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The Key Elements of Beer Styles


Since there are so many varieties of beer around the world, it has become necessary to set certain guidelines on the styles of beer that help classify similar beers. A beer style is basically just a classification assigned to beers based on their appearance, aroma, flavor and point of origin. To broaden your knowledge about beer and in the process find a truly unique beer or beer style that catches your fancy, it’s very helpful to understand about beer styles.


What you can see by your sense of sight is by far the easiest way to begin categorizing a beer.  It can either be pale or very dark and the range in between, depending on the type of malt used in the beer brewing process.  The American SRM (Standard reference method) and EBC (European Brewing Convention) are both methods used to quantify the color of a beer by the intensity of a certain wavelength of light.


Beer has its own aroma as a result of the malt (primarily) and the hops (secondary) that have been added.  A larger will have a low aroma largely from the malts present. Dry hopping (the process of adding hops in the fermentation stage) can add a significant floral, fruity or spicy aroma, and is a common practice with pale ale beer styles.


The flavour of beer is determined by several factors.  Consider the type of malt used as a starting point.  Processed malt can either be nutty, grainy, sweet and malty.  Different yeasts can add no noticeable taste or a sweetness to a beer.

The addition of hops early in the boil adds bitterness to a beer due to the alpha acids they contain.  Bitterness can actually be measured using the International Bitterness Units scale or IBU.  Late addition hops are responsible for many interesting flavors from citrus or floral to spicy tastes.

Even water, the most basic ingredient of beer, can alter the flavor of the beer, a roughness is present in beers brewed with ‘hard water’.

Region of Origin

Putting all these characteristics together, one cannot also discount the fact where the beer originates from.  Sometimes, it’s also easier to classify according to region because some of the similarities of the beers in a particular location beer styles are dependent on what the local ingredients have to offer.

To get a detailed view of the many beer styles throughout the world have a read through the American Brewers Association beer styles guide. A more visual overview is available as a periodic table.

Jan 5, 2013 |

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