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Beer Styles, History & Definitions: Saison, Pale Ale, IPA, Belgian, White, Wheat, Lager, Dubbel, Tripel, Quad, Amber Ale, Porter, Stout, Barleywine, Scotch Ale

beer1 747139 300x200 Beer Styles, History & Definitions: Saison, Pale Ale, IPA, Belgian, White, Wheat, Lager, Dubbel, Tripel, Quad, Amber Ale, Porter, Stout, Barleywine, Scotch AleBeer Styles of the World 

By Bar Manager Jeremy Thomson 

Saison/Farmhouse Ale

Brewed in winter to be enjoyed during the summer, Saisons may have originated as a farmer’s refresher with dry, crisp restorative properties.  Very complex, as a result of their unique wild yeasts, they often have mild tartness and earthy notes. One of Belgium’s most approachable styles for American palates with medium bitterness and very little sweetness—It’s summer somewhere!


Spontaneously fermented ales originally brewed in the Lambeek region of Belgium, often using aged hops to subdue bitterness.  Bold and complex, these unique brews showcase exactly how sour, tart beers can enliven the palate.  Whether the blended sour Gueuze, the sweet raspberry Framboise, or the refreshing sweet/sour candy sugar Faro.

Fruit Beer

An Ale or Lager that has fruit or fruit flavor added.

Flemish Sour

First brewed throughout the Flanders region, the Flemish Sour Ale, nee Flanders Red, Flemish Burgundy, Sweet-And-Sour Ale, etc. is a style both red and sour.  Both characteristics stem from the unique brewing process of long-term cask aging in oak and the blending of both young and old beers.  Tart and sharp, these brews will shock taste buds and wake up many imbibers to the complexities of beer.   A Rodenbach advertisement once proclaimed, and you may agree—“It’s Wine.” 

Hard Cider

Ranging from dry to sweet, Hard Ciders can vary dramatically in flavor and color.  Favored by regions whose grape growing abilities may be limited, Cider was once an alternative to wine.  Fermented from apples instead of malt, comparing beer to Cider is like apples to…

 American Pale Ale

British in origin, the Pale Ale has been drastically overhauled on our side of the pond.  Drawing from our rich history of–and general–awesomeness we ramped up the original recipe’s hop bill while brightening up the color profile.  Citrusy hops abound.


India Pale Ale 

Traditional Pale Ales—but turned to eleven.  Garnering their name from the British occupation of India, and owing their makeup to one of the first problems the Brits encountered in their quest for global domination, bad beer.  Luckily for us, England’s brewers quickly realized the preservative power of hops and the India Pale Ale was born.  Here in the States, we take it one step further by adding even more hops and more malt to achieve a delicious, refreshing bitter brew.  Get to know the complexities of hop varietals by sipping one of these fine beers.


 Imperial/Double IPA

Traditional Pale Ales—times triplicate!  Tons of malt and even more hops combine to create brews with the taste and appearance of India Pale Ales but with considerable more punch, more flavor, and God bless em’ more alcohol! 

Belgian Pale Ale

Belgian Pale Ales can be quite different than traditional Pale Ales.  The use of aged hops and Belgian yeast strains create a much subtler, sweeter brew.  Bottle conditioned with live yeast these beers will often be crowned with a thick billowy head.  Delicate and complex with toasty malt notes, these ales prove a very contemplative sipper.

 Strong Dark Ale

This particular style may range in color from light browns to deep reds and display dense, wavy heads.  Typically these brews offer a malty, boozy flavor with very subtle hop characteristics.  Don’t let the term “dark” dissuade you, the unique floral and dark fruit aromas that result from the Belgian yeasts create amazingly subtle and wildly interesting ales.


The term “white” may refer to either the cloudy, yeasty sediments within the brew or the billowy head and lace that usually accompany it.   Brewed with an abundance of wheat and traditionally spiced with orange peel, coriander, or the like, these ales often feature citrusy banana notes along with a lively carbonation.  A crisp, light and refreshing way to start your night.


This brew stands alone with its unique maltiness offset by a mild acidity.  Dark fruit notes of raisins and figs dance with soft spicy clove in a tango for taste buds. 


