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Home » Beer Styles 101

Beer Styles 101

Beer is beer, we use styles to break down different brews and put them into recognizable little categories. Often a beer develops in a certain region of the world and we merely assign a name and labels to it. There is a beer for every season and reason, dark beers, light brews, hop filled concoctions, malt forward beers, sour ones etc.

IBU- A measure of Bitterness. Higher measurements are more bitter than lower.

SRM- A measure of color. Lower numbers are lighter in color than higher.


Here is a little primer to some of the more popular styles:




American Light Ales:

1. Cream Ale-                         ABV 4.2-5.6%     Bitterness- 15-20 IBU                     SRM 3-5

A light hued ale brewed at lower than normal temperatures for a clean flavor profile. Cream ales usually contain adjuncts, especially maize, to lighten the body. Hop bitterness and hop flavor is minimal. A great warm weather brew with flavor.


2.  Blonde Ale-                        ABV 3.8-5.5%     Bitterness: 15-28 IBU                     SRM 3-6

Popular easy-drinking lighter colored beers with usually a little hop character. Great for the patio and also for newer craft beer converts.


3.  American Wheat Ale-     ABV 4-5.5%         Bitterness:15-30 IBU                       SRM 3-6

A pale colored ale often made with about 50% wheat. Clean refreshing versions exist as well as others that are more hop prominent. Kind of a catch-all category. Sometimes spiced or fruit flavored.



American Pale Ales:

1. Pale Ale-                              ABV 4.5-6.2%     Bitterness: 30-45 IBU                      SRM 5-14

Perhaps the quintessential American Ale, it is drinkable with noticeable but not over-powering hop bitterness along with American hop flavors- often grapefruit. Refreshing with hop flavor.


2. India Pale Ale (IPA)-        ABV 5.5 – 7.5%   Bitterness: 40 – 70 IBU                    SRM 6 – 15

One of the most popular styles today. A more bitter and hop forward version of the Pale Ale. Often filled with citrus and pine notes. Amber versions are called Red IPAs and dark versions Black IPAs. High ABV variations are known as Imperial IPAs.



American Amber-Dark Ales:

1. Amber Ale-                         ABV 4.5 – 6.2%   Bitterness: 25 – 40 IBU                   SRM 10 – 17

Also called a red ale. Amber-red in color, medium bodied usually with some caramel flavors. A wide category with more malt forward variations are available along with more bitter and hop forward versions.


2. Brown Ale-                        ABV 4.3 – 6.2%   Bitterness: 20 – 40 IBU                    SRM 18 – 35

An easy drinking brown colored ale usually with caramel and chocolate flavors. Bitterness is usually low or balancing. A dark ale without the harshness of roasted malts. Great with food.


3. Porter-                                 ABV 4.8 – 6.5%   Bitterness: 25 – 50  IBU                   SRM 22 – 35

Usually American Porters are called Robust Porters. A dark brown to black ale known for roasted malt flavors. Usually caramel, a slightly charred flavor, and chocolate notes are seen. Bitterness is usually balanced with moderate hop flavor prevalent. Flavorful and usually complex.


4. Stout-                                   ABV 5 – 7%          Bitterness: 35 – 75  IBU                   SRM 30 – 40

American Stouts are much like Robust Porters with caramel, slightly charred, and dark chocolate flavors but have an added coffee-like flavor from the use of Roasted Barley. Usually fairly bitter to help balance all of the malts. Stouts originated from Porters in Great Britain during the late 1700’s. Often ingredients are added to stouts like lactose (Milk Stout), chocolate (Chocolate Stout), and coffee (Coffee Stout.)


English Pale Ales:

1. Extra Special Bitter-         ABV 4.6 – 6.2%   Bitterness 30 – 50 IBU                    SRM  6 – 18

Usually a medium-full bodied gold colored ale with some floral, candy, or earthy English hop flavors. Malt sweetness shines through from the UK malts and fruitiness from the yeast. Generally darker than American Pale Ales. Bitters and Special Bitters are lighter versions of the ESB.


