Exploring the World of Not-So-Common Beer Styles
Most beer drinkers are familiar with the more widespread beer styles – IPAs, stouts, porters, red ales and the like are pretty common. However, walk into any decent bottle shop and you’re sure to find a few styles that aren’t quite so common. Taking a chance on these can be a gamble, particularly given the fact that some of them are quite expensive (smaller batches equal higher per-bottle prices). With that being said, many of them offer entirely new worlds of taste and flavor to explore, so let’s take a closer look at some of the not-so-common beer styles you might have not yet decided to enjoy.
Whether you spell it as a single word or two, this English style beer is one that you can’t afford to miss out on. It’s sweeter than the norm, although it shouldn’t be cloying. It traces its lineage back to ancient Greece and is technically a type of strong ale (up to 12% ABV).
Yes, it’s technically a bock, but it’s not your everyday bottle of German beer. Eisbock is actually considered a form of distillation by the US government so you won’t find any Big Beer versions. You’ll need to seek these out from discerning bottle shops and at craft beer festivals around the country. They’re super high in alcohol content as they’re made by freezing fermented beer to concentrate the alcohol.
Steam Beer/California Common
One of only two styles of beer to America’s credit, steam beer was once commonly found throughout California and most other western states. Today, Anchor owns the name, so other breweries creating this style market their products as “California common” beer.
Black IPAs, or American black ales, are essentially India pale ales that verge on stouts. Combining both malts and hops, they create a unique drinking experience that everyone should enjoy at least once.
Quads, or quadrupels, share a lineage with dubbels and tripels – they’re Belgian in origin. Quads are even stronger and maltier than their kin, but they share that unique taste and flavor profile. If you’re a fan of Belgian style beers, then these are well worth a shot.
Saisons have become much more popular today than they were even a couple of years ago. Saisons are Belgian in origin, although they’re dissimilar from dubbels and other conventional Belgian brews. They are spicy and fruity, and can be pretty strong (with an average of 7% ABV).
Rye beers contain both barley and rye and they tend to be a bit spicier than other styles but lack the bitterness associated with some types. Black ryes are becoming more common (and Founders brews a truly enjoyable version).
What do you get if you combine mead and ale? Braggot is the love child of this particular fusion and if you’ve never experienced one before, it can be a heady brew. With an ABV bordering on 10% and lots of herbs and spices, they’re well worth your time.
Gruit is a truly ancient brew harking back to the days before hops were used for bittering beer. This particular style uses a very broad range of herbs, spices and even flowers to flavor and preserve the brew. While not widespread today, you can find a few options from breweries like Williams Brothers (Scotland).
Oysters and stout have gone together for a very long time and combining them into a beverage is a tradition in the UK. While Americans might balk at the thought of beer flavored with shellfish, it’s well worth a try and tastes nothing like seafood. The oysters bring a unique smoothness and mineral flavor to the final brew.
Gose is something of an acquired taste. It hails from Leipzig, Germany where the naturally salty waters fostered its birth. The brew has a unique brine-like taste to it, but that’s alleviated by the use of coriander and other spices and herbs. It’s very complex, with both sour and spicy notes.
You’ll find both smoked porters and stouts. The practice is done best when the brewery actually smokes the malts before brewing (as opposed to using a smoke additive, which some breweries do). The result is a rich, heady, slightly smoky taste that’s like nothing you’ve tried before.
This one is not as uncommon as it once was and there are plenty of mainstream examples out there with Left Hand and Southern Tier being two of the best choices for those new to the style. Milk sugar (lactose) is used in the brewing process. It doesn’t ferment out, lending a little more sweetness to the stout as well as a wonderfully smooth mouth feel.
Wild ales are an American style that relies on wild yeast for fermentation. They’re time consuming to produce and you won’t find that many on the market. However, they’re well worth your time. The tart, sour flavor is a wonderful departure from the normal overly sweet American styles. New Belgium and Russian River both have a version out there.
These are only a few of the many beer styles available that you won’t find at your local supermarket. Many of them might not be carried even at larger bottle shops specializing in craft beer making the hunt one of the most enjoyable factors here. One thing is for sure, you’re not limited to the most widespread and pervasive styles – there’s something out there for virtually every drinker whether you like it sweet or sour, smoked or spiced, warm or cold.
What are some of your favorite not-so-common beer styles? Have you tried any of the styles listed here or have something to add that wasn’t included on the list?