2024 Competition Beer Styles

Overall Impression: An easy-drinking pint, often with subtle flavors. Slightly malty in the balance sometimes with an initial soft toffee or caramel sweetness, a slightly grainy-biscuity palate, and a touch of roasted dryness in the finish. Some versions can emphasize the caramel and sweetness more, while others will favor the grainy palate and roasted dryness.

Aroma: Low to moderate malt aroma, either neutral-grainy or with a lightly caramel, toast, or toffee character. Very light buttery character optional. Low earthy or floral hop aroma optional. Quite clean.

Appearance: Medium amber to medium reddish-copper color. Clear. Low off-white to tan colored head, average persistence.

Flavor: Moderate to very little caramel malt flavor and sweetness, rarely with a light buttered toast or toffee-like quality. The palate often is fairly neutral and grainy, or can take on a lightly toasty or biscuity note as it finishes with a light taste of roasted grain, which lends a characteristic dryness to the finish. A light earthy or floral hop flavor is optional. Medium to medium-low bitterness. Medium-dry to dry finish. Clean and smooth. Low esters optional. The balance tends to be slightly towards the malt, although light use of roasted grains may increase the perception of bitterness slightly.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body, although examples containing low levels of diacetyl may have a slightly slick mouthfeel (not required). Moderate carbonation. Smooth.

Comments: The style is fairly broad to allow for examples beyond the traditional ones from Ireland. Irish examples tend to be lower alcohol, grainier, and drier in the finish, while non-Irish versions are often higher in alcohol, sweeter, perhaps more caramelly and estery, and are often seasonal offerings.

History: While Ireland has a long ale brewing heritage, the modern Irish Red Ale style is essentially an adaptation or interpretation of the popular English Bitter style with less hopping and a bit of roast to add color and dryness, although some suggest a longer history. Rediscovered as a craft beer style in Ireland, today it is an essential part of most brewery lineups, along with a pale ale and a stout.

Characteristic Ingredients: Generally has a bit of roasted barley or black malt to provide reddish color and dry roasted finish. Pale base malt. Caramel malts were historically imported and more expensive, so not all brewers would use them.

Style Comparison: A less-bitter and hoppy Irish equivalent to an English Bitter, with a dryish finish due to roasted barley. More attenuated with less caramel flavor and body than equivalent-strength Scottish Ales.

Vital Statistics:
OG:        1.036 – 1.046
FG:         1.010 – 1.014
IBUs:     18 – 28
SRM:     9 – 14
ABV:    3.8 – 5.0%

Commercial Examples: Franciscan Well Rebel Red, Kilkenny Irish Beer, Murphy’s Irish Red, O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale, Porterhouse Nitro Red Ale, Smithwick’s Irish Ale

Overall Impression: A lower-alcohol, malty beer with light caramel, toast, toffee, and fruity flavors.  A slight roast dryness offsets the residual sweetness in the finish, with the bitterness perceived only to keep the beer from being cloying.

Aroma: Medium-low to medium maltiness with caramel and toffee notes, and light toasty and sugary qualities that might be reminiscent of toasted breadcrumbs, ladyfingers, English biscuits, graham crackers, or butterscotch. Light pome fruitiness and light English hop aroma (earthy, floral, orange-citrus, spicy, etc.) allowable.

Appearance: Pale copper to brown. Clear. Low to moderate, creamy off-white.

Flavor: Medium toasty-bready malt with caramel and toffee overtones, finishing with a slightly roasty dryness. A wide range of caramelized sugar and toasted bread type of flavors are possible, using similar descriptors as the aroma. Clean maltiness and fermentation profile. Light esters and hop flavor allowable (similar descriptors as aroma). Sufficient bitterness to not be cloying, but with a malty balance and aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium-low to medium body. Low to moderate carbonation. Maybe be moderately creamy.

Comments: See category introduction for detailed comments. May not seem as bitter as specifications indicate due to higher finishing gravity and residual sweetness. Do not mis-perceive the light roasty dryness as smoke; smoke is not present in these beers.

History: See category introduction. The Shilling ale names were used for mild (unaged) beer before World War I, but the styles took modern form only after World War II.

Characteristic Ingredients: At its simplest, pale ale malt and colored malt, but can also use sugars, corn, wheat, crystal malts, colorants, and a variety of other grains. Clean yeast. Soft water.  No peat-smoked malt.

Style Comparison: See category introduction. Similar to other Scottish Ales in flavor profile, lighter in color and stronger than a Scottish Light. Similar in strength to Ordinary Bitter, but with a different flavor profile and balance.

Vital Statistics:
OG:        1.035 – 1.040
FG:         1.010 – 1.015 
IBUs:    10 – 20
SRM:     12 – 20 
ABV:      3.3 – 3.9%

Commercial Examples: McEwan’s 70/-, Orkney Raven Ale

Overall Impression: A luscious, sweet, malty, low-alcohol dark brown ale, with caramel and toffee malt complexity and a sweet-tasting finish.

