Category:British beer styles

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Different types of beer are produced using variations in brewing techniques. The term “beer” is a general description applied to four main beer types – ales, stouts, porters and lagers. Each brand has its own unique characteristics and can vary between different regions of the country. Until quite recently the majority of beer in Britain was ale and stout but since the 1970s lagers have proved more popular and now over half the beer drunk here is lager.

People not from the UK are often confused by the terms Ale and Bitter. Bitter is a wide all encompassing term for beer that is not Lager, Cider, Stout or Mild. Ale is a term that can include all but Cider and Lager and includes bitters, brown ales, porters. If you ask for an Ale you'll get pot luck or a strange look. If you ask for a bitter you generally get the house best bitter. You may be better asking for a real Ale. Which can cover anything from a Hand pump apart from Cider.

Differences in Style

Brown Ale

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Spawned from the Mild Ale, Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate, with a fuller body. Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness.


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Generally, although, not always, a dark beer. It was developed about 150 years ago as a cheaper and weaker alternative to the dark ales and porters of the day. In the middle years of this century, mild was the most popular draught beer style in Britain.


{{ #if: | Main article: [[Bitter|]] | Main article: Bitter }}

A uniquely British style, and remains the most popular draught beer in England. Within the category of bitter ale there are seemingly endless permutations of flavour, aroma and appearance. Some are golden, some are copper coloured, some exude the delicate scent of hops, some are malty, some are dry and some are sweet.

There are regional differences too. In Yorkshire for example, drinkers expect a tight, creamy head on top of each pint, and they like to see the froth trace patterns known as Brussels lace on the inside of the glass as the ale slips down. In the South East, where bitter tends to be more hoppy, the favoured pint is served without a head.

In Scotland, where Light, known as 60 shilling ale, is in the same class as English mild, the term heavy is regarded as something akin to bitter, but the comparison is not exact. The most popular Scottish draught ales are known as 80 shilling, or export, and 70 shilling, or special. Both may be described as heavy.

Burton-On-Trent in the English Midlands became world-famous for another ale style, for which its water supply was particularly suitable - clear, sparkling beer known as pale ale.

Gradually during the nineteenth century the Burton variety came to be favoured over porter and other dark brews.

India Pale Ale

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Originally so called because it was exported to India, where British troops thirsted for each delivery. The story goes that a batch was salvaged from a sinking ship and returned to England, where drinkers immediately demanded such delicious stuff should be sold at home as well as overseas.

Bitter was developed from the standard draught pale ale, while a stronger version came to be a widely popular bottled beer. Export is still a name applied to stronger pale ales, even though many are mainly brewed for UK consumers.

Some older, beer styles survive in bottled form. Old Ale, also known as stock ale because its strength allows it to be kept in stock for a relatively long time, is dark and malty. Draught versions of this are called winter warmers.

Scottish Strong Ale

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Also known as wee heavy, is in the same strength category as barley wine, putting these at the top of the league in terms of alcohol content.


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Is black, full-bodied and rich, and was originally known as stout-porter. The Irish stout style is dry, acquiring a refreshing bitterness from roasted barley. Stouts which originated in the UK are sweet.

At one time there were many varieties of stout available. Some such oatmeal stout, still exists today. Imperial stout, originally exported 200 years ago to the Russian imperial court, is now rare, but is still available in bottles.


{{ #if: | Main article: [[Lager|]] | Main article: Lager }}

Lager is typically light, clear, sparkling and served cold. Until 1960 lager accounted for less than one per cent of the British beer market, although it had long been popular in Scotland where it has been brewed for over a century. Originally available in bottles, and from about the middle of this century in cans, it was not generally provided on draught until 1963. Since then its growth has been phenomenal and it now accounts for almost half the beer market in Britain.