Beer. It’s good shit, right? As craft beer has taken off in the United States over the last twenty years or so, many people (my readership included) have really started exploring different styles of beer. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), arguably the most widely accepted expert on the subject, there are 23 categories of beer and 80 styles of beer. And, as trends are trends and preferences are preferences, certain styles seem to be more popular. You know how every brewery seems to have an IPA and a stout on their lineup? Well, there are so many other types of beer that hardly ever get brewed in this country. This post is a tribute to these underrepresented friends from overseas.
To clarify, I am not suggesting that these styles don’t ever get brewed. Each of the styles listed below are regional European styles and produced in their country of origin. The American craft beer and homebrewing scenes have produced these styles–just not nearly as often as they should.
Berliner Weisse – BJCP Style 17A
There is a new interest in sour beers in the United States, yet Berliner Weisse, one of my favorite styles of beer, does not get the attention it deserves. Accurate recipes aim for a finished beer of 2.8-3.8% ABV. Originating in Berlin, the political capital (not beer capital) of Germany, the Berliner Weisse is light in color and made with wheat. These ales are tart with lactic acid and offer a more quenching sourness than other sour beers. They’re light and delicious. (American Commercial Examples: Three Floyds’ Deesko, Bell’s Oarsman Ale)
Saison and Biere de Garde – BJCP Styles 16C and 16D
Saison and Biere de Garde are technically different styles, the former originating in rural Belgium and the latter from rural France. What distinguishes these from each other other than an invisible line in Europe? Well, the French version is typically slightly stronger and darker with a slightly more muted hop flavor (neither style would be considered overly hoppy). Both styles originated in European farmhouses and are the quintessential “farmhouse beers.” Within these styles is a wide variety of flavors, yet a seasoned drinker would likely be able to tell them apart by appearance and flavor. Recently, American craft brewers have developed an deeper interest in saisons and bieres de garde, although too much room for experimentation still exists to leave them off this list. (American Commercial Examples: Saison: Ommegang’s Hennepin, Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Bière, Allagash’s Interlude. Biere de Garde: New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Biere De Mars, The Lost Abbey’s Avant Garde)
Eisbock – BJCP Style 5D
Eisbock is one of those, “What the Fuck?” styles of beer. The strongest style of bocks (and possibly all lagers) at 9-14%, this style is produced by freezing a dopplebock and removing the ice to concentrate the alcohol (and flavor). Technically, this process is a form of distillation and may be a legal gray area, but definitely a style worth trying!(American Commercial Examples: Kuhnhenn’s Rasberry Eisbock, Southampton Publick House’s Double Ice Bock)
Gueze – BJCP Style 17E
As a fan of all styles of sour beer, I think they are all underrepresented in the American beer industry. There might be a good reason gueze is not made very frequently in this country– It takes a very experimental and patient brewer to attempt production. Gueze is a spontaneously fermented ale from Belgium. It are brewed with aged hops (very unusual in American beer) and have almost no hop flavor. Then, a “real” gueze is aged in an oak barrel for three years! They’re sour and crazy and delicious! (American Commercial Examples: The Bruery’s Rueze).
Don’t think I’d forget England. Technically, Real Ale is not a style of beer, rather a style of serving beer. I find that many British ale styles to be under-utilized, but what is really missing is English “Real Ales” which are defined by UK’s Campaign for Real Ales (CAMRA) as “beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.” To find an accurate Real Ale, you’ll probably have to fly across the Atlantic, but the close American equivalent would be finding a beer “on cask” or “hand pumped” at your local beer bar. I find most frequently these offerings are American-style IPAs or pale ales, which are generally hoppier and stronger than their English predecessors. Good luck in your search!
– H. Vulgare