We’ve covered most of the Ale styles in the last installment, there are but a few basic styles left. They are often overlooked and sometimes misidentified as Lagers.
Barley Wine These are the strongest (8 to 12% in alcohol) of the Ales and more closely represent the ancient style of making beer. When the wort was created by adding the water and yeast “soup” it was allowed to ferment for a time and then the liquid was drained off the bottom yielding a deep rich strong brew. Additional water was then added and a second weaker batch of beer was made. This second beer was typically thought to be kept for the women, children and servants. Barley Wine is a relatively new term. These brews were originally called “Strong”, “Old”, or “Stock” Ale. These are all rich and sweet and are tamed for the palate with the addition of hops to provide a bite to balance the sweet, malty character. Because they are high in alcohol and hops these beers tend to age well for years.
Wheat Beer This, as the name implies, is a beer made with wheat added to the mash. Barley is still used because wheat lacks enough enzymes to convert the starch to sugar. The true German Wheat Beers (Wiezen) are unfiltered and can be one of two styles, “Hefe” (light) and “Dunkel” (dark) Although classified as an Ale they are technically Lagers. True Wheat Ales should be possible but I don’t think anyone is making one.
Alt Beer Alt means old in German. This is the old way of making lagers before bottom fermenting yeasts were discovered. Cold fermented, malty with a good hops bite.
Kolsch Top fermented, light in color, delicate, slightly fruity, with a softer hops finish. Originally from Cologne, Germany and if you are in Cologne and want a beer, it is assumed you want a Kolsch. There are some variations of flavor but this style is usually balanced and light.
In closing the Czechs probably said it best “A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it is best to be thoroughly sure”