2. English IPA-                        ABV 5 – 7.5%       Bitterness 40 – 60 IBU                     SRM  8 – 14

A gold to amber ale with more hop character than an ESB or English Pale Ale. A fruitiness from the yeast and hops is often noticeable. Candy, earthy, nutty, are other flavors associated with this hop filled beer from across the pond. Less aggressive than the American IPA.



English Amber-Dark Ales:

1.English Brown Ale-           ABV 4.2 – 5.4%   Bitterness 20 – 30  IBU                    SRM 12 – 22

Northern English Brown Ales are smooth and drinkable malt forward ale. Toffee, light chocolate, nut, and caramel flavors are found along with some modest balancing hop bitterness. Southern English Brown Ales and Milds are lower ABV, mellower versions.


2. Brown Porter-                   ABV 4 – 5.4%       Bitterness 18 – 35 IBU                   SRM 20 – 30

Brown to dark brown in color, this porter style is known for caramel, toffee, nutty, and chocolate notes. Smoother and lighter than a Robust Porter, usually with less bitterness as well- although there is some balancing bitterness. Easy drinking and great with food.


3. Old Ale-                                ABV 6 – 9%          Bitterness 30 – 60                            SRM 10 – 22

Malt forward, complex ales with some balancing bitterness. Smooth with nutty, toffee, and caramel notes. A thick and hearty ale without the dark malt flavors.


4. Russian Imperial Stout- ABV 8 – 12%        Bitterness 50 – 90 IBU                     SRM 30 – 40

A heavy, high ABV stout popular with the Russian imperial court. Rich dark malts give this big ale flavors of chocolate and coffee. High bitterness helps offset the heavy malt bill. American versions are usually more aggressive.


5. Barleywine-                        ABV 8 – 12%        Bitterness 35 – 70 IBU                     SRM 8 – 22

Thick and velvety with lots of sweet malt flavors. Bitterness from the hops helps to balance the beer but usually fails. Almost like a meal or dessert. English versions tend to be fruitier while American versions more are usually more bitter and hop forward.



Scottish and Irish Ales:

1.Irish Red Ale-                     ABV 4 – 6%          Bitterness 17 – 28 IBU                    SRM  9 – 18

Reddish-amber in color with bright, sweet caramel flavors. The finish is usually slightly roast-y and grainy, toasted flavors aren’t uncommon. An easy-drinking, pleasant beer that pairs well with food.


2. Dry Irish Stout-                  ABV 4 – 5%          Bitterness 30 – 45 IBU                    SRM  25 – 40

Characterized by a dry coffee flavor and lighter body compared to most other stouts. Grainy and fairly bitter with some sourness sometimes evident.


3. Scottish Ales-                     ABV 4 – 5%          Bitterness 15 – 30 IBU                    SRM  9 – 17

Amber-gold colored ales with clean malt flavors. Malt forward but balanced with a peaty smokiness often coming through from the water and malts. Different strengths are categorized by Schillings 60/70/80.


4. Scotch Ale-                         ABV 6.5 – 10%    Bitterness 17 – 35 IBU                     SRM 14 – 25

Thick, decadent, and filed with caramel flavors. A sweet style with low hop bitterness. Sometimes chewy, with toffee and/or peaty-smoky notes. Complex and malty.




Belgian Ales:

1. Belgian Witbier-                ABV 4.5 – 5.5%   Bitterness 10 – 20 IBU                     SRM 2 – 4

Light colored, flavorful, and refreshing. Grainy wheat flavors are apparent and it’s usually spiced with orange peel and coriander, with the yeast providing slight peppery notes. Creamy, with a heavier body than it would appear. Great in the sun.


2. Belgian Pale Ales-            ABV 4.8 – 5.5%   Bitterness 20 – 30 IBU                     SRM 8 – 14

Everyday drinking ales with a clean fruitiness. Some peppery spice from the yeast helps add character. More restrained and drinkable than some of the other Belgian styles.


3. Saison-                                ABV 5 – 7%          Bitterness 20 – 35 IBU                     SRM 5 – 14

Light in color, Saisons have plenty of fruity and spicy flavors due to the yeast used. A little funkier than some of the other styles, this Belgian brew is growing in popularity. Dry, with some moderate bitterness.




