Craft Beer 101: The Malty Ales

Brownish is a technical term. These beers are what many of us reach for after we discover wheat beers or lagers. I remember when I was getting into craft beer I thought that Fat Tire was the greatest thing ever invented, which is of course insane. It's the 6th best thing ever invented. Here are our 4 beer styles that best represent what I like to call "Middle of the road Ales"

Amber Ales

A malt heavy beer that is, in this country anyways, hopped by American hops. If you put Hops in it then it becomes a British Amber. Complicated I know. This style has a light sweetness and, typically, light hop flavor. They are darker in color and have more caramel flavor and a heavier body than most of the beers we have discussed so far.

  • Malt: Heavy Malt flavoring with a caramel notes
  • Hops: Light to Medium Hop flavor and aroma. Citrus notes aren't uncommon
  • ABV: 4.4-6.1%
  • Pair With: BBQ, Cheddar Cheese, Banana Bread

American Brown Ales

This beer goes back to American homebrewers who created a cross between British Brown Ales and Porters. This style sits between those styles and is more bitter than both.

  • Malt: Roasted malt, caramel-like and chocolate-like characters should be of medium intensity in both flavor and aroma
  • Hops: Hop aroma and flavor are low to medium. Hop bitterness is medium to high
  • ABV: 4.2-6.5%
  • Pair With: Grilled Meats and Veggies, Aged Gouda, Apple Fritters

Old Ales

A distictive quality of these ales is that their yeast undergoes an aging process (often for years) in bulk storage or through bottle conditioning, which contributes to a rich, wine-like and often sweet oxidation character. Old ales are copper-red to very dark in color. Complex estery character may emerge.

  • Malt: Malty, caramely sweetness
  • Hops: Hop aroma and flavor are not perceived to medium. Hop bitterness is minimal but evident.
  • ABV: 6.3-9.4%
  • Pair With: Lamb, Gloucester Cheese, Spiced Fruit Tart

Wee Heavy

The Scotch ale, or Wee Heavy, is overwhelmingly malty, with a rich and dominant sweet malt flavor and aroma. A caramel character is often part of the profile. Some examples feature a light smoked peat flavor. These are the beers that people who don't usually drift off the Amber Beer path drink and it either changes their life or ruins it. 

  • Malt: Dominated by a smooth, balanced sweet maltiness.
  • Hops: Little to no hops in flavor, aroma, or bitterness
  • ABV: 6-8.2%
  • Pair With: Wild Game, Strong Smelling Cheese, Custard with Fruit