A classic pilsener is straw to pale in color. A malty residual sweetness can be perceived in aroma and flavor. Perception of hop bitterness is medium to high. Noble-type hop aroma and flavor are moderate and quite obvious. Distinctly different from Bohemian-style pilsener, this style is lighter in color and body and has a lower perceived hop bitterness. Examples are Pivo Pils, Firestone Walker Brewing and Prima Pils, Victory Brewing Co.


Light in color and malt character, this style’s fermentation process yields a light vinous character which is accompanied by a slightly dry, crisp finish. Ale yeast is used for fermentation, though lager yeast is sometimes used in the bottle or final cold-conditioning process. Examples are Capital City Kolsch, Blind Tiger Brewery and Summer Ale, Alaskan Brewing Co.

Blonde Ale

One of the most approachable styles, a golden or blonde ale is an easy-drinking beer that is visually appealing and has no particularly dominating malt or hop characteristics. Rounded and smooth, it is an American classic known for its simplicity. Sometimes referred to as ‘golden ale.’ These beers can have honey, spices and fruit added, and may be fermented with lager or ale yeast. Examples are True Blonde Ale, Ska Brewing Co. and Foam Top, Beachwood Brewery.

Cream Ale

This is a mild, pale, light-bodied ale, made using a warm fermentation (top or bottom fermenting yeast) and cold lagering. Despite being called an ale, when being judged in competitions it is acceptable for brewers to use lager yeast. Examples are Summer Solstice, Anderson Valley Brewing Co. and Spotted Cow, New Glarus Brewing Co.

Sour Ale

The acidity present in these beers is usually in the form of lactic, acetic and other organic acids naturally developed with acidified malt in the mash, or produced during fermentation by the use of various microorganisms. These beers may derive their sour flavor from pure cultured forms of souring agents or from the influence of barrel aging. Examples are Ching Ching, Bend Brewing Co. and Love Child No. 3, Boulevard Brewing Co.

Witbier / White Ale

Belgian-style wits are brewed using unmalted wheat, sometimes oats and malted barley. Witbiers are spiced with coriander and orange peel. A style that dates back hundreds of years, it fell into relative obscurity until it was revived by Belgian brewer Pierre Celis in the 1960s. This style is currently enjoying a renaissance, especially in the American market. ‘Wit’ means “white.” Examples are Optimal Wit, Port City Brewing Co. and White, Allagash Brewing Co.

Hefeweizen / Wheat Beer

German-style hefeweizens are straw to amber in color and made with at least 50 percent malted wheat. The aroma and flavor of a weissbier comes largely from the yeast and is decidedly fruity (banana) and phenolic (clove). ‘Weizen’ means “wheat” and ‘hefe’ means “yeast.” There are multiple variations to this style. Traditionally more hoppy than a German hefeweizen, American wheat beer differs in that it should not offer flavors of banana or clove. it is a refreshing summer style. Examples are Oberon, Bells Brewery and DreamWeaver Wheat, Troegs Brewing Co.

Belgian Tripel

Complex, sometimes mild spicy flavor characterizes this style. Yeast-driven complexity is common. Tripels are often on the higher end of the ABV spectrum, yet are approachable to many different palates. These beers are commonly bottle-conditioned and finish dry. Tripels are similar to Belgian-style golden strong ales, but are generally darker and have a more noticeable malt sweetness. Examples are Tripel, Green Flash Brewing Co. and Tripel, New Belgium Brewing Co.

Session Ale

This beer style is not defined by flavors or aromas, which can place it in almost any style category. Instead, what makes a session beer is primarily refreshment and drinkability.Any style of beer can be made lower in strength than described in the classic style guidelines. The goal should be to reach a balance between the style’s character and the lower alcohol content. Drinkability is a factor in the overall balance of these beers. Beer should not exceed 5 percent ABV. Examples are Provo Girl, Utah Brewers Co-op and Easy IPA, Flying Dog Brewery.