Belgian Strong Ales:

1. Belgian Blond Ale-           ABV 6 – 7.5%       Bitterness 15 – 30 IBU                     SRM 4 – 7

Cleaner than most Belgian ales, with a fruity and slightly spicy flavor. Sweet, malt flavors sometimes have a honey like quality and the beer is somewhat delicate but complex. Hop bitterness is moderate.


2. Belgian Dubbel-              ABV 6.3 – 7.6%   Bitterness 15 – 25 IBU                    SRM  10 – 17

Dark amber to copper in color with fruity notess often including banana. Caramel and toffee malt flavors with little bitterness. Not near as spicy as other Belgian styles. Complex but easy to drink.


3. Belgian Trippel-                 ABV  7.5 – 9.5% Bitterness 20 – 40 IBU                     SRM 4.5 – 7

They go down sneakily easy. Easy drinking and dry, they have just light pilsner malts with added sugar which dries the beer out and increases the ABV. Lots of fruity and peppery Belgian yeast flavors are usually found.


4.Belgian Strong Ale-          ABV 7.5 – 10.5% Bitterness 22 – 35 IBU                    SRM  3 – 6

Light in color with plenty of fruit notes from the yeast. Slightly drier and paler than the Trippel, often the alcohol is evident in the flavor. Light bodied and dangerous.


5. Belg. Dark Strong Ale-    ABV 8 – 11%        Bitterness 20 – 30 IBU                     SRM 12 – 22

Copper-mahogany in color with lots of flavor. Toffee, caramel, raisin, and toasted malt notes along with fruity and spicy yeast notes.  Complex to say the least but still very drinkable.




Belgian Sour Ales:

1. Fruit Lambic-                      ABV 5 – 7%          Bitterness 0 – 10  IBU                      SRM 3 – 7

A fruit forward Belgian sour with some moderate tartness and loads of fruit flavor. Some funky yeast notes are sometimes in the background, this beer is spontaneously fermented. The type of fruit used determines the color and name (Cherries=Kriek) (Raspberries=Framboise).


2. Gueuze-                              ABV 5 – 8%          Bitterness 0 – 10 IBU                       SRM  3 – 7

A Belgian sour ale has sour and acidic notes in somewhat balance of the wheat and other light malt flavors. They are a blend of different vintage Lambics.


3.Flanders Red Ale-            ABV 4.6 – 6.5%   Bitterness 10 – 25 IBU                     SRM  10 – 16

Sour with an acidic, sometimes vinegar like flavor. Reminiscent of red wine, with notes of cherries and other fruits. Aged in oak barrels for two years.


4. Flanders Brown Ale-       ABV 4 – 8%          Bitterness 20 – 25 IBU                    SRM  15 – 22

Also called Oud Bruin. Reddish brown-brown in color. Slightly sour with some rich malt flavors, almost sherry like but not vinegar like as is the Flanders Red Ale. Aged in stainless steel tanks.



German Sour Ales:

1. Berliner Weisse-               ABV 2.8 – 3.8%   Bitterness 3 – 8  IBU                         SRM 2 – 3

A clean, refreshing wheat with a pleasant and noticeable tartness. Traditionally served with syrup to flavor, most American examples are infused with fruit. A growing an trendy style.



German Wheat and Rye Ales:

1. Hefeweizen-                      ABV 4.3 – 5.6%   Bitterness 8 – 15 IBU                       SRM 2 – 8

A light-hued, refreshing, non-filtered, hazy German wheat ale. Banana and clove flavors usually found compliments of the yeast. A filtered version called a Krystal Weisse is also available.


2. Dunkelweizen-                 ABV 4.3 – 5.6%   Bitterness 10 – 18 IBU                     SRM  14 – 23

Copper to mahogany in color with the banana and clove flavors common in  hefeweizen. More complex than a hefeweizen with toffee, caramel, and nut flavors often found. Easy drinking and great with food.


