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What if there were only 4 beer styles?

Although these days it sometimes it seems if there is only one beer style — IPA — more often it seems like there are way too many, starting with the Black, White, Imperial, Session, and Belgian variations on IPA.

But reading Matt Kramer’s “Advice to a Newbie” made me think how nice it would be to classify beers as succinctly as he does wines, dividing them into ust four types. And, no, I wouldn’t agree that ale and lager constitutes succinct. Also, I have no problem with the fact that although he writes this is advice for a newbie that context (thus some working knowledge) helps make sense of it.

His four are fruit wines, soil wines, climate wines, and creativity wines.

That’s it. Beer should be so simple.


In case you missed the noise on Twitter today, IPA Day Round 3 is Aug. 1. And perhaps you are thinking, “IPA: What’s the Big Deal?” That’s the topic for the Session #77 on Friday.

9 Responses to What if there were only 4 beer styles?

  1. Bill July 3, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    As someone who was once heavily into wine, I can state that wine folks would argue incessantly that certain wines would fall into two or more of those four types, or transcend those four, or argue that what he calls a climate wine should really be a fruit wine, or…

    But it’s nice to dream!

  2. Bailey July 3, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    We (Boak and I) ran a session on the building blocks of beer for a bunch of beginners at a talk last year and, to keep it simple, focused on:

    1. a beer which was predominantly defined by its malt flavour
    2. a very obviously hoppy, aromatic beer (a big IPA) and
    3. a beer which derived most of its character from yeast (German wheat beer).

    I now wish we’d finished with something ‘balanced’ to demonstrate how the three play together in most beers.

    So… would that work?

    (I know the answer is no…)

    • Stan Hieronymus July 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      I like that.

      Simple is the point. Probably why the idea has no chance.

      [Not to complicate things, but I would emphasize fermentation character in No. 3. The role that yeast can play in creating hop odor compounds (through biotransformation) is becoming more apparent through ongoing research.]

    • py0 July 4, 2013 at 3:17 am #

      What about a big, boozy beer that gets most of its flavour from its alcohol content? They do exist.

      Also a beer that gets its flavour from the roasting or smoking of a portion of its malt.

      Four is a bit unrealistic, but you could probably cover most beers with a matrix covering 10-12 styles.

      English Hops, NW hops, Noble Hops.
      Pale Malt, Crystal Malt, Dark/Roasted/Smoked malt. Wheat, Rye
      Lager Yeast, Ale Yeast, Brett, Weizen Yeast, Wit Yeast
      Alcohol Content/Degree of Attenuation
      Additions like Fruit
      Barrel Aging
      etc etc etc

      • Bailey July 4, 2013 at 7:41 am #

        Booziness might be in the foundation class ‘Alcoholic Drinks 101’, as it’s not a unique characteristic of beer.

  3. Chris July 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Black, red, orange and yellow?

  4. Kevin Bagshaw July 4, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    For me part of the joy of beer is the complexity, and that’s why it’s difficult (impossible?) to reduce the number of styles by much. I like Boaks suggestion, but then you have to take into consideration fruit beers and would you lump smoked malts with malty beers, even though the taste profile is completely different, but the flavour is derived from the malt.

  5. Ron Pattinson July 4, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    There are only four beer styles. At least only four British beer styles: Mild Ale, Pale Ale, Old/Stock Ale, Porter.

    The vast majority of current “styles” are an artificial nonsense created by anal-retentive home brewers.


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