British and Irish Beer Styles

British-Beer-Styles
British Beer. Photo © Getty Images

There is no doubt that Britain and Ireland are famed for their beers and pubs. We have been brewing beer and various beer styles for several hunderd years. There is much talk about the demise of pubs in Britain, and it is true there is a decline, many becoming more food led than drink for financial reasons.  But on the increase are the micro brewery. Our love of beer with both men and women is not waning.

British and Irish Ales

The beers of Britain and Ireland can be roughly divided into 3 beer style-categories Ales
Lager Porter and Stout

Ales are top fermented beers (lager is bottom fermented). There are numerous styles of ales including bitter, mild, brown, pale, Indian pale, and old ale.

  • Bitter Ale
    A pint of bitter is probably the most common beer style alongside lager. Bitters are so called from the bitterness imparted by the hops. Bitters are usually reddish amber in color with a creamy head. Bitter is most often served on-tap in pubs, though some are available in cans.
    Unlike a Pale Ale or a Mild, Bitter is dry
  • Mild Ale
    Mild ale is popular in the Midlands (central England). It is lower in alcohol, light to medium bodied yet flavorful and light.
  • Brown Ale
    Brown ale is found throughout the UK but is principally associated with the North-East of England and particularly Newcastle. Brown ales have a stronger alcoholic content are deeper in color and tend to be less bitter, yet maltier, and sweeter than pale or bitter ales.
  • Pale Ale
    Traditionally from the two great brewing regions of England - Tadcaster and Burton on Trent, pale ales are considered the pride of British beers. They are bronze to copper in color, hop flavored with a dry, crisp taste and slightly sweet.
  • Indian Pale Ale
    These ales like pale ales are heavily hopped beers and traditionally brewed for export to India. Indian Pale Ale today is stronger and hoppier than pale ale.
  • Old Ale
    As the name implies, old ale is ale that is kept before drinking. Old ales are full-bodied with a nut-malt sweetness. They are higher in alcohol than pale ale but not as strong as barley wines (see below).

    Lager

    The term lager derives from the German 'lagern' meaning 'store' in reference to the time these beers spend in cold storage. Lagers are crisp, clean and lightly hoppy.
     

    Porter and Stout

    Porter
    This was the principal beer style in Britain particularly during the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th century. They are robust, heavy beers with a pronounced bitterness. Porters are dark in color but lighter in flavor than stout.

    Stout
    Stouts are extremely dark beers and some almost black (think Guinness). The color comes from the roasted malts/barley's, caramel malts and even chocolate malts. Stouts have a pronounced bitterness yet strong fruitiness.

    Barley Wine
    This is not as suggested, a wine, it is a term used to describe the richest and strongest of British ales. A Barley Wine is heavy, full-bodied and malty with a fruitiness that is balanced out by the use of hops for bitterness.