Munich in Bavaria, some brewers will talk of Bavarian style or Munich, especially when using Munich malt.
As Dortmunder Export was slightly stronger than the average pale lager, the terms Dortmunder or Export are sometimes used for slightly stronger pale lagers.
Oktoberfestbiers and Märzen
Oktoberfest is a German festival dating from 1810, and Oktoberfestbiers are the beers that have been served at the festival since 1818, and are supplied by 6 breweries: Spaten, Lowenbrau, Augustiner, Hofbrau, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr.
Traditionally Oktoberfestbiers were the lagers of around 5.5 to 6% abv called Märzen - brewed in March and allowed to ferment slowly during the summer months.
Originally these would have been dark lagers, but from 1872 a strong March brewed version of an amber-red Vienna lager made by Josef Sedlmayr became the favourite Oktoberfestbier.
Since the 1970s the type of beer served at the festival has been a pale lager between 5 and 6% abv, and the terms Oktoberfest and Märzen are now used by non-Oktoberfest brewers in Germany and the USA to market lagers of this strength. The colour of these lagers may range from pale gold to deep amber, with the darker colours more common in the USA. Hop levels tend not to be distinctive, though some USA examples may be firmly hopped. Modern beers sold as Oktoberfest and Märzen in Europe tend not to be too differentiated from other pale lagers of this strength, while older German, USA and USA influenced examples will be fairly malty in flavour and inclined to use a range of malts especially dark malts such as Vienna or Munich.
Zwickel, Keller and Landbier
Three terms occasionally found on some German lagers.
Kellerbier is German for "cellar beer". Kellerbiers are unfiltered lagers which are conditioned in a similar manner to British cask ales. Strength and colour will vary, though in the Franconia region where these cask conditioned lagers are still popular, the strength will tend to be 5% abv or slightly higher, and the colour will tend to be a deep amber, but the defining characteristic is the cask conditioning.
Zwickelbier is German for "sampling beer". Zwickelbiers are unfiltered lagers like Kellerbier, though with a slightly different conditioning process which gives the lager more carbonation. Zwickelbiers tend to be younger, lower in alcohol and less hoppy than Kellerbiers. A very similar beer is Zoiglbier.
A few breweries in the USA will use the term Keller or Zwickel to market an unpasteurised lager.
Landbier is German for "country beer". Landbier has no definable features, and may be used by breweries in conjunction with "Pilsner", "Dunkel", "Hell", "Marzen", "Rauch", etc as a marketing term to suggest a beer that is unpretentious, robust or easy drinking. The term is usually used on lagers anywhere between 4.5% and 5.8% of varying bitterness and colour.
Dark barley-based beers
Imperial stouts are the strongest stouts a brewery makes - the alcohol levels typically exceed 8%.
The name "Imperial" comes from the popularity in Russia for the strong dark beers made in London during the late 18th century. Thrale’s Anchor Brewery in Southwark, South London supplied a porter "that would keep seven years" to the Empress of Russia in 1796. This porter later became known as Courage Russian Imperial Stout which survived until its final brewing in 2003.
Bert Grant made the first known American version in the early 1980s using American hops.
Wherever made, Imperial Stouts are strong dark ales.
A range of beers are distinguished by their notably sour taste. The souring agent is often Lactobacillus.
Beers with sour notes are as follows:
· Berliner weisse
· Flanders red ale
· Flanders brown ale/Oud bruin
· Straight (Unblended) lambic
· Gueuze lambic
· Fruit lambic
These are beers which use wild yeasts, rather than cultivated ones. Beer before the cultivation of yeast in the 19th century brewers used recaptured yeast from the fermentation process. In the British Isles this recaptured yeast was known as "godisgood" (English Industries of the Middle Ages, L. F. Salzmann).
Yeasts & Bacteria
Yeast is what makes beer. Hops, spices, fruits, etc are flavourings - as such they are additional to the brewing process. Beer can be, and is, made without such flavourings. The starch source, such as barley malt, is what beer is made from. But the starch source only becomes beer when yeast performs its magic and coverts the glucose in the starch source into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Yeast not only makes the beer, it also gives the beer essential character.
Rice beer is called sake in Japan, murcha or pachwai in India. It is made with rice plus species of Mucor or Aspergillus oryzea and sugar.
Kanji: A beerlike beverage made with carrots and beets fermented with Hansenula. Taste much like cherry wine.