Lagers are bottom fermented at lower temperatures for longer periods to produce beers that are traditionally crisper, dryer and sharper than most ales.  That aside, within this category, variations abound.  Below you’ll find examples from the smoked, bacon-y Rauchbier style to the dark, roasted malt Schwarzbier. 


While many believe the abbreviation stands for “Mass Brewed Crap”, it actually refers to the “Big Boys” in American Brewing; Miller, Bud, and Coors. For all you do, this one’s for you.


Medium to full bodied ales with slightly less dark fruit action than the Strong Dark Ale.  Very subtle hop presence and rich maltiness accentuate amazing Belgian yeasts.  Originally created by Trappist Monks, this bold and daring style has been emulated the world over.



Like the Dubbel, the Tripel was first brewed in Belgium’s Trappist monasteries.  Light in color and high in alcohol, these salaciously high-octane brews can be deceivingly smooth sippers.  Decadently sweet with flowery, fruity, and spicy esters, this style offers everything that is great about beer.


Traditionally a rather dark style ranging in color from deep ruby reds to dark midnight browns, these ales pack a wallop.  Full bodied with malty chewiness and more than a mile of alcohol presence.  When you can’t find a fireplace these powerful brews provide the warmth of an inferno.

Amber/Brown Ale

Any ale that ranges from light amber hues to darker midnight brown.  Often with less hops than malts, these beers will typically have full flavored nutty profiles.  Sometimes you feel like a nut.


The Porter style was originally created in the UK by blending three ales (Old Ale, Mild, Bitter).  The resulting brew is dark in color with rich, nutty flavors that highlight the roasted malts.  The Stout (originally Stout Porter) takes this even further offering darker, richer notes.  Some brewers have chosen to add chocolate or coffee to these brews resulting in delicious, full-bodied brews. 

Barleywine/Old Ale

Both Barleywines and Old Ales are quite strong with pronounced malt characteristics and noticeable alcohol.  Usually amber to dark brown in color with almost no head and very little hop flavors, favoring notes of black currants and raisins instead.  Not for the faint of heart, these sweet, thick brews are to be sipped slowly so as to enjoy the variety of flavors present as the ale warms while simultaneously warming you.

Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy

Strong ales originally brewed in Edinburgh around the 19th century, these beers are very forward with their malts.  Almost no hop is present, and the resulting brews are somewhat sweet with a thick mouthfeel.  Brewed in Scotland typically in the 7% ABV range, the American versions of these ales take the opportunity to ramp things up another notch, making these big beers even bigger.


The Top 10 Breweries in the World: Founders, Bell’s, Ballast Point, Stone, Port/Lost Abbey

The Top 25 Beers in a Can: Oscar Blues, Sly Fox, Maui Brewing, Young’s Double Chocolate, Caldera, 21st Amendment

Pennsylvania Crushes Germany in the Top 10 Pilsners: Pilzilla, Prima Pils, Stoudt’s Pils, Pikeland Pils, Troegs Sunshine Pils

The Best Beer under $20 a Case: Yuengling Lager, Bitburger, Leinenkugels, Shiner Bock, Lionshead and more…

The Top 25 Stouts: Founders KBS, Breakfast Stout, Bell’s Kalamazoo, Rogue Shakespear Oatmeal, Goose Island Black Cat Bourbon, Deschutes the Abyss

The Top 10 Oktoberfest Beers: Ayinger, Beck’s, Hacker Pschorr, Flying Fish, Hofbrau, Stoudt’s, Lefthand, Magic Hat, Spaten

The Top Ten Belgian White Ales from a Taste Test: Blanche de Bruxelles, Hoegaarden, Ommengangs Witte, Victory Wirlwind, St. Brnardis Blanche, Allagash White, Blue Moon and more…

The Top 10 Mexican Beers: Bohemia, Negra Modela, Dos Equis, Corona, Carta Blanca, Tecate, Sol and more…

Top 50 Pound for Pound Beer List: Chimay, Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada, Bells’, Victory, Founders, Hacker-Pschorr, Weyerbacher and more…




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