During a walk outside we can see the foggy cloud of our own breath. There is no denying it anymore: winter has arrived. It is the perfect time to cozy up around a fireplace or meet friends at a warm bar while having some beers. Luckily the good thing about winter is that there are beers made especially for the winter season. So, which beers styles are best for drinking during these winter months?
Of course, we have to start with Winter Warmers. These are malty, sweet ales with a solid malt presence in their body and flavor profile. A lot of breweries create their own version of this typical ‘holiday season’ beer style, such as Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice or SweetWater’s Festive Ale to name two.
Styles like stouts and porters are also very popular during this months. Logically, because they will leave you with a warm fullness that is perfect for hibernation.
Another technique that is loved by winter brewers is barrel aging. The process of aging in a liquor barrel will result in an oaky flavor which is a well-suited taste for colder months. Finally, we can also say that chocolate and coffee scream ‘winter beers’.
While stouts and porters usually have subtle notes of this in it, many brewers will add extra chocolate and coffee to their brews to make for a heavy and dark flavor when it’s cold outside.
Whatever beer you would pick during the colder months, it is clear that they have one thing in common in most cases: they usually are big and higher alcohol beers.
A bock beer or a ‘bock’ is a strong lager that has a German origin. However, nowadays many countries are known for their versions of bock beers. In our home country, The Netherlands, we have our own specialty: ‘herfstbocks’. We’ll dive into the world of bock beers and explain the difference between types to you.
Bock beers are the perfect beer to have during fall and the beginning of the winter. A bock beer isn’t as heavy as a stout or a porter, but it sure does retain a smooth mouthfeel for the colder days. The traditional bock is a sweet, relatively strong (6.3% – 7.2% by volume) and lightly hopped (20-27 IBUs) lager. The color can range from a deep, dark brown to more copper and reddish shades. The flavors can also vary from sweet caramel to more traditional malty versions. The aroma is almost never fruity, but will most likely be malty and toasty. In any case, a bock beer will almost always have a bountiful and persistent off-white head. Nowadays we have many different variations to this traditional style, which we’ll get in to.
Doppelbock might be the most known style of bock beers. It’s a stronger version of the original bock that finds his origin in Munich. Historically the doppelbock was sweet and high in alcohol. Back in the days, they used to drink doppelbock during times of fasting (when solid food was not permitted). Dobbelbock’s are still strong today, ranging from 7% – 12% ABV. The aroma is usually very malty with some toasty notes and noticeable alcohol strength. Darker versions might have a chocolate-like aroma.
Many Dutch breweries – major and micro – offer their take on the original bock beer at the start of these seasons. These ‘herfstbocks’ are only a ‘herfstbock’ according to beer consumer organization PINT when they are brought on the market between September 21 and December 21. However, this is only according to PINT. In most cases, the beer will be dark brown and have an average alcohol percentage of 6% – 8%.
The heller bock is also known as the ‘maibock’ or the ‘helles bock’. While this is still a relatively strong beer (6.3% – 7.4% ABV), it is a lot lighter than the doppelbock and more similar to the traditional bock, except for the fact that it has a lighter color and more hop presence. The color ranges from deep gold to light amber. The flavor is less malty than the traditional bock. A heller bock might be drier, hoppier and more bitter.
Last but not least we’ve got the Eisbock. This is a traditional specialty beer from the Kulmbach district in Germany. It’s special because it is made by partially freezing a doppelbock and removing the water ice. This process concentrates the flavor and alcohol. Eisbock is pretty strong compared to its sibling styles. It has 9% – 13% ABV. The color is mostly deep copper to dark brown with ruby highlights. Expect a rich and sweet flavor from this one that will always be balanced by a significant alcohol presence.
We love to drink a bock beer during this time of the year. Whether it’s a more heavy doppelbock or a lighter heller bock. Keep an eye out on our menu, as we’ve got different kinds of bock beers on tap each month!
