Flemish Style Brown Ale

These are complex dark beers most closely associated with the town of Oudenaarde in Flanders. The authentic examples are medium- to full-bodied beers that are influenced by a number of factors: high bicarbonate in the brewing water to give a frothy texture; a complex mix of yeasts and malts; blending of aged beers; and aging in bottle before release. In the best examples, the flavor profile is reminiscent of olives, raisins and brown spices, and could be described as “sweet and sour.” These beers are not hop-accented and are of low bitterness.


Kölsch is an ale style emanating from Cologne in Germany. In Germany (and the European Community) the term is strictly legally limited to the beers from within the city environs of Cologne. Simply put, kölsch has the color of a pilsner with some of the fruity character of an ale. This is achieved with the use of top-fermenting yeasts and pale pilsner malts. The hops are accented on the finish, which classically is dry and herbal. It is a medium- to light-bodied beer and delicate in style. Most examples in the United States are brewpub draft interpretations produced during the summer months, though some commercial brewers produce a summer ale in the kölsch style.

Clan of the Cave Beer

It was dusk when we reached the cave, a gaping hole in a hillside in the Basque country of northern


This is a sub-category of the bock style. Doppelbocks are extra strong, rich and weighty lagers characterized by an intense malty sweetness with a note of hop bitterness to balance the sweetness. Color can vary from full amber to dark brown and alcohol levels are potently high, typically 7-8 percent ABV. Doppelbocks were first brewed by the Paulaner monks in Munich. At the time, it was intended to be consumed as “liquid bread” during Lent. Most Bavarian examples end in the suffix “–ator”, in deference to the first commercial example, which was named Salvator (savior) by the Paulaner brewers.


Bocks are a specific type of strong lager historically associated with Germany and specifically the town of Einbeck. These beers range in color from pale to deep amber tones, and feature a decided sweetness on the palate. Bock styles are an exposition of malty sweetness that is classically associated with the character and flavor of Bavarian malt. Alcohol levels are quite potent, typically 5-6 percent ABV. Hop aromas are generally low, though hop bitterness can serve as a balancing factor against the malt sweetness. Many of these beers’ names or labels feature some reference to a goat. This is a play on words, in that the word “bock” also refers to a male goat in the German language. Many brewers choose to craft these beers for consumption in the spring (often called Maibock) or winter, when their warmth can be fully appreciated.

Malt Liquor

This category is legally mandated in states where any lager stronger than 5 percent alcohol by volume cannot call itself a lager beer. There are a number commercial brands that have been created to fill this category, many of which do not have great merit from the connoisseur’s perspective. Many malt liquors achieve their greater alcoholic strength through the use of adjunct grains—corn or rice—that add little flavor. Some strong European lagers are forced to adopt this labeling moniker for the U.S. market.

Black/Schwarz Beer

Originally brewed in Thuringia, a state in eastern Germany, these lager -style brews were known to be darker in color than their Munich counterparts. Often relatively full-bodied, rarely under 5 percent ABV, these beers classically feature a bitter chocolate, roasted malt note and a rounded character. Hop accents are generally low. This obscure style was picked up by Japanese brewers and is made in small quantities by all of Japan’s major brewers. Schwarz beers are not often attempted by U.S. craft brewers.