Archive for Beer Judge Certification Program

Beer Counselor #2

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , on April 15, 2015 by cueball

I get a lot of questions about beer styles.  We have a lot of people who are just getting into craft beer or have gotten into craft beer but think IPA is the only craft beer and it is certainly the only one they have ever drank. So, this week, I will describe the major beer styles.

Beer is primarily broken up into two major categories:  ales and lagers.  Now, lager beers are bottom fermented (for the most part).  They ferment at cooler temperatures and for longer periods.  That makes them clearer, crisper, and cleaner in appearance and taste.

Ales are top fermented and the first style of beer discovered.  They ferment at a higher temperature, close to room temperature and have a shorter fermentation time.  They tend to have a fruitier aroma and more complex taste and the yeast can sometimes hang around giving a cloudier appearance.

Now under each of those groups there are numerous styles.  This will not be a complete list.  There are far too many styles and substyles for a beginning craft beer drinker to absorb.  Depending on who you go to for information there are somewhere over 70-90 different styles.  For a complete list here is the Beer Judge Certification Program and the list from the Brewer’s Association.


  • Lagers – Malty and darker than pilsners.
  • Pilsners – Crisp, light, and a brighter hoppiness then lagers.
  • Bocks – Similar to pilsners, but maltier.


  • Pale ale – The style that started the craft beer revolution in the United States. Light appearance with a touch of hop bitterness and flavor.
  • IPA – A pale ale with more hops and more alcohol. Originally created to withstand the trip from England to India in 18th and 19th centuries. Adapted by American brewers to be as hoppy as humanly possible
  • This is the biggest question I get: What is the difference between a pale ale and an IPA.  I often get told by customers I like pale ales when what they mean is I like IPAs.  They are different categories and have different attributes.   First level beer nerdery:  knowing the difference between an American IPA and an American Pale Ale.
  • Brown ale – Maltier and darker than pales. More toasty and chocolate in taste then pales but still has a good hop presence.
  • Porters/Stouts – Really dark in color and little to any hop taste. Can be sweet are really dry in taste.

Then there are smoked beers, sour beers, Belgian style beers and other random hybrids.  Smoked beers use malt that has been smoked with some type of wood.  Sours are usually made sour by some type of wild yeast or bacteria introduced during the fermentation process.  Belgian style beers are a variety of fun sours and fruit based beers that deserve their own blog post.  Hybrids are beers that combine the yeasts and fermenting processes of lagers and ales.

If you are a craft beer newbie this should be a good start in craft beer.  If you want to go even more in depth I would recommend the Beer Judge Certification Program website and the website to get started.  Those are good resources for anyone at any level of craft beer nerdom.


Beer Styles and Beer Plans

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2013 by cueball

Taking a little time from writing about writing (I’m always thinking about it), let’s talk about beer styles.  Now remember, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) held competitions in 84 separate categories in 2013 and the Beer Judge Certification Program lists 80 different beer styles not counting mead or cider.  There are a lot of styles to choose from.

I plan on writing more about beer this coming year and I have been trying to think of what beer style I like the most.  Certainly, the style I’ve drank the most is the pale ale mostly of the American variety.  Every brewer, particularly every American craft brewer has a pale ale.  The India Pale Ale (IPA) variety has become the workhorse and flag bearer of the American craft beer movement.  This year alone the IPA category had 252 entrants in the GABF competition.

Yes, I like pale ales and IPAs in particular, but I don’t know if it’s my favorite.

Now, my favorite individual beer for a few years has been (was?) Sweet Josie Brown Ale from Lonerider Brewing Company in Raleigh.  I have also drunk a vat of Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale from Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville, NC.  Those are both great beers and you I would have made the argument a couple of years ago that brown ales were my favorite style.  I’m not so sure.

Over the past two years I could have made the case for rye ales, porters, stouts, tripel, dubbel, abbey ales, Saison, beire de garde, and Scotch ale.  Currently, I’m in a big barley wine phase.

This is why I love beer.  The possibilities.  Some of those beer styles are similar and some of them have tastes that have very little in common.

So, here’s the thing.  I don’t want to have a favorite style.  Here is what I can do.  I can pick a style a month, and drink primarily beers from that style.  Try to explore the different ranges of expression in each brewer’s interpretation and find one that I really like.

Looking in my refrigerator right now, I have a 22 oz. quadrupel, a 22 oz. imperial stout, a marzen, an ESB (extra special bitter), a porter, a brown ale, and two IPAs.  All but the quad were brewed in North Carolina.  So, today I think I will go to my locally owned and operated beer establishment (Dragonfly Wine Market) and buy a six-pack of one style.  I’ll decide once I get there what style I’ll choose.

I’ve never been one to sit down at the end of the year and review my life and then set a plan for the following year.  Until now.  This beer writing is part of a larger plan of writing that will hopefully take me to the next phase of my life.  Be that in Cleveland County or elsewhere.  There are things I want to do and “there is a long way to go and short time to get there.”