While Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic can all lay claim to some of the world’s most famous beer styles, arguably English Ales have become the foundation of the modern craft beer movement on both sides of the Atlantic. Let’s go on the ale trail and discover England’s classic beer styles.
The Pale Ale Trail
Pale ales are a broad style of beer that encompasses many of England’s classic beer types, including: Bitter, Mild and India Pale Ale.
The Bitter Truth
Not surprisingly, beers coined as Bitter refer to a style of English Pale Ale with notable hop content. The term was coined in the early 1800s to distinguish a style of beer that was markedly different from the popular Mild ales of the day. Your basic Bitter is not overwhelmingly dry, at least not in comparison to modern West Coast Pale Ales and other craft beer styles, which showcase intense bittering hop notes. Over time, the Bitter beer style became subdivided to include two richer and more powerful versions of the genre. The next step up is Best Bitter and the richest and most intense of the Bitter genre are labelled Extra Special Bitter. While they all showcase varying degrees of strength, true to style they should all offer rich fruity esters, a by-product of fermentation and buttery aromas and flavours.
IPA, It’s The Spice of Life
This style of Pale Ale rose to popularity in the 1700s in India. The robustly hopped Pale Ales were ideal for making the long journey from England to India as the added hops acted as a natural preservative. The style eventually migrated back to England where it gained in popularity and became known as India Pale Ale (often referred to simply as IPA), reflecting its past. English India Pale Ale is fruity with pronounced floral and earthy hop notes. Unlike its American counterparts, which are very hoppy in nature, most English IPA shows a great balance of malt and hop character. As you might expect, this style of beer has a natural affinity to Indian curries.
Go to an English pub and many of its customers are likely to be enjoying a pint of Mild. Milds are typically low alcohol English ales, many of which have a darker malt than many Pale Ales. Don’t expect much hop bitterness. This style is all about rich, fruity malt character and soft, easy-going finishes.
Nuts for Brown Ales
Brown Ales are in essence richer, maltier versions of Milds. They have rich, nutty caramel and toffee notes and little to no hop bitterness in the finish. Thesecountry style ales have been mimicked by many North American craft beer producers and are an entry point for many into the artisanal beer world.