3. Weizenbock-                     ABV 6.5 – 8%       Bitterness 15 – 30 IBU                   SRM 12 – 25

Basically a higher alcohol Dunkelweizen brewed to bock strength. Rich malt flavors, clove notes with some slight banana along with alcohol burn in higher ABV examples.


4. Roggenbier-                       ABV 4.5 – 6%       Bitterness 10 – 20  IBU                    SRM 14 – 19

A copper-light brown German rye ale. Spicy from the rye and yeast, usually with some citrus or banana flavors. Can be sharp and sour from rye, usually a bready quality is evident. Caramel and nutty malt sweetness is found in most examples.



German Hybrid Beer:

1. Kolsch-                                 ABV 4.4-5.2%     Bitterness 20-30 IBU                       SRM 3.3-5

A refreshing, pale colored German beer brewed with ale yeast at lower temperatures and then lagered for at least a month. Crisp, clean, and well balanced.




Light German Lagers:

1. Munich Helles-                  ABV 4.7 – 5.4%   Bitterness 16 – 22 IBU                     SRM 3 – 5

Pale yellow in color and clean with sweet, grainy malt flavors and very little noticeable hop flavor or bitterness.


2. German Pilsner-               ABV 4.4 – 5.2%   Bitterness 25 – 45 IBU                    SRM 2 – 5

A straw colored crisp lager with clean malt flavors and strong hop bitterness. Spicy or flowery German Noble hops are felt on the finish.


3. Bohemian Pilsner-           ABV 4.2 – 5.4%   Bitterness 35 – 45  IBU                    SRM 4 – 6

Gold in color with rich, soft malt flavors and flower/spicy German Noble hop flavors. More complex but less crisp then German Pilsner.


4. Dortmunder Export-       ABV 4.8 – 6%       Bitterness 23 – 30 IBU                    SRM  4 – 6

A well balanced, gold hued lager with German hops flavors in harmony with sweet, grainy German malts.




Amber and Dark German Lagers:

1. Maibock/Helles Bock-    ABV 6.3 – 7.4%   Bitterness 23 – 35 IBU                     SRM 6 – 11

Dark gold to light amber with rich German malt flavor and spicy German hops flavors to balance. Clean and malt forward, Maibock is considered a Festbier for a festival held in early May.


2. Oktoberfest/Marzen     ABV 4.8-5.7%     Bitterness 20-28 IBU                       SRM 7-14

A copper-red colored malt forward lager with rich, toasted malt flavors. Sweet malt flavors but the finish is dry. American versions are usually darker and on the higher ABV end.


3. Vienna Lager-                  ABV 4.5 – 5.5%   Bitterness 18 – 30 IBU                    SRM 10 – 16

Reddish amber in color with soft, toasted malt flavors balanced by hop bitterness. Creamy with a dry, crisp finish.


4. Traditional Bock-              ABV 6.3 – 7.2%   Bitterness 20 – 27  IBU                    SRM 14 – 22

Crimson to light brown in color, with rich, round German malt flavors. Caramel notes and some malt sweetness are common and the hop bitterness helps to balance the beer.


5. Doppelbock-                      ABV 7 – 10%        Bitterness 16 – 26 IBU                    SRM  6 – 25

Usually a decadent, copper to dark brown color with ruby highlights. Rich, sweet, malt flavors dominate with dark fruit and toasted caramel also evident. Eisbocks are often Doppelbocks that have been frozen and the ice removed to concentrate the flavor and increase the ABV.


6. Munich Dunkel-                                ABV  4.5 – 5.6% Bitterness 18 – 28 IBU                     SRM 14 – 28

Deep copper to dark brown in color and malt forward. Rich chocolate, nut, caramel, and toffee malt flavors are evident but it’s soft and pleasant overall without much bitterness or dark roasted flavors.


7.  Schwarzbier-                      ABV 4.4 – 5.4%   Bitterness 22 – 32 IBU                     SRM 17 – 30

German for “Black Beer”, but usually it is dark brown in color with ruby highlights. Clean and crisp overall with some mellow roast-y, and chocolate notes. No bitter dark malts and just a hint of hop bitterness to balance. Easier to drink than it looks and not it’s not near as rich as a porter or stout.


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