Looking back through beer history, ales are considered the beer of antiquity. Ales come in a very wide range of flavors and styles. The following list covers some of the best known:

  • A hefty ale with fruity and caramel-like aromas, complex malt flavors, and as much alcohol as some wine, Barleywine is one of the few beer styles that’s noticeably stronger than other beers. It’s usually produced in limited quantities for winter’s holiday celebrations.

  • Originated at monasteries in the Middle Ages and revived after the Napoleonic era, Belgian Dubbel is a deep reddish, moderately strong, malty, and complex ale.

  • Belgian Pale Ale is a fruity, malty, somewhat spicy, copper-colored ale commonly found in the Belgian provinces of Antwerp and Brabant.

  • Belgian Tripel is a yellow-gold brew that’s effervescent with bleached white head. It has spicy and fruity malt character with citric notes.

  • Berliner Weisse is a very pale, refreshingly sour, wheat-based ale from Berlin.

  • A traditional farmhouse ale from Northern France, Bière de Garde is fairly strong and malt-accented.

  • Bitters isn’t really that bitter — it’s betrayed by the name given it centuries ago when hops were first used by English brewers.

  • Brilliant light yellow to golden with a bleached white head, Blonde Ale is similar to a Pale Ale in terms of flavor, but its hop character is less assertive.

  • Not too malty, not too thin, with subdued fruity and caramel-like flavors, Brown Ales are mellow but flavorful. American versions tend to be more aggressively hopped.

  • Dry (Irish) Stout is a very dark, roasty beer with creamy mouthfeel. It’s more roasty-flavored and coffee-like than porter.

  • Brownish in color with spicy aromatics, Dunkelweizen is the dark version of the very popular Bavarian-style Weizenbier (or Weissbier). Its unique aromatic profile includes clove, banana, and occasionally bubblegum.

  • Flanders Brown/Oud Bruin ale is a well-aged, fruity, and sour Brown Ale from Flanders (Belgium). Dark reddish-brown in color, this malty beer exhibits fruity complexity, often reminiscent of raisins, plums, figs, dates, and prunes.

  • A complex, sour, wine-like ale from Flanders in Belgium, the Flanders Red is traditionally aged in oak tuns for up to two years.

  • Foreign Style Stout is a very dark, moderately strong, roasty ale.

  • The Gueuze is a spontaneously fermented ale from the region near Brussels, Belgium. It’s a complex, pleasantly sour beer.

  • India Black Ale is a dark version of India Pale Ale. Caramel malt character and dark roasted malt flavor join to support aggressive hop presence.

  • India Pale Ale (IPA) is a hoppy, moderately strong ale of golden-to-copper color.

  • Irish Red Ale is an easy-drinking, malt-focused beer with generous caramel malt notes. Buttery or toffee flavors may also be experienced.

  • Lambic is a complex, sour, wheat-based ale from the area surrounding Brussels, Belgium.

  • A decidedly British beer, Mild Ale (or Mild) was once one of the most widely produced beer styles in the United Kingdom. Generally malty, Milds often exhibit caramel, toffee, nutty, and toasty aromas and flavors.

  • Old Ales are fruity and malty with a variety of buttery, nutty, and toasty flavors. Well-aged versions may display hints of souring.

  • Pale Ales are rather fruity beers with light malt flavors and a pleasantly dry and often bitter aftertaste.

  • A dark but not imposing ale, the Porter has light malt sweetness and pleasant dark grain flavors and makes for a wonderful sipping beer.

    Baltic Porter is a very dark brew from countries that border the Baltic Sea. Dark, roasty flavors evoke flavors of bittersweet chocolate, toffee, molasses, and licorice notes. Polish versions tend to be more malty sweet.

  • Oatmeal Stout is a very dark, full-bodied, roasty, malty ale with a complementary oatmeal flavor.

  • Roggenbier is a specialty beer brewed in Bavaria as a more distinct variant of Dunkelweizen, using rye in place of wheat. These beers have a moderately spicy rye flavor, reminiscent of rye or pumpernickel bread.

  • A rich, intense, complex, and roasty dark ale, the Russian Imperial Stout has dark grain flavors that evoke bittersweet chocolate, cocoa, or strong coffee.

  • Saison is a refreshing, fruity ale that’s quite effervescent and has a dry, quenching acidity. Saisons were traditionally brewed in late spring to be consumed throughout the summer months.

  • Scotch Ales are malt accented with a variety of caramel, nutty, and toasty flavors.

  • Scottish Ales are more commonly found on draught rather than in bottles or cans. They possess a soft and chewy malt character that may be perceived as caramel or toffee and can range from golden amber to deep brown in color.

  • Sweet (London) Stout is a very dark, sweet, full-bodied, roasty ale. It’s historically known as Milk Stout or Cream Stout due to the use of unfermentable milk sugar (lactose).

  • The traditional refreshing wheat-based beer of Bavaria, Weizenbier/Weissbier is golden-colored and spritzy.

  • Weizenbock is a dark, medium-full bodied wheat based beer of Bock strength.

  • Witbier is a light, refreshing, citrusy wheat ale originated in the city of Hoegaarden more than 400 years ago. Its citrusy, perfumy character is a result of the brewers’ use of coriander and the bitter rind of the Curacao orange.

  • Their fruity-perfumy aromas, citrusy tanginess, and spritzy effervescence make Wheat Beers especially easy to enjoy when the weather is hot.


About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Marty Nachel is a beer educator, an award-winning homebrewer, a BJCP Certified Beer Judge, on the panel of professional beer judges at the Great American Beer Festival, and a former beer evaluator at the Beverage Testing Institute. He is also the founder and administrator of the Ale-Conner Beer Certification Program.

Steve Ettlinger is the author of seven books, most of which are about food and food-related subjects. His most recent is Twinkie, Deconstructed.

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