What are Beer Styles
For as long as there has been beer, beer drinkers have used 'styles' of beer to categorize them. The first beer style on record is a recipe for 'best' ale in 2050 BCE. Last year, the Brewers Association added 8 new styles to a total of 152 styles now recognized by the Brewers Association 2016 Beer Style Guidelines.
Why Styles Don’t Work
With the recent explosion in the American Craft Beer scene, brewers are pushing the limits of what a style can or cannot be. By definition, an American IPA is meant to be ‘decidedly hoppy and bitter’, yet you might find an IPA that is juicy sweet and hazy depending on which IPA trend the brewery is choosing to follow. The same is happening with other beer styles; innovations in brewing and revival of historical ingredients / methods are creating an unprecedented variety of craft beers for a new generation of craft beer drinkers. Beer styles just can’t keep up.
There’s a Better Way
That’s why I find it helpful to categorize beers by flavor profile: Balanced, Malty, Roasted, Hoppy, Sour, and Wild. Here’s how I break down each flavor profile and a few examples that I think are good examples of what that category is like.
The Six Flavor Profiles of Beer:
I like to use: Balanced, Malty, Roasted, Hoppy, Sour, and Wild. This is a point of contention; many people see beer categorized 3 ways, others could easily categorize this even further. But this process of categorizing beers focuses on their dominant flavor profiles.
Dark & Roasted
Wild & Farmhouse
Think of the “lawn mower” beer. A balanced beer is not sweet nor bitter, it dances the fine line in between. Typically these are lighter colored styles like Pilsners, Adjunct Lagers, Cream Ales, Munich Helles, American Wheat or Blonde, etc. Here are a few of the best examples of a balanced Minnesotan beer.
Pils, Fair State Brewing
A German-style pilsner, dry and crisp with a grassy hop aroma from a large kettle addition of Hallertau Mittelfrüh. One hop, one malt, lager yeast. Simple and delicious.
Cream Ale, Black Stack Brewing
Cream Ales, spawned from the American light lager style, are brewed as an ale though are sometimes finished with a lager yeast or lager beer mixed in. Adjuncts such as corn or rice are used to lighten the body.
The balance here shifts toward malt. These beers have some bitterness to help temper the sweetness from the malts, however the malty character is in the forefront. Think of flavors like: baked or toasted bread, graham crackers or biscuits, caramel, toffee, or honey. Typically these beers are light amber to copper and include styles like: Marzens, Vienna Lagers, Dunkels, Scottish Ales, Wee Heavies, etc.
Last Fathom Dark Lager, Lake Monster Brewing
A classic Munich-style dark lager with a Minnesota twist. Toasty, bread-crust malt flavor leads the way, joined by the warm, nutty tones of wild rice. Secondary touches of caramel and light chocolate add subtle intrigue. Hop bitterness is low and accompanied by low, spicy flavors of continental hop varieties.
Hope & King Scotch Ale, Town Hall Brewery
Scotch Ales generally contain very few hops, so they do not tend to be bitter beers. The cool climates that call Scotland home are not conducive to growing hops so these beers have always tended to be "malt-centric". Hope & King Scotch Ale has been recognized nationally on three separate occasions with Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver Co.
Dark & Roasted
If you roast the malts used in the beers above a notch or two longer, and at higher heat you’ll notice flavors of coffee, chocolate and in some cases even smoke. Roasted beers can have some bitterness and still be slightly sweet, but the prominent flavor will coffee or chocolate-like. These types of beers include: Stouts, Porters, Schwartzbiers and a few notable others.
Smokehouse Porter, Northbound Brewpub
Heavier on the caramel malt and lighter on the roast malt. 5% of the base malt is smoked in-house for a smoky complexity. And weighing in at 6.2% ABV it can also be your winter warmer.
Foreign Extra Stout, Pryes Brewing
At first we had the Dry Stout, a fantastic dark roasted coffee like ale. But then it was time to ship this fantastic beer around the globe. To compensate for long travel times and highly variable conditions during the early 1800s the Irish increased the ABV and body of the Dry Stout for transport, giving rise to the Foreign Extra Stout. First impression this looks and smells like a typical jet black stout with a tan head and strong roasted aroma. However the flavor reveals more complexity. Think of a milk chocolate mocha with an extra shot of espresso… or two.
This is where the craft beer world started back in the 1970s. Hop forward beers gave consumers a new daring element… bitterness. As the IPAs and Pale Ales evolved they became more bitter and hoppy (the flavor and aroma of hops- for example fruity, piney, herbal, spicy, etc). Today their are dozens of different types of IPAs and Pale Ales. The new craze being to drop the bitterness and focus on the hop flavors and aromas (NEIPA).
Local 755 NE IPA, Black Stack Brewing
A specialty of BlackStack Brewing: soft, juicy, and refreshing. A reserved bitterness lets the pungent aromas from the hops shine brightly.
IPA, Fair State Brewing
Dry, pale, and aroma-forward American IPA brewed with wheat malt and Horizon, Chinook, Crystal, Cascade, Simcoe, and Centennial hops. IPA brewed w/malted wheat and six varieties of hops
Masala Mama IPA, Town Hall Brewery
A form of this IPA has been brewed since Town Hall opened in 1997. It began as Town Hall's best selling beer and still holds that title. Influenced by the American IPAs brewed in California, Washington, and Colorado in the early days of craft beer. Therefor this version tends to have more balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness, compared to modern West Coast IPA's.
These are the classic Goses, Lambics, Flanders Sours, Berlinerweisses, and Lichtenhainers (a smoked sour). Wonderfully different beers, the dominant flavor here is sour. Sometimes its a lactic acid sour or tart and sharp like citrus. The backbone can very from slightly sweet, sometimes even a little bitter or smoked, but the emphasis is always sour.
No. 33 Gose, The Freehouse
A traditional German-style Gose (pronounced “gose-uh”); kettle soured with natural & organic lactic cultures, creating a lingering acidity; sea salt and coriander additions create a crisp, light, refreshing beer.
Lichtenhainer Smoked Sour, Fair State Brewing
Smoked beer is an acquired taste. So is sour/funky beer. We've acquired those tastes, and as a result we present to you this barrel-fermented, 100% oak- and beechwood smoked sour wheat. 100% Smoked malt barrel-fermented sour wheat.
Wild & Farmhouse
These define our yeast forward beers. The flavors of yeast forward beers can be quite different depending the type of yeast. For example a typical Saison will have a fruity and spicy element from the yeast, where as a Hefeweizen will have the iconic clove and banana flavor. Additionally there is the option to use Brettanomyces, a wild yeast which drastically affects a beer’s flavor. You can expect a Brettanomyces beer to be very dry and have those “barnyard” flavors like hay, goat, or grass.
Ends Meet Dark Saison, Black Stack Brewing
The beer that served as the inspiration for this brew was once referred to as the "lager killer" by the brewery's founder in reference to its ability to sustain long sessions of drinking. Rich mahogany in color with a firm malt presence and a light spiciness from the yeast.
Dorado Gold Brett IPA, Fair State Brewing
Brewed exclusively with El Dorado hops, this dry-hopped IPA is fermented with a combination of Saccharomyces Trois and Brettanomyces. Fruity, funky, and hoppy.
Hefe, Fair State Brewing
A traditional Bavarian-style wheat beer. Pale, spritzy, with plenty of banana, clove, and vanilla notes - all from the yeast! No bananas were harmed in the brewing of this beer.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know your comments below.