Pale ale might also be known to you as “bitter”. It is obviously known for its light color but has more history to it than you might think.
It was around 1703 that we first heard the word “pale ale”. It is a term used for beer brewed from malt that is dried with coal. This way of roasting, however, was first used in 1642. So you could argue that the “pale ale” goes back to 1642. While the pale ale was a big hit in the US around only 30 years ago (we’ll get to this later), the history of the pale ale beer style lies in England and goes back 300 years.
Before the 18th-century brews in England were mostly known for their stouts and porters – who have a different brewing process. Due to the technology and fuel at this time, these were the most common beer styles. They had this dark color because of the heating process that created dark barley malts. However, around the early 18th-century, new and reliable methods started to appear to produce pale barley malt, which led to a new, very pale colored beer. As the technology was very new at the time, the new malt became expensive, which meant that the pale beers were only for wealthier drinkers. As time went by, the pale malt became more affordable. Slowly, the pale-colored ales took over the stout and porters in popularity.
Eventually, the pale ale is the beer that is responsible for the modern brewing revolution in America. In 1980 the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. produced their first batch of pale ale. Beer lovers that were seeking something flavorful and typically American, were immediately sold on this. The beer was refreshing and characterful. The Sierra Nevada Pale Ale soon became the standard against which all American pale ales were measured. New microbreweries, that sprang up around that time across the US, tried to produce beers that had this same beer vein.
Fun fact: there are many differences between American and British pale ales. American brewers tend to stay away from the name “bitter”, as they make the pale ales in a more assertive American style than the English tradition. British pale ale malt is robust and nutty, while American malt is crisper and softer. Traditional English hops are floral, earthy and refined, whereas American hops evoke wildness with a bit of citrus and pine profile.
The English will try to go for balance in their pales, while the Americans show off a full hop character with a striking aroma.
At Brody’s you can find both: we have English and American pale ales on our menu. While every beer is different, with a pale ale you can expect an amber-gold beer with fruity and fresh aromas and relatively low alcohol.
Canadian beers are known to be pretty strong. Why? Because, just like Russia and Alaska, the colder climate asks for stronger drinks to keep them warm. Of course this is mostly just a myth, but when it comes to Canadian beers, there is a tiny bit of truth to the claim that it is indeed stronger than American beers.
In Canada, the average popular beer is slightly higher in alcohol content than the American ones. Canadian beers have an ABV over 5%, while the American beers range lies between 4,1% to 5,9%. This leaves us with a question: why is Canadian beer stronger than American beer?
In America, there are 20 states that are limiting the amount of alcohol in beer by law. Many states do however allow a higher ABV for malt liquor beers. These laws make it a bit more challenging for America to create powerful beer and sell it as a beer. The laws are more strict than those of Canada.
Canada has plenty of option when we’re talking about strong beers, such as The Black Bullet (15% ABV), Korruptor (16% ABV) or the MacKroken Flower (10.8% ABV). The last one is currently on our menu in the ‘regular’ version and as the MacKroken Flower Grande Réserve (Bourbon).
Whatever country you might prefer to drink your beers from, just remember that good beer is a good beer in each country and a bad beer will always be bad. Oh and Canada has awesome lower alcoholic beers as well, think about very drinkable ciders – such as the CID Original from Cidrerie Milton – and more.
When we think of creamy, dark, heavy and strong beers, we think of stouts. However not all stouts have these attributes. While many types of stouts are indeed as we have just described, the styles range from being very alcoholic and dry to being hoppy with a lower ABV. So, the question comes to mind: what makes a beer a stout?
As you all know there are different variations of stouts. We’ll go over the most common stouts after we dive into a brief history lesson and answer the big question.
It is no wonder we think of heavy and strong beers when we think of stouts. The word ‘stout’ itself used to refer to strong beers in the late 1600s to early 1700s. Back then, they were usually called ‘stout porters’, because they just were stronger and full-bodied varieties of porters. Porters were very popular among porters (now you know where the name comes from) in England, where it has its origin.
