Types of Beer and how (best) to drink them!
As we are sure you are all aware, the world of beer is full and varied. In style, flavour, look and colour. Here’s a brief run through of some of the most popular beer styles available in the UK market - and how they should be served!
Bitter: (Wold Top Bitter)
The original and most recognisable UK pint. A low strength (3.6% to 4% abv), easy drinking, lightly hopped beer. A sessionable beer in which the flavour from the hops and malt is highlighted, not the alcohol content. The name bitter arose in the early 19th century to differentiate between beers brewed with paler malts and those more common ‘milds’ which were made using darker malts. The ideal bitter should be served at ‘cellar temperature’ of between 10 to 12 degrees C, and in dispense, cask conditioned via a handpull is best as it adds a slight hint of carbonation when poured. Other variations on Bitter are beers known as ‘Best’, ‘Premium’ or ‘Extra Special’ bitter. These simply indicate that they are higher in alcohol strength than a traditional bitter. Wold Top Bitter was the first beer we brewed here in 2003 and it remains one of our best selling cask beers to this day!
The ‘pale ale’ category encompasses many different sub categories so I’ll address the most relevant ones to Wold Top here.
Pale Ale (Angler’s Reward). A beer brewed using predominantly pale malts, and hops with citrus notes. Usually between 4% to 5% abv. Dispensed cask conditioned via handpull gives a level of carbonation which enhances the citrus notes from the hops and the biscuit taste from the pale malts. A serving temperature of between 10 to 12 degrees C is also preferred. These beers also suit bottling/canning, although they should not be over carbonated and fizzy.
India Pale Ale (Scarborough Fair IPA). Brewed to a similar recipe as a regular pale ale, an India Pale Ale tends to be stronger in alcohol content (5.5% to 7%) and fuller flavoured. Originating as a beer which was intended to mature in a cellar over summer (October Beer), it was discovered that it matured just as well on the long ship voyages to India and became the drink of choice for the colonial empire. Due to its popularity, brewers in the UK began to develop IPAs which didn’t need the maturation time and so increased its popularity in the home market. English IPAs favour more balance between the flavours of hops and malts than an American IPA may have. They tend to favour the hop flavours above all which can make them more bitter and sharper to the taste.
IPAs suit most types of dispense and packaging, as they have flavours that can hold up to heavier carbonation and filtration. Scarborough Fair IPA is our number one top selling beer in bottle and keg here at Wold Top, but it tastes extremely nice from a handpull on cask as well! These types of beers can take a lower temperature as well - somewhere between 6 to 10 degrees C is ideal.
Golden/Blonde: (Wold Gold and Golden Summer)
One of the most approachable styles, a golden or blonde ale is an easy-drinking beer that is visually appealing and has no particularly dominating malt or hop characteristics. Rounded and smooth, it is a classic known for its simplicity. These beers are usually clear with a colour that ranges from straw to amber. The malt gives the beer grainy or bread flavours and a sweet character. They also have a fruity character from the yeast and a slight hop bitterness. With moderate carbonation and medium weight, Golden/ Blonde Ales have little to no after-taste and a smooth texture. They suit most dispense types, and there is much debate about the serving temperature. Cellar temperature in cask is ideal - but if it’s been a long hot day then some time in the fridge to chill it down won’t hurt! A chilled pint of Wold Gold alongside a summer BBQ is the ultimate thirst quencher!
Red Ales: (Headland Red)
Red ales originate from Europe and refer to beers that are dark red, or reddish in appearance. Brews can range from a light amber/red to a dark brown with red hues. They also have certain contrasting elements that attract many drinkers. While Red Ales are darker and usually rich, they also contain components of a much lighter beer with a dry, crisp and hoppy finish. These beers pair wonderfully with food due to their robust nature. We use our Headland Red to cook with, it’s absolutely fantastic in a stew! Serving wise, more flavour is released at a slightly warmer temperature - lower than room temperature but not as cold as a Blonde or IPA. In bottles it’s ideal when it’s had an hour or so in the fridge, and is then left to warm up for 30 minutes or so before pouring.
Porters/Stouts: (Marmalade Porter)
The name ‘porter’ comes from the popularity of this type of beer with the river and street porters of London during the 18th century. It’s a dark style beer, well hopped and brewed using brown (roasted) malts. The name "stout", used for a dark beer, is believed to have come about because strong porters were marketed under such names as "extra porter", "double porter", and "stout porter". The term stout porter would later be shortened to just stout. Before 1700, London brewers sent out their beer very young and any ageing was either performed by the publican or a dealer. Porter was the first beer to be aged at the brewery and dispatched in a condition fit to be drunk immediately. It was the first beer that could be made on any large scale, and the London porter brewers, such as Whitbread, Truman, Parsons and Thrale, achieved great success financially. After 1860, as the popularity of porter and the aged taste began to wane, porter was increasingly sold "mild". In the final decades of the century, many breweries discontinued their porter, but continued to brew one or two stouts. Those that persisted with porter, brewed it weaker and with fewer hops. The ‘porter’ style experienced a revival in the late 1970’s and has since gone from strength to strength. For sheer versatility, porters are hard to beat, offering sturdiness on the one hand and drinkability on the other. They can be the epitome of balance, or a dark, bitter beer for hop lovers. They are best served at the warmer end of the scale, around 12 degrees C, with low carbonation. Cask conditioned and handpull dispense gives a rich taste with a creamy head, whilst the flavour in a bottle or keg enhances the hoppiness through filtration.