It might come as a surprise to people that there are internationally recognised styles of beer, as one would find in wine. Therefore, if you ask for a lager in Johannesburg or New York, chances are you will get two beers sufficiently similar to call brothers, but with distinct nuances that comes from the brewer’s own take on the style, to make them each unique. Whilst wines are categorised according to variety or cultivar of grape, craft beer is categorised according to flavour, colour, aroma, mouth feel and taste, amongst others. Although the systematic study of beer styles is a modern phenomenon, the practice of distinguishing between different varieties of beer is ancient, dating to at least 2000 BC and local customs and names have been and are taken into consideration in the international style guide, which evolves all the time are brewers get more and more innovative. There are 23 styles of beer with several sub-styles to each and those inclined to want to know them all can look them up on www.bjcp.org.
In terms of the festival we can broadly categorise the craft beers on offer in Light beers, English style beers, Hoppy beers, Dark beers, Weiss beers, and Belgian style beers. What you should expect from each style is described in terms of Aroma, Appearance, Flavour, Finish / Mouth feel, Occasion and an Example that can be found at the festival. The best approach would be to taste the beers presented within the style you are interested in from those brewers offering it, and then start again with the next style since some have very overpowering hop characters that can render your taste buds useless!
- Light style beers: Aroma light malty, medium hop. Appearance: light yellow to deep gold and very clear. Flavour : soft malty sweetness with some toast / biscuit / wheat and light hop Finish / Mouth feel: medium finish towards sweet Occasion: easily approachable, easy drinking beer. Example: Darling’s Slow Brew
- English style beers: Aroma malty with caramel quality, moderate fruitiness, moderate hop. Appearance: medium gold to copper; good clarity. Flavour: Medium bitterness with low fruitiness, moderate hop. Finish / Mouth feel: medium finish towards dry Occasion: refreshing session beer. Example: Flat Dog’s Brew Shed Red Irish Ale
- Hoppy style beers: Aroma moderate to strong hop aroma. Appearance: pale golden to deep amber; good clarity. Flavour: moderate to high hop, often citrusy. Clean malt flavour.. Finish / Mouth feel: medium finish towards dry Occasion: refreshing and hoppy with a distinct following. Example: Cockpit Brewhouse Mustang Pale Ale and the ever-popular Clarens Red
- Dark beers: Aroma rich and complex with roastiness and maltiness. Appearance: very dark reddish brown to jet-black. Flavour: rich, deep, complex and intense. Roasted malts with low hop bitterns Finish / Mouth feel: full bodied and chewy Occasion: Big and bold single occasion or meal end Example: Mtunzini Brewery Russian Imperial Stout
- Weiss beers: Aroma Fruity and spicy (banana / Clove). Low hop, light wheat. Appearance: Light to dark gold. Flavour : moderate banana and clove, soft grainy flavour Finish / Mouth feel: medium light Occasion:.Effervescent, quaffable Example: Chameleon Brewhouse Weiss
- Belgian Style beers : Aroma light earthy or spicy, sweet malt, subtle yet complex. Appearance: Pale straw to dark gold. Flavour : Smooth light malt sweetness, medium hop Finish / Mouth feel: medium high, medium body Occasion: .Subtle complexity single occasion or aperitif Example: De Garve Jolly Nun
Clarens News: Craft Beers – January 2013