The word ‘stout’ was used to describe strong versions of all types of beers, but wasn’t a style on its own yet. As porters made their way over to Ireland, there was a brewery called St. James’s Gate Brewery (Guinness), that started to brew a ‘porter’ in the late 1700s. However, this porter turned out to be a complex, big-bodied and very strong one at 7,5% ABV. This beer is nothing like the Guinness we know nowadays. The brewery called this one a ‘stout porter’, because it was so strong. This was later shorted into ‘stout’.
Somewhere in the 1700s, English breweries began brewing stouts for export, such as Russian imperial Stout and Foreign Extra Stout, which was brewed to send to the Caribbean. These beers were very loved.
Because of the porters popularity, breweries made them in different strengths, which led to popularize the word ‘stout’. This makes that there is still some confusion about the difference between stouts and porters.
So, after this history lesson it is time to answer the question, before diving into the common styles. While not all stouts have a high ABV, they do all have a characteristic roasted flavor. This is what makes a stout stand out from other styles of beer. Like most beers, they are made with hops and yeast. However, stouts are heavy in roasted barley or other roasted malts.
There are a lot of variations of stouts. Each variation has their own characteristics. Time to go over the most common ones.
This stout was brewed by the English for the court of Catherine II of Russia in the 1700s. To make sure that the beers lasted the trip, they loaded the stout with hops. Russian Stouts are known to be very strong beers, from 8 to 11% ABV. They have a bit of a bitter taste with fruity notes.
As you can probably guess, oatmeal stouts are brewed with oatmeal. The oatmeal gives the stout a fuller body, smoothness and a bit more sweetness. Usually these brews have an ABV of 4 to 7%.
Because of the dark color, you might think that they have a very high ABV. However, these stouts are incredibly drinkable with a usual ABV of 3,5 to 5,5%. Are you having a medium bodied beer with the deep black stout color with a drinkable taste? It is probably a Dry Irish Stout.
Besides heavy and creamy, stouts can also be sweet. The Sweet Stout frequently contains more residual dextrin and unfermented sugars than other styles. Milk Stouts are a variation to this style and contain – you guessed it again – milk sugars and lactose. Both types of stouts have a sweet profile, alongside the characteristic roasted flavor.
In our opinion drinking a stout is the perfect way to end your day. There are so many tasty variations, that there is a stout out there for everyone. We’ve got some very special ones on our current menu from breweries such as Founders and Evil Twin.
Two of the most popular beer styles in the craft beer world are – without a doubt – the India Pale Ale (IPA) and the Pale Ale. While they actually are different beers, most people would struggle to identify the difference in a blind tasting as both are hoppy beers and have other similar characteristics. What is the actual difference between an IPA and a Pale Ale? Find out the answer by a little history lesson.
As you might guess (or know) the Pale Ale was born first. This beer finds its origin in the fact that somewhere in the early 1700s brewers began using lighter malts. The use of lighter malts led to the lighter color of the beer – pale – and a lighter flavor. Because of the lighter flavor, the hops were more prominent in these beers.
Around the 1820s the India Pale Ale saw the light of day. The myth goes that the British colonies in India brewed these beers because they desired the beers from home. Because of the long distance they had to pass during these six-month journeys, they increased the amount of hops and alcohol so that the beer wouldn’t spoil.
What does this mean? Because of this origin, you could say that the IPA is a more intense and stronger beer than the Pale Ale. It has a higher ABV and IBU. However this might be the origin, it is all relative nowadays. Brewers have their own recipes, which might make one’s IPA less strong than another one’s Pale Ale. Also, every person has different taste buds and breweries have a certain degree of freedom to classify a beer however they want to.
In the end, we can at least count on IPAs and Pale Ales to be hoppy and bitter.