Beer style guide: Part One

12 June, 2018 by Vanessa Cavasinni

By Charles Whitting

Australian Hotelier breaks down some of the different styles of beer that are available to publicans – starting with the more common styles you will come across.

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Beer is an exceptionally diverse category, with so many different styles on offer – and more on the way as well. There are styles unique to certain parts of the world – like cask ale in the UK – styles that have been refined, altered and perfected over centuries – like stouts and pilsners – and styles that are totally new additions to the canon – like the New England India Pale Ale, or NEIPA.

Below is a short guide to some of the beer styles which you could be stocking on your bars and in your fridges.

Pale ale: Australia’s most popular style in terms of consumption (92 per cent of respondents to Beer Cartel’s Craft Beer Survey consume pale ale), this is a beer that every brewery will make – the workhorse of beer. A diverse category in and of itself, this beer opens up plenty of possibilities in terms of hoppiness, fruitiness, maltiness and ABV. But one thing’s for certain, it will look pale.

IPA: A cousin of the pale ale, this style is probably indistinguishable from the India Pale Ales that the British sent across to India centuries ago. This is a style that relies on heavy hopping, so expect a lot of tropical or citrus notes on the nose and high levels on bitterness on the palate. This is another beer that comes in plenty of different iterations, including black IPAs, double IPAs, session IPAs and XPAs.

Amber ale: This is essentially a pale ale which has used more amber malt. There are lots of different malts out there, just as there are lots of different hops, and each bring certain characteristics to the beer. Amber ales are of American origin and they straddle that halfway house – not too hop-focused, not too malt-heavy.

Stout: The darkest of dark beers, this is again a style with plenty of diversity, all using an extra ingredient to bring smoothness, sweetness or added flavour. Heavier and ‘chewier’ than a porter, stouts are a great winter drink, so are worth stocking up on as the days grow shorter. Check out milk stouts, oatmeal stouts, chocolate stouts, oyster stouts and, of course, the high ABV imperial stout which should really be shared among friends.

Lager: Lagers may have developed something of a bad reputation over the years among craft beer drinkers, but it remains a beer with enormous potential for complexity and one that is quite challenging to make. Made using cool fermentation and bottom-fermenting yeast (lager yeast as opposed to top-fermenting yeast used in making ale), the name itself comes from the German for storage. People often think of these beers as light and refreshing, but there are dark lagers out there, and heavily hopped Indian pale lagers too.

Pilsner: The classic pale lager from the Czech Republic, this is the most drunk style of beer in the world, and with good reason. Some of the world’s most popular brands are pilsners, but the craft brewing industry is also now getting in on the act, creating a range of beers that are refreshing, but also take drinkers on a journey through strong hop and floral flavours, backed up with a crisp bitterness.

Porter: A beer that dates back to 18th century London, porter is a dark beer full of the rich flavours of coffee, chocolate and molasses. There are many different things that brewers can do with these beers, given the use of the darker malts, so it is not unusual now to see them aged in barrels or infused with other ingredients such as vanilla, plum and chocolate.