I know we’re not all history buffs, and some of us could go years or decades brewing delicious beer without every paying attention to the nomenclature and history of the beers were making. But sometimes, to perfect our beer, it can help to understand the history of that style and it characteristics. Of course, these are super rough guidelines. What we probably all love about the craft beer movement is how most breweries are pushing boundaries, inventing new styles and often ignoring the rules. But to break rules, you need to know the rules. And while styles are by no means regulatory by any stretch of the imagination, they serve as rough guide posts for us to follow, or be aware of as we brew.
I’m on a mission to document all the major styles in an approachable and interesting way. To get us started, here are the first three. Make sure to bookmark this page and come back for more!
British bitters evolved as a draught product in the late 1800s and are traditionally served as cask ales, very fresh, under no pressure, and at cellar temperatures. Most of the UK-produced stuff we get off the shelves contains a higher ABV (alcohol) and is more highly carbonated than cask products. In fact, most of the UK-produced beers available on draught in North America are sweeter and less hoppy than the cask versions
India Pale Ale was not originally brewed in India; it was brewed in Britain, to be sent to India. It was brewed by British brewers for their compatriots at the front lines of the colony. As you know, shipping beer from Britain to India would have been a difficult task in the late 1700s. Beer would have to make its way across the equator and around the horn of Africa before arriving in India—four months later.
You may be wondering what the difference is between British bitter and pale ale? After all, bitter is classified as a pale ale, right? Right. But then Americans came into the mix. And when they started making pale ales, they lightened the colour, added American hops, and as a result American Pale Ales are now in a class of their own.