Toddy: Sweet fermented sap from tropical palms using Saccharomyces cervisiae (Fig. 5-20). Many substitute organisms can be used.
Others fermented products include: Shoyu (=soy sauce): This is one fermented product well recognized throughout the US and Europe. Shoyu, referred to as Ketjap in Indonesia, has been produced in Japan for over 1000 years. The average Japanese consumes more than 3 gallons of soy sauce per year. Shoyu is prepared by soaking soybeans for 15 hr and autoclaving them for 1 hr. Clean, roasted wheat powder is added. After cooling, a starter, tane koji composed of Aspergillus oryzae or A. soyae is used as the inoculum. After fermentation for 3-4 months, or up a year, the material is combined with equal parts of brine and placed in tanks. The resulting mash is compressed and the liquid supernatant is retrieved, sterilized and bottled.
Tea Fungus: Perhaps one of the strangest fermentations encountered is the so called “tea fungus” of eastern Europe and Asia sometimes referred to as Hongo. This drink is made from dry tea leaves steeped in a liter of water, and the leaves removed and 100 gm of sugar added. The solution is autoclaved and a “starter” culture is added and the material is allowed to ferment. Two yeasts and Acetobacter have been isolated from the starter.
Anchu is an alcoholic drink in Taiwan made from red rice. Awamori is an alcoholic drink prepared from sweet potatoes in Japan. Braga is a fermented drink made from millet in Romania.]]
The influence of adjucts & flavourings
Adjuncts are ingredients used in brewing beer which supplement the main starch source (such as malted barley), often with the intention of cutting costs, but sometimes to create an additional feature, such as better foam retention. An adjunct is also an ingredient, other than hops, used for flavouring.
Ingredients which are standard for certain beers, such as wheat in a wheat beer, may be termed adjuncts when used in beers which could be made without them - such as adding wheat to a pale ale for the purpose of creating a lasting head. The sense here is that the ingredient is additional and strictly unnecessary, though it may be beneficial and attractive. Under the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot purity law it would be considered that an adjunct is any beer ingredient other than water, barley and hops; this, however, is an extreme view and is not standard.
The term adjunct is often used to refer to corn and rice, the two adjuncts commonly used by pale lager brewing companies as substitutes for barley malt. This use of ingredients as substitutes for the main starch source, usually to lower the cost of production, is where the term adjunct is most often used.
Rice is sometimes used in the production of pale lagers. Rice does not affect the flavour of beer to any significant extent, but may be used to lighten the body and the mouthfeel, or increase alcohol content, or add a little sweetness. Because rice is cheaper than barley, it is mainly used as a cost-saving measure.
Corn is commonly used in the production of American-style light lagers, particularly Malt Liquor. Corn is generally used in brewing as corn syrup, and as such is highly fermentable. Like rice, corn is cheaper than barley, so it is used as a cost-saving measure.
Wheat lightens the body and provides a tart flavour. Wheat beers are often served with fruit syrups and/or slices of lemon in Germany.
Rye is used in roggenbiers from Germany and in rye beers from America. Rye is notoriously difficult to brew with, so most rye beers only include a small amount of rye. Rye provides a spicy flavour to beer and dramatically increases head formation.
Oats are used in Oatmeal Stouts, oats provide a silky mouthfeel and a mild flavour.
Sugars and Honey
Sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, and molasses are common. In honey beer the honey supplies only a portion of the sugars converted during fermentation and is used primarily for flavour. Candy sugar is a common ingredient in strong Belgian ales, where it increases the beer’s strength while keeping the body fairly light; dark varieties of candy sugar also affect the colour and flavour of the beer.
Various fruits have been used as flavouring agents throughout the history of brewing. The most famous examples are the fruit lambics of Belgium.
Pumpkin beers are available from several North American breweries in the autumn.
A number of traditional beer styles are brewed with spices. For example, Belgian witbier is brewed with coriander, Finnish sahti is brewed with juniper berries, and traditional beers in Brittany are brewed with honey and spices. Also, some strong winter beers are flavoured with nutmeg and/or cinnamon, while ginger is a popular flavouring for a range of beers. Many commercially available pumpkin ales are made with pumpkin pie spices without any actual pumpkin.
Spices may be added to the wort during the boil or spices or spice extract may be added at any time during fermentation depending on desired results.
At least one commercially brewed beer which is brewed with hot chili peppers.