Beers in this category are pale to deep light brown in color. Often bottle-conditioned, with some yeast character and high carbonation. Belgian-style saison may have Brettanomyces or lactic character, and fruity, horsey, goaty and/or leather-like. aromas and flavors. Specialty ingredients, including spices, may contribute a unique and signature character. Commonly called ‘farmhouse ales’ and originating as summertime beers in Belgium, these are not just warm-weather treats. U.S. craft brewers brew them year-round and have taken to adding a variety of additional ingredients. Examples are Red Barn, The Lost Abbey and Hennepin, Brewery Ommegang.

English Style ESB

ESB stands for “extra special bitter.” This style is known for its balance and the interplay between malt and hop bitterness. English pale ales display earthy, herbal English-variety hop character. Medium to high hop bitterness, flavor and aroma should be evident. The yeast strains used in these beers lend a fruitiness to their aromatics and flavor, referred to as esters. The residual malt and defining sweetness of this richly flavored, full-bodied bitter is medium to medium-high. Examples are 5 Barrel Pale Ale, Odell Brewing Co. and Moondog Ale, Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Pale Ale

An American interpretation of a classic English style. Characterized by fruity, floral and citrus-like American-variety hop character, producing medium to medium-high hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. American-style pale ales have medium body and low to medium maltiness that may include low caramel malt character. Examples are Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Flying Dog Pale Ale.

India Pale Ale - IPA

Characterized by floral, fruity, citrus-like, piney or resinous American-variety hop character, this style is all about hop flavor, aroma and bitterness. This has been the most-entered category at the Great American Beer Festival for more than a decade, and is the top-selling craft beer style in supermarkets and liquor stores across the U.S. Examples are Pallet Jack IPA, Barly Brown Beer and Union Jack, Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Imperial India Pale Ale - DIPA

High hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. Hop character is fresh and lively from utilization of any variety of hops. Alcohol content is medium-high to high and notably evident with a medium-high to full body. The intention of this style is to exhibit the fresh and bright character of hops. Examples are Hop JuJu, Fat Heads Brewery and Furious, Surly Brewing Co.


Sometimes also called ‘heller bock’ (meaning “pale bock”), this style is paler in color and more hop-centric than traditional bock beers.A lightly toasted and/or bready malt character is often evident. Examples are Elixir Maibock, Abita Brewery and Maibock, Smuttynose Brewing Co.

Amber Ale

American-style amber ales have medium-high to high maltiness with medium to low caramel character. They are characterized by American-variety hops, which produce medium hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. American ambers are usually darker in color, have more caramel flavor and less hop aromatics, and may have more body. This style was first made popular by brewers from California and the Pacific Northwest. Examples are HopBack Amber Ale, Troegs Brewing Co. and Red Seal, North Coast Brewing Co.

Rye Beer

In darker versions, malt flavor can optionally include low roasted malt characters (evident as cocoa/chocolate or caramel) and/or aromatic toffee-like, caramel, or biscuit-like characters. Low-level roasted malt astringency is acceptable when balanced with low to medium malt sweetness. Hop flavor is low to medium-high. Hop bitterness is low to medium. These beers can be made using either ale or lager yeast. The addition of rye to a beer can add a spicy or pumpernickel character to the flavor and finish. Color can also be enhanced and may become more red from the use of rye. The ingredient has come into vogue in recent years in everything from stouts to lagers, but is especially popular with craft brewers in India pale ales. To be considered an example of the style, the grain bill should include sufficient rye such that rye character is evident in the beer. Examples are Hoss, Great Divide Brewing Company and Riot Rye, Monocacy Brewing.


Naturally and spontaneously fermented beers with high to very high levels of esters, plus bacterial and yeast-derived sourness that sometimes includes acetic flavors. Lambics are not blended, while the gueuze style blends old and new lambics which are re-fermented in the bottle. Historically, they are dry and completely attenuated, exhibiting no residual sweetness either from malt, sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sweet versions may be created through the addition of sugars or artificial sweeteners. Many examples of this style are made to resemble the the gueuze lambic beers of the Brussels area, where it originated. Examples are Supplication, Russian River Brewing Co. and American Blackberry Sour, New Glarus Brewing.

