Describing beer styles

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Polcho

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Although I’ve been drinking beer for many years, I don’t really know how to describe they styles.
so now I have the equipment to make my first AG brew, I find myself stuck in terms what to order.
Does anybody have a link or book suggestion that may help?

I want to make an English beer, not high alcohol, with that almost fruity taste.
 

MickDundee

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The 2 Homebrew books I use most might be useful.

First is “Home Brew Beer” by Greg Hughes and it covers a lot of styles, has a list of yeast types etc.

The other is CAMRA’s Brew Your Own Real Ale. It has lots of “clone” recipes for British beers, and goes into detail about the different beer types and their origins but barely mentions the yeast (which IMO is key to getting an English style ale right)
 

Northern_Brewer

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Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer is the unofficial handbook for the Cicerone course and probably comes closest to a "book for describing beer styles".

The BJCP 2015 guidelines are useful as long as your remember their purpose is to provide a structure for homebrew competitions and were largely written by USians, so they don't always reflect the reality of commercial beers (or invent whole categories just to accommodate individual commercial beers) and don't necessarily do a great job describing British beers and struggle with things like mild (although they're a lot better on British beers than the 2008 edition). The real world is much messier than BJCP would make you believe, but it's somewhere to start (and free!).

The EBCU are closer to reality for European styles in general, but are less specific as they're talking to the average punter in a pub rather than competitions.

I want to make an English beer, not high alcohol, with that almost fruity taste.
Personally I think the sweet spot is best bitter at 4-4.5%, below that is session bitter, above that is strong bitter.

The fruitiness is a mix of the hops (First Gold is a good place to start) and yeast (as above, it's really important, but many of the homebrew versions aren't as fruity as "real" commercial ones like what you can harvest from bottles of 1845 - Imperial A09 Pub is a good place to start though).
 

Covrich

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SOme great advice here

Also I would suggest think of beers you actually like and put them here, not suggesting you try and clone them but then you have some sort of basis of what coudl be suggested
 

An Ankoù

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Second, the bjcp guides.


This book is usually easy to find for under a fiver and pretty much has all the info.
I think I downloaded an e-version a couple of years ago. I'm not all that taken with BJCP. I've been browsing Gordon Strong's recipe book again this morning, and some of the things he says about English styles, or more importantly, what he says many judges look for in these styles, is very restrictive. On the other hand, I can't suggest anything better apart from classifying beers according to known brands: "beers like Hopback Summer Lightning" for example.
 

Sadfield

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I think I downloaded an e-version a couple of years ago. I'm not all that taken with BJCP. I've been browsing Gordon Strong's recipe book again this morning, and some of the things he says about English styles, or more importantly, what he says many judges look for in these styles, is very restrictive. On the other hand, I can't suggest anything better apart from classifying beers according to known brands: "beers like Hopback Summer Lightning" for example.
Agree. They aren't perfect, but are a reasonable start point for adding the vocabulary to the best research, drinking.
 
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phettebs

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While it's a bit dated and somewhat technical at times, Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels was my first book. It breaks down all the major beer styles and how to brew them. It gave me a really nice overview of the brewing process and beer styles. After that, I started buying books on specific styles to get more in depth detail on them. But for me, that was a great first book.
 

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darlacat

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Personally, I've come to dislike the BJCP style guidelines - it's a very American approach to strictly compartmentalise and order things like this,* and it doesn't really reflect the blurring of 'style' you see in much British and continental beer. If you think about how rigid that type of thinking is against Belgian brewing, which is really idosyncratic, Bavarian brewing, or British beer, particularly historical beer, then it doesn't really reflect the beer very well at all.

I think that styles in the BJCP vein are useful as a very rough benchmark as a starting point for a recipe, but aren't much use beyond that. However, a lot of younger drinkers and brewers seem to think in this rigid framework, so maybe I am just becoming a curmudgeon! :tinhat:

*I also find it very similar to the system of sub-genres for rock music - again a very American thing - which is a common framework for fans and critics, but doesn't really reflect how musicians think of the music, nor how it sounds.
 

darlacat

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I want to make an English beer, not high alcohol, with that almost fruity taste.
Keep it simple, I reckon. I'd recommend a grist of maris otter, 5-10% of crystal 100/130, maybe some torrified or flaked wheat for head retention. 1.045-50 OG. Bitter with Challenger or Target, aroma and flavour from Fuggles and/or Goldings.

Yeast is key: try Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire, or Wyeast 1318 London Ale III - but there are so many British strains to choose from that will offer fruity esters. Use the same base beer to experiment with different strains, then stick with your favourite.
 
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