Other flavouring adjuncts
· Jackson, Michael - The World Guide To Beer 1977
· Cornell, Martyn - Beer - The Story of the Pint 2003
· Arnold, John - Origin and History of Beer and Brewing 1911
· Almqvist, Bo - The Viking Ale and the Rhine Gold 1965
· Eckhardt, Fred - The Essentials of Beer Style: A Catalog of Classic Beer Styles for Brewers and Beer Enthusiasts 1989
· Rhodes, Christine P. - The Encyclopedia of Beer 1995
Secret Life of Beer : Legends, Lore & Little-Known Facts, Alan D. Eames. ISBN 0882668072
Origin and History of Beer and Brewing: From Prehistoric Times to the Beginning of Brewing Science and Technology, John P. Arnold. ISBN 0966208412
Beer: A History of Suds and Civilization from Mesopotamia to Microbreweries, Gregg Smith. ISBN 0380780518
The Beer of the Bible, James Death. ASIN B000889GP4
Note: The enzyme Amylase is exclusively present in the barley malt. It can divide into sugars not only the starch in barley but also starch derived from other grains. For this reason mashes for other grains will usually contain a percentage of barley malt with its enzyme.
<sup>1</sup>Photo of Alulu Tablet is copyright and is reprinted courtesy of Tom L. Lee, Ph.D.
Beer is not made from fruit (that is wine), but fruit is used as a flavouring in beer and has been for thousands of years (often berries with herbs in a form of "gruit"). Some traditional beers that use some form of fruit as a flavouring are Sahti (juniper berries), Witbier (orange peel), and Kriek (cherries).
But while "Fruit beer" is not a beer style because there are no consistent characteristics to form a style, it is sometimes used as a general term for beers which contain fruit or fruit flavouring and more specifically for wheat beers with dominant fruit juice or fruit flavourings which do not comfortably fit the characteristics or brewing methods of a traditional fruit flavoured Lambic such as Kriek.
Some breweries will produce non-wheat beers, particularly stouts, with fruit or fruit flavourings, and term them "Fruit beers"; however, if the fruit flavour is not dominant it is usually more appropriate to list the beer under the base style.
A Tripel is the name given to strong pale ales in Belgium which are typically made with pale malts, noble and Styrian Golding hops, candi sugar and Belgian yeast producing a clean, dry and spicy character. The format is also very popular in North America.
The first strong pale ale to be called a Tripel was Westmalle Tripel, which was first made in 1934.
The name Tripel is used by the Trappist and "Abbey" breweries - strong pale ales from the "secular" breweries may be termed Strong Golden Ale even though stylistically the same as Tripels.
Tripels are strong, yeasty-malty beers. But they are also pale, and have a notable hop profile with a fairly dry finish. Alcohol flavours feature prominently in Tripels.
English Strong Ale
English Strong Ale is the usual name given to strong pale ales brewed in England somewhat above the strength of 5.5% abv but which are not quite as strong as a barley wine. They may or may not be termed "Strong Ale" by the brewery - sometimes they may be marketed as "Winter Warmer". They belong in the tradition of Burton Ale, Edinburgh Ale, and October Ale, and along with Premium Bitter, are the modern descendant of the original India Pale Ale.
They are malty and usually sweet with some fruity esters. Some oxidative notes may be present, similar to those found in port or sherry. In colour they tend to range from medium amber up to a dark red-amber. Alcoholic strength is usually felt, though not overwhelming. They are medium to full body, with the alcohol contributing some warmth.
English Strong Ale overlaps with Scotch Ale, Tripel, Saison, American Strong Ale, and Bière de Garde, in that these are ales made predominantly of pale malts with a strength somewhere between 5.5% and 8% - though each of these strong pale ales will be informed by the characteristics of their local region. Strong pale ale from breweries in countries, such as Australia, for which there is no accepted defining strong pale ale style, may best be grouped under English Strong Ale as it has the least regional stylistic features of the family of strong pale ales.
India Pale Ale
India Pale Ale gets its name from strong pale ales first brewed in the 1780s by George Hodgson and exported from London to India. The style was taken up by Burton and Edinburgh brewers who termed it Burton Ale and Edinburgh Ale respectively. In Britain the style eventually developed into Premium Bitter, though the name itself has been increasingly used by British brewers for moderately hoppy low abv session bitters.
The IPA name was taken up by American brewer Bert Grant in the late 1970s who used modern American hops to produce a modern slant on the style which has proved very popular, and is now the dominant IPA style. This style has an intense hop flavor and aroma.