Continental European Ales

In early April of this year, the World Beer Championships held their annual tasting of Continental European Ale styles. Maibocks

Winter Ales

Spiced winter ales are popular hybrids among U.S. craft brewers. Typically, they are strong ales that have had some spice added during the brewing process. True to their name, they make ideal sipping beers with which to ward off winters chills and get a dose of seasonal spices. This style is usually brewed before Christmas and brewers frequently make annual adjustments to their often-secret recipes in an effort to obtain that perfect symbiosis between spices, hops and malt.

Barrel-Aged Ales

Any classic or hybrid top fermenting ale that has spent time in a new or used Sherry, bourbon, Scotch, port, wine, or other barrels to impart the specific flavors of the chosen wood or liquid that was contained previously to the ale. The intention of barrel ageing is to create a more unusual and complex ale from the marriage of liquid and wood, while maintaining a balance of flavor, mouthfeel and aroma. Color ranges from deep golden to deep mahogany and alcohol can range anywhere from 6 to 9 percent or higher, depending on the initial style of the ale.


I recently received an email from a past participant of the World Beer Championships. He was excited about his well-deserved

American Golden Ale

These brews are golden to light copper in color with a more subtle overall character and lighter body than typical pale ales. English ale fruitiness will probably not be observed. However, the most important qualification is that they are brewed domestically and will have less body and hop and malt character than a pale ale from the same brewery.

Cream Ale

Cream ale is a North American specialty that is somewhat of a hybrid in style. Despite the name, many brewers use both ale and lager yeasts for fermentation, or more often, just lager yeasts. This style of beer is fermented like an ale at warm temperatures, but then stored at cold temperatures for a period of time, much as a lager would be. The resultant brew has the unchallenging crisp characteristics of a light pale lager, but is endowed with a hint of the aromatic complexities that ales provide. Pale in color, they are generally more heavily carbonated and more heavily hopped than light lagers.

Bitter and ESB

Bitter is an English specialty, and very much an English term, generally denoting the standard ale—the “session” beer—in an English brewer’s range. They are characterized by a fruitiness, light-to-medium body and an accent on hop aromas more than hop bitters. Colors range from golden to copper. Despite the name, they are not particularly bitter. Indeed, British brewed bitters will often be less bitter than U.S. craft-brewed amber ales. A fuller-bodied bitter is labeled as “Extra Special Bitter” (ESB). These weightier versions of bitter often stand up better to the rigors of travel overseas than the lower gravity standard versions. An important element of faithful bitters is the use of English yeast cultures in fermentation. These impart a fruity, mildly estery character that should be noted in examples of the style. Bitters are now widely emulated in North America, sometimes with domestically grown hops imparting a rather more assertive character than seen in traditional English bitters.

British and North American Pale Ales

Pale ales tend to be fuller-bodied with a more assertive character on the palate than the standard bitter in a English brewer’s portfolio. In Britain, it is generally bottled, as opposed to being sold on draft. Despite the name, pale ales are not pale but, in fact, more of an amber hue. The original designation was in reference to this style of beer being paler than the brown and black beers that were more popular at the time of the style’s inception. In the United States, pale ale styles have become one of the benchmarks by which craft brewers are judged. The U.S. version of pale ale is crisper and generally much more hoppy. Indeed, this style is well suited to assertive domestic Pacific Northwestern hop varieties that give the United States examples inimitable character. A good U.S. example should be available on tap in any bar worth frequenting for its beer selection.

India Pale Ale (IPA)

India pale ales are deep gold-to-amber in color, and are usually characterized by floral hop aromas and a distinctive hop bitterness on the finish. India pale ales were originally brewed by British brewers in the 19th Century, when British troops and colonizers depended upon supplies of beer shipped from England. Standard ales did not survive the journey; hence, brewers developed high gravity, highly-hopped ales that survived shipment in casks to their largest market, India. This style, probably not anywhere near as bitter as it was when destined for India, continues to be brewed in a toned-down manner in the United Kingdom and is undergoing a mini-revival at present. However, U.S. craft brewers have claimed the style as their own, and often brew them with assertive Pacific Northwestern hop varieties that give such examples a hugely aromatic hop accent.
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