Brown Ale

Roasted malt, caramel-like and chocolate-like characters should be of medium intensity in both flavor and aroma. American-style brown ales have evident low to medium hop flavor and aroma and medium to high hop bitterness. The history of this style dates back to U.S. homebrewers who were inspired by English-style brown ales and porters. It sits in flavor between those British styles and is more bitter than both. Examples are Brown, Brooklyn Brewery and Moose Drool, Big Sky Brewing Co.

Pumpkin / Fruit Beer

One of the most popular seasonal beers, this is a lager or ale that is brewed with fresh or processed pumpkin or winter squash. Since the fruit does not have much of a taste by itself, many craft brewers have taken to adding spices typically found in pumpkin pie, like cinnamon and clove. However, these flavors should not overpower the final product. Pumpkin can be found in everything from stouts, to pale ales and pilseners. The same applies for most fruit style beers. Their flavors and aromas can be combined with multiple beer styles to create beers for every season. Examples are Pumking, Southern Tier Brewing Co. and Punkin, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.

German Style Marzen / Oktoberfest

A beer rich in malt with a balance of clean, hop bitterness. Bread or biscuit-like malt aroma and flavor is common. Originating in Germany, this style used to be seasonally available in the spring (‘Marzen’ meaning “March”), with the fest-style versions tapped in October. Examples are Rhinofest, Lost Rhino Brewing Co. and Shiner Oktoberfest, Spoetzl Brewery.

German Style Dunkel

Could be considered a cross between a German-style dunkel and a hefeweizen. Distinguished by its sweet maltiness and chocolate-like character, it can also have banana and clove (and occasionally vanilla or bubblegum) esters from weizen ale yeast. Examples are Samuel Adams Dunkelweizen, Boston Beer Co. and Shiner Dunkelweizen, Spoetzl Brewery.

Bock / Doppelbock

Traditional bocks are all-malt brews and are high in malt sweetness. Malt character should be a balance of sweetness and toasted or nut-like malt. ‘Bock’ translates as “goat!” Doppel’ meaning “double,” this style is a bigger and stronger version of the lower-gravity German-style bock beers. Originally made by monks in Munich, this style is very food-friendly and rich in mellanoidins reminiscent of toasted bread.Color is copper to dark brown. Malty sweetness is dominant but should not be cloying. Malt character is more reminiscent of fresh and lightly toasted Munich-style malt, more so than caramel or toffee malt. Doppelbocks are full-bodied, and alcoholic strength is on the higher end. Examples are Rockefeller Bock, Great Lakes Brewing Co. and Uber Bock, Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.

Barley Wine

These ales range from amber to deep red/copper-garnet in color. A caramel and/or toffee aroma and flavor are often part of the malt character along with high residual malty sweetness. Complexity of alcohols is evident. Fruity-ester character is often high. As with many American versions of a style, this barley wine ale is typically more hop-forward and bitter than its U.K. counterpart. Low levels of age-induced oxidation can harmonize with other flavors and enhance the overall experience. Sometimes sold as vintage releases. Examples are Bigfoot, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Old Foghorn, Anchor Brewing Co.

Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

Scotch ales are overwhelmingly malty, with a rich and dominant sweet malt flavor and aroma. A caramel character is often part of the profile. Some examples feature a light smoked peat flavor. This style could be considered the Scottish version of an English-style barley wine. Overly smoked versions would be considered speciality examples. Examples are Wee Heavy, Dry Dock Brewing Co. and Dirty Bastard, Founders Brewing Co.

Belgian Flanders

An ale with character and balance, thanks to lactic sourness and acetic acid. Cherry-like flavors are acceptable, as is malt sweetness that can lend bitterness and a cocoa-like character. Oak or other wood-like flavors may be present, even if the beer was not aged in barrels. Overall, the style is characterized by slight to strong lactic sourness, and Flanders “reds” sometimes include a balanced degree of acetic acid. Brettanomyces-produced flavors may be absent or very low. This style is a marvel in flavor complexity, combining malt, yeast, microorganisms, acidity and low astringency from barrel aging. Examples are Enigma, New Glarus Brewing and Oud Tart, The Bruery.

