Major beer styles of
description of the main types – for more technical detail consult
books by Horst D Dornbusch
or Michael Jackson.
But don’t feel that you have to know how the experts define a
beer, or what esoteric processes are used in its production. Remember that
the definition of a good beer is a beer you like, and just keeping a note of
the ones you have enjoyed is all you need to do! And try
to get an idea of which styles go best with particular foods.
Germany brews dozens of types of light and dark beers,
from the smoky Rauchbier of Bamberg, to the yeasty, opaque Hefeweizenbier of
Bavaria, to Kölsch, the pale ale of Cologne, to the raspberry
syrup-sweetened Berliner Weisse of the German capital, just to name a few.
Find detailed reviews of individual brands at
The Oxford Bottled
ALTBIER - German ale associated with the
city of Düsseldorf. "Alt" is the German word for old. The Alt style uses a
top-fermenting ale yeast, but then is cold-aged. Some wheat may be used in
variations. Lacks hop aroma, low hop flavor but has medium to high bitterness,
especially in the finish. Restrained fruitiness, dry, clean, bittersweet flavor.
Rounded maltiness that is nonetheless not overpowering. Light to medium body.
Cleaner, smoother palate, less fruitness, less yeastiness and less acidity than
a classic British ale. The color is bronze to copper-brown. Some ales called
Amber are actually in the Alt style. STICKE is a stronger version of
Altbier but rarely seen
BERLINER WEISSE - This tart, refreshing, thirst-quenching beer can only
be brewed in Berlin, Germany, although a few brewers in Northern Germany brew
wheat beers in a similar style. Often called the Champagne of beers. Anywhere up
to 75% malted wheat is used and results in a characteristic foamy large white
head which tends to die quickly due to a lack of protein structure. The ale-type
yeast and up to 20% lactic combination produces a light body which is dry, tart,
and almost sour. Very pale, effervescent, modest alcohol content, no bitterness
and low fruity notes. May be mixed with sweet syrups.
BOCK - A very strong lager, originally from Einbeck, Germany,
but now the name is used to denote any strong lager. Strong in alcohol
with very malty-sweet character. It is the water and the malt that give this
style some special characteristics. The bock beer is full bodied with a
prevalent malty sweetness that can include some chocolate undertones. It is
traditionally dark amber to dark brown and uses just enough "noble-type" hop
flavour to balance the malt. Bitterness is low. No hop aroma. By German law,
bocks must be of at least 1.064 gravity.
HELLES BOCK or MAIBOCK - These bocks possess the same characteristics
of traditional bock except for the chocolate undertaste and they are lighter in
colour, gold to light amber. Medium to full bodied, it has predominantly malty
DOPPELBOCK - Stronger version of bock which must have a gravity of at
least 1.072. By tradition, dopplebock names end in "ator". Very full bodied. Can
be pale or dark, very sweet or balanced with bitterness. Malty sweetness evident
in aroma and flavour can be intense.
EISBOCK - The strongest type of bock. Very alcoholic. A doppelbock is
chilled till ice is formed. The ice is removed, leaving behind a beer with a
higher concentrated amount of alcohol. Very full bodied with increased sweetness
and warmth. Colour amber to dark brown.
DORTMUNDER / EXPORT - Strong pale
lager from Dortmund, brewed a bit stronger than other light lagers in order to
travel well for export. Characterized by more bitterness and less maltiness
then helles, but less bitterness, sweeter, stronger and more malt body than
German pilseners. Neither malt or hops are distinctive, but both are in good
balance with a touch of sweetness, providing a smooth yet crisply refreshing
beer. The water in Dortmund is quite hard, and this, combined with a special
malting process, contributes to the final unique taste. Alcoholic warmth can be
evident. Straw to medium gold, Light to medium body.
MUNICH DUNKEL - A product of the German brewing tradition. Distinctly
toasted (not burnt) chocolate-like malt sweetness in aroma and flavor. Medium
hop bitterness. Low to moderate alcohol and medium body. Colour ranges from dark
amber to dark brown. At its most sophisticated, this style combines the dryish,
coffee and licorice notes of dark malts with the roundness and cleanness
imparted by a lager yeast. The best examples have a spicy maltiness that is
neither sweet nor roastily dry, with a clean roundness
SCHWARZBIER (BLACK BEER)
- Judicious amounts of roasted malts so as to
not impart a burnt flavor. Moderate bitterness from hops and roasted malt.
