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Beer Styles

Beyond a simple "thumbs-up / thumbs-down" approach, it's difficult to say what's good or bad about a given beer unless you have something to compare it to. To this end, brewers and tasting panels have devised means of classifying beers into various "styles", so that similar beers can be compared to (sometimes arbitrary) standards and to each other.

On January 22, 1997, I added style information to all of the beers on my Beer List. There was a lot of guesswork involved, because I didn't originally record style information on all of the beers, and it wasn't always obvious where a beer fit. In particular, many of the beers I classified as "American-style Pale Ales" might be more accurately described as "English Bitters". If you see any beers that are obviously in the wrong category, please !

I based my classifications on the guidelines provided by the Association of Brewers, sponsors of the American Homebrewers Association, the National Homebrew Competition and the Great American Beer Festival. The AoB has divided beers into the broad categories of Ales, Lagers, Hybrid/Mixed, Meads, and Ciders, each of which is divided into subcategories such as Barley Wine, Bock, etc. Each of those subcategories is further divided, but for simplicity, I didn't go that deep. For example, "India Pale Ale" is a subcategory of "English-style Pale Ales", so I've classified all IPAs as "English-style Pale Ales". Similarly, American so-called "Hefeweizens" are listed under "American-style Pale Ales", whereas proper clove-banana-phenolic Hefeweizens are "German-style Wheat Beers". Make sense?

Here's the short version of the AoB style chart. You can find complete descriptions of each style at


  1. Barley Wine

    1. Barley Wine

  2. Belgian and French Ale

    1. Flanders Brown/Oud Bruin
    2. Dubbel
    3. Tripel
    4. Belgian-Style Pale Ale
    5. Belgian Strong Ale
    6. White (or Wit)
    7. Biere de Garde

  3. Belgian-Style Lambic

    1. Belgian-Style Lambic
    2. Belgian-Style Gueuze Lambic
    3. Belgian-Style Fruit Lambic

  4. Mild and Brown Ale

    1. English Light Mild
    2. English Dark Mild
    3. English Brown
    4. American Brown

  5. English-Style Pale Ale

    1. Classic English Pale Ale
    2. India Pale Ale

  6. American-Style Ale

    1. American Pale Ale
    2. American Wheat

  7. English Bitter

    1. English Ordinary Bitter
    2. English Best (Special) Bitter
    3. English Strong (Extra Special) Bitter

  8. Scottish Ale

    1. Scottish Light Ale
    2. Scottish Heavy Ale
    3. Scottish Export Ale

  9. Porter

    1. Porter

  10. English and Scottish Strong Ale

    1. English Old Ale/English Strong Ale
    2. Strong Scotch Ale

  11. Stout

    1. Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout
    2. Foreign-Style Stout
    3. Sweet Stout
    4. Oatmeal Stout
    5. Imperial Stout


  12. Bock

    1. Traditional Bock
    2. German-Style Helles Bock/Maibock
    3. Doppelbock
    4. Eisbock

  13. German Dark Lager

    1. Munich Dunkel
    2. Schwarzbier

  14. German Light Lager

    1. Münchner-Style Helles
    2. Dortmunder/European-Style Export

  15. Classic Pilsener

    1. German Pilsener
    2. Bohemian Pilsener

  16. American Lager

    1. American Lager
    2. American-Style Light Lager
    3. American Lager/Ale or Cream Ale
    4. American-Style Premium Lager
    5. Dry Lager
    6. American Dark Lager

  17. Vienna/Märzen/Oktoberfest

    1. Vienna
    2. Märzen/Oktoberfest


  18. German-Style Ale

    1. Kölsch
    2. Düsseldorf-Style Altbier

  19. German-style Wheat Beer

    1. Berliner Weisse
    2. Weizen/Weissbier
    3. Dunkelweizen
    4. Weizenbock

  20. Smoked Beer

    1. Bamberg-Style Rauchbier
    2. Classic-Style Smoked Beer
    3. Other Smoked Beer

  21. Fruit and Vegetable Beer

    1. Fruit and Vegetable Beer
    2. Classic-Style Fruit and Vegetable Beer

  22. Herb and Spice Beer

    1. Herb and Spice Beer
    2. Classic-Style Herb and Spice Beer

  23. Specialty Beer

    1. Specialty Beer
    2. Classic-Style Specialty Beer

  24. California Common Beer

    1. California Common Beer


  25. Traditional Mead and Braggot

    1. Sparkling Traditional Mead
    2. Still Traditional Mead
    3. Sparkling Braggot
    4. Still Braggot

  26. Fruit and Vegetable Mead

    1. Sparkling Melomel
    2. Still Melomel
    3. Sparkling Cyser
    4. Still Cyser
    5. Sparkling Pyment
    6. Still Pyment

  27. Herb and Spice Mead

    1. Sparkling Metheglin
    2. Still Metheglin
    3. Sparkling Hippocras
    4. Still Hippocras


  28. Cider

    1. Still
    2. Sparkling
    3. New England-Style
    4. Specialty Cider

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