Belgian Dubbel / Quadrupel

These beers are amber to dark brown in color. Caramel, dark sugar and malty sweet flavors dominate, with medium-low to medium-high hop bitterness. Quads have a relatively light body compared to their alcoholic strength. If aged, oxidative qualities should be mild and not distracting. Sometimes referred to as Belgian strong dark. Examples are Four, Allagash Brewing Co. and Salvation, Russian River Brewing Co.

Red Ale / Irish Red

This is a balanced beer that uses a moderate amount of kilned malts and roasted barley to give the color for which it’s named. With a medium hop characteristic on the palate, this typically amber-colored beer is brewed as a lager or ale and can have a medium candy-like caramel malt sweetness. This style may contain adjuncts such as corn, rice and sugar, which help dry out the finish and lessen the body. It also often contains roasted barley, lending low roasted notes, darker color and possibly creating a tan collar of foam. With notes of caramel, toffee and sometimes low-level diacetyl (butter), think of this beer style as a cousin to lightly-toasted and buttered bread. Examples are Conway's Irish Red, Great Lakes Brewing Co. and Irish Red, Glenwood Canyon Brewpub.

Porter / Imperial Porter

Brown porters have no roasted barley or strong burnt/black malt character. Low to medium malt sweetness, caramel and chocolate is acceptable. Hop bitterness is medium. Softer, sweeter and more caramel-like than a robust porter, with less alcohol and body. Robust porters have a roast malt flavor, often reminiscent of cocoa, but no roast barley flavor. Their caramel and malty sweetness is in harmony with the sharp bitterness of black malt. Hop bitterness is evident. With U.S. craft brewers doing so much experimentation in beer styles and ingredients, the lines between certain stouts and porters are often blurred. Yet many deliberate examples of these styles do exist. Examples are Old Tom Porter, Piney River Brewing Co. and Black Butte Porter, Deschutes Brewery.

Stout / Oatmeal Stout / Milk Stout / Imperial Stout

Dry stouts are black. These beers achieve a dry-roasted character through the use of roasted barley. The emphasis on coffee-like roasted barley and a moderate degree of roasted malt aromas define much of the character. Hop bitterness is medium to medium high. This beer is often dispensed via nitrogen gas taps that lend a smooth, creamy body to the palate. The addition of oatmeal adds a smooth, rich body to these beers. Oatmeal stouts are dark brown to black in color. This low- to medium-alcohol style is packed with darker malt flavors and a rich and oily body from oatmeal. American-style imperial stouts are the strongest in alcohol and body of the stouts. Black in color, these beers typically have an extremely rich malty flavor and aroma with full, sweet malt character.

Black IPA

Characterized by the perception of caramel malt and dark roasted malt flavor and aroma. Hop bitterness is perceived to be medium-high to high. Hop flavor and aroma are medium-high. Fruity, floral and herbal character from hops of all origins may contribute to the overall experience. This beer is often called a black IPA or Cascadian dark ale. Examples are Wookey Jack, Firestone Walker Brewing Co. and Blacktop IPA, New Glarus Brewing Co.

Barrel Aged Beer

A wood- or barrel-aged beer is any lager, ale or hybrid beer, either a traditional style or a unique experimental beer, that has been aged for a period of time in a wooden barrel or in contact with wood. This beer is aged with the intention of imparting the unique character of the wood and/or the flavor of what has previously been in the barrel. Today’s craft brewers are using wood (mostly oak) to influence flavor, and aromatics. Beer may be aged in wooden barrels (new or previously used to age wine or spirits), or chips, spirals and cubes may be added to the conditioning tanks that normally house beer. A variety of types of wood are used including oak, apple, alder, hickory and more. The interior of most barrels is charred or toasted to further enhance the flavor of the wood.

Smoked Beer / Rauchbier

When malt is kilned over an open flame, the smoke flavor becomes infused into the beer, leaving a taste that can vary from dense campfire, to slight wisps of smoke. This style is open to interpretation by individual brewers. Any style of beer can be smoked; the goal is to reach a balance between the style’s character and the smoky properties. Originating in Germany as rauchbier, this style is open to interpretation by U.S. craft brewers. Classic base styles include German-style Marzen/Oktoberfest, German-style bock, German-style dunkel, Vienna-style lager and more. Smoke flavors dissipate over time.