Medium body, malty aroma and low sweetness in aroma and flavor. Should have a
distinctive bitter-chocolate palate. Colour dark brown to black.
GOSE takes its name from the
town that originated it, Goslar. It became very popular in the nearby town of
Leipzig but almost vanished in the mid twentieth century, and. is now undergoing
a revival after an absence of over 30 years. Gose is a top-fermented wheat
beer, sometimes including oats, with the addition of coriander and salt. The
inclusion of coriander and salt is contrary to the ridiculously strict beer
purity law ("reinheitsgebot"), but as the law was a Bavarian one, and Gose
originated in Prussia, this wasn't a problem until the unification of Germany
and the introduction of the law to Prussia. Gose was traditionally spontaneously
fermented, with fermentation being initiated by natural wild yeasts carried in
the air but today yeast is added rather than using spontaneous fermentation.
WEIZENBIER (OR WEISSBIER) - Wheat beers of southern Germany. Light to
medium bodied, lightly hopped, yeasty, highly effervescent, slightly sour and
suggestive of cloves and bananas. They are, above all, a summer beer. At least
50% wheat malt. Some cloudiness is acceptable in this style since a mash of up
to 60% wheat can add haze from protein. Fermented as an ale by unique yeast
HEFE-WEIZEN - Overall the profile of this beer is similar to Weizen.
This is a real ale style that is conditioned in the bottle or keg and will
contain some yeast sediment. Lager or ale yeast may be used to condition the
DUNKEL WEIZEN - Dark version of Weizenbier and can be a bit stronger.
The colour is deep copper to brown. Chocolate-like maltiness is evident. Medium
to full bodied beer with an emphasis of dark malt. It usually has a little less
of the characteristic clove-banana aromas. The combination of wheaty tartness
and the lusciousness of dark malts makes this style full of flavour and
WEIZENBOCK - Stronger and more robust than Dunkelweizen. A medium- to
full-bodied beer, it is made from 40-60% wheat, but the palate emphasis is on
the malt. Hop flavour and aroma are very low, but the clove and banana flavour
and aroma are still evident. Can be either light or dark. Alcoholic strength
should be evident.
KÖLSCH - Can only be brewed in the area of Köln (Cologne), Germany.
Kölsch is a blond Alt-style beer with a light to medium body. Light, fruity,
acidic, dry wine like brew. Low hop flavor and aroma and medium bitterness. Has
a soft palate and a delicate dryness in the finish. As pale as a Pilsner, but
with the fruitiness of an ale. Kölsch is noted for its delicacy rather than for
any more robust distinctiveness. Kölsch is very pale and is clean-tasting
(all-malt), remarkably light-bodied, soft and drinkable, only faintly fruity,
with a slight acidity and a restrained but definite hoppy dryness, often
slightly herbal-tasting in the finish. Can be an ale or a lager.. Bottle
conditioned examples may be called "weiss".
MÄRZEN / OKTOBERFEST - A lager produced in Munich with an assertively
malty sweetness, toasted malt aroma and flavour. Origin credited to the famous
brewer Gabriel Sedelmayer. The style is an adaptation of Vienna that was found
to better suit the Munich water. The body is medium. Sharp but not lingering hop
bitterness. Quite strong in alcohol. Colour is amber to deep copper or light
HELLES - Mildly hopped, malty beer from Munich. The medium malt
sweetness, often described as almost a caramel, is the mark of this beer. Part
of the malty flavour comes from the unique Munich style of malting. The body is
a bit heavier (medium) than a Bohemian pils. Pleasingly low bitterness that does
not linger at all. Colour is pale to golden.
PILSNER - More bitter, drier, less malty, simpler, cleaner and from a
lower extract than Czech Pilsner. The distinctive characteristic is the flowery,
medium hop bouquet and flavour from "noble" hops and its dry finish from a more
thorough fermentation. Light gold to medium gold. Crisp flavour with prominent
high hop bitterness. Low maltiness in aroma and flavour. Light to medium in
RAUCHBIER - Smoked-flavoured beer in the tradition of Bamberg, Germany.
Oktoberfest style made with malts that have been dried over moist beechwood log
flames to give this beer its assertive smoky aroma and flavour. The beer
presents a full body and a generally sweet, malty taste beneath the smoke. The
color is dark amber to dark brown. Hop bitterness and aroma is low to medium.
Intensity of the smoke is medium to high.