Aroma: Moderate malty-sweet aroma, often with a rich, caramel, or toffee-like character. Low to medium fruity esters, often dark fruit like plums. Very low earthy or floral hop aroma optional.

Appearance: Medium to very dark brown color, but can be almost black. Nearly opaque, although should be relatively clear if visible. Low to moderate off-white to tan head.

Flavor: Deep, caramel or toffee sweet malty flavor on the palate, lasting into the finish, often with hints of biscuit and coffee. Some dark fruit esters can be present; relatively clean fermentation profile for an English ale. Low bitterness. Low earthy or floral hop flavor optional, but rare. Moderately-low roasty or bitter black malt flavor optional.

Moderately sweet finish with a smooth, malty aftertaste. May have a sugary-sweet flavor.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, but the residual sweetness may give a heavier impression. Medium-low to medium carbonation. Quite creamy and smooth in texture, particularly for its gravity.

Comments: Increasingly rare; Mann’s has over 90% market share in Britain, but in a vanishingly small segment.  Always bottled. Frequently used as a sweet mixer with cask mild and bitter in pubs. Commercial versions can be pasteurized and back-sweetened, which gives more of a sugary-sweet flavor.

History: Developed by Mann’s as a bottled product in 1902. Claimed at the time to be “the sweetest beer in London.” Pre-WWI versions were around 5% ABV, but same general balance. Declined in popularity in second half of 20th century, and now nearly extinct.

Characteristic Ingredients: English pale ale malt as a base with a large proportion of darker caramel malts and often some black and wheat malts (this is Mann’s traditional grist – others can rely on dark sugars for color and flavor). Moderate to high carbonate water. English hops. Post-fermentation sweetening with lactose or artificial sweeteners, or sucrose, if pasteurized.

Style Comparison: May seem somewhat like a less roasty version of a Sweet Stout (and lower-gravity, at least for US sweet stout examples) or a sweet version of a Dark Mild.

Vital Statistics:
OG:        1.033 – 1.038
FG:         1.012 – 1.015
IBUs:     15 – 20
SRM:     22 – 35
ABV:      2.8 – 3.6%

Commercial Examples: Harveys Bloomsbury Brown Ale, Mann’s Brown Ale

Overall Impression: A fairly strong, highly roasted, bitter, hoppy dark stout. The body and dark flavors typical of stouts with a more aggressive American hop character and bitterness.

Aroma: Moderate to strong roast aroma, often with a roasted coffee or dark chocolate quality. Burnt or charcoal aromas are acceptable at low levels. Medium to very low hop aroma, often with a citrusy or resiny character. Medium esters optional. Light alcohol optional. Should not seem sharp, acrid, or acidic.

Appearance: Generally a jet black color, although some may appear very dark brown. Large, persistent head of light tan to light brown in color. Usually opaque.

Flavor: Moderate to very high roasted flavors, often tasting of coffee, dark or bittersweet chocolate, or roasted coffee beans. May taste of slightly burnt coffee  grounds, but this character should not be prominent. Low to medium malt sweetness, often with rich chocolate or caramel flavors. Medium to high bitterness. Low to high hop flavor, generally citrusy or resiny. Medium to dry finish, occasionally with a lightly burnt quality. Low esters optional. Light but smooth alcohol flavor optional.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body. Can be somewhat creamy. Can have a bit of roast- derived astringency, but this character should not be excessive. Medium-high to high carbonation. Light to moderately strong alcohol warmth, but smooth and not excessively hot.

Comments: Breweries express individuality through varying the roasted malt profile, malt sweetness and flavor, and the amount of finishing hops used. Generally has bolder roasted malt flavors and hopping than other traditional stouts (except Imperial Stouts). Becoming increasingly hard to find.

History: A modern craft beer and homebrew style that applied a more aggressive American hopping regime to a strong traditional English or Irish Stout. The homebrew version was once known as West Coast Stout, a common naming scheme for a more highly-hopped beer.

Characteristic Ingredients: Common American base malts, yeast, and hops. Varied use of dark and roasted malts, as well as caramel-type malts. Adjuncts or additives may be present in low quantities to add complexity.

Style Comparison: Like a hoppy, bitter, strongly roasted Irish Extra Stout. Much more roast and body than a Black IPA. Bigger, stronger versions belong in the Imperial Stout style. Stronger and more assertive, particularly in the dark malt or grain additions and hop character, than American Porter.

Vital Statistics:
OG:        1.050 – 1.075
FG:         1.010 – 1.022
IBUs:     35 – 75
SRM:     30 – 40
ABV:      5.0 – 7.0%

Commercial Examples: Avery Out of Bounds Stout, Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout, Deschutes Obsidian Stout, Sierra Nevada Stout, Trillium Secret Stairs