The craft beer market is comprised of hundreds of documented beer varieties and a handful of organisations with their own unique classifications, but beers primarily fall into one of three types: bottom fermentation beers (lagers); top fermentation beers (ales); and spontaneous or wild fermentation beers.
Within each of these categories there are many sub-groups but the main styles available today are dark ales; pale ales; stouts; wheat beers; strong ales; lagers; sour beers; and non-alcoholic beers.
CATEGORIES: Barley Wine, Vintage Ale, Trappist Ales, Abbey Beer ABV: 7% to 12% SERVE TEMPERATURE: 12-16°C TASTING NOTES: Dried fruit, barley sugar, spice, chocolate
Strong Ales include British types such as Barley Wine and Vintage Ale, plus Belgian classics, Trappist and Abbey Ales.
The former display strong malt character, with dried fruit and sherry-like characteristics, the latter offer a huge range of flavours, making them among the most revered beers around.
The term Barley Wine refers to the drink’s strength rather than its contents. Flavour-wise, stronger beers such as Barley Wines and Old Ales (which tend to be slightly lighter in alcohol) are rich and sweet, and full of character. Barley Wines come in all shades and start at about 7% ABV and can go up to 13%.
Vintage Ales are similar, but they’re designed for ageing, like wine. The classic British version is Fuller’s Vintage Ale, first produced in 1997.
A big tradition of strong beers exists in Belgium, where Dubbels (dark brown in colour with herbal, burnt sugar and clove characteristics are between 6.5 and 8% ABV) and Tripels (gold to light amber and soft, dry, full of spice and fruit character are between 8 and 10% ABV) are classics of the Trappist tradition.
Trappist beers are made by monks at a small number of accredited breweries inside monasteries, while Abbey beers are those made in traditional Trappist styles, but not actually brewed within the walls of a monastery.