Here’s a concise guide explaining the different beer styles that you are likely to come across at Beerfest Asia 2018.
It may come as a surprise that this year Beerfest Asia will celebrating its tenth anniversary this year when it kicks off from 30 August to 2 September 2018. Over the years Beerfest Asia has played witness to the changing trends of Singapore’s beer drinking scene, and in many ways also helped shape it. Indeed year after year the annual beer carnival has helped introduce new beer brands and different beer styles, complete in the most convivial music and party atmosphere bar none.
It will be even more of the same this year – Beerfest Asia 2018 X Edition will see over four hundred different beers featured over four days, which makes it a lot of boozy fun but can be intimidating to all but the most hardcore of beer drinkers. It can also be challenging to those who’s not too familiar with the world of beer.
To that end we’ve put together this beer guide explaining the different beer styles that you might encounter at Beerfest Asia 2018, and where you can try them.
(Within parentheses are the booth numbers where the beer mentioned can be found at Beerfest Asia 2018)
The most ubiquitous beer style, the lager is what most people refer to when they say they want a beer. Lagers – named for the bottom-fermenting yeast strains they use and for the time they need to spend maturing in cold conditions – are always served very cold, and are generally light, crisp, and easy to drink.
There’s the Euro Pale Lager, the style which most premium mass-market beers made all around the world are. At Beerfest Asia you’ll see the likes of the Dutch Grolsch Premium Lager (H12-18) and the Polish Polanin Lager (W04), both which are great examples of the Euro pale lager. You’ll be surprised, but Thailand’s Singha (W01, O08) also falls in this category.
But even within this category there’s wide variety. Consider the German or Munich Helles Lager, a clean, malty version with a restrained bitterness – the Benediktiner Hell (Booth W01, O08) and Hofbräu Original (W19-21) are examples of this style. Or how about the Vienna Lager, its amber hued cousin – try the Blue Moon Vienna Amber Lager (H12-18) – or the Dark Lager, which looks like a stout from the use of roasted malts but really isn’t; the Paulaner Bräuhaus Dark Lager (H03) or Kozel Dark (H12-18) are good examples.
A more modern lager would be the locally made That Singapore Beer Project: Drinks Like Teen Spirit (O01) with its citrusy and floral aroma. And if you are looking for something fun, the Rauchbier is a malty German lager that has subtle smoky characteristics – the Schlenkerla Lager (W19-21) comes to mind.
Pilsners are technically lagers – they also use bottom fermenting yeast strains and undergo the same cold conditioning process – that has grown into a specific style all on their own. This highly-hopped lager style originated from Plzen in the Czech Republic and is most commonly associated with Pilsner Urquell (H12-18) in its most conventional form i.e. the use of Czech malt and Saaz noble hops, for example.
But modern brewers across the world has also taken to this traditional Czech beer style – the Pirate Life Pilsner (H23, E11) from Australia, Garage Project Beer (H23, E11) from New Zealand, Tazawako Pilsner (H11) from Japan, and the Pew Pew Pils from Singapore’s own The General Brewing Co. (O01) are inspired examples.
Another highly popular beer style is Wheat Beer, which is an ale made with a proportion of unmalted wheat that gives it some haziness and a creamier texture. The Bavarian Weissebier or Weizen – one of the beers served during Oktoberfest – belong to this style; these beers – like the Benediktiner Weissbier (W01, O08) or the cloudy Schneider Weisse Tap 7 Mein Original (W06-07) – have the banana and clove notes signature of the style that’s imparted by the yeast.
There’s also its Belgian cousin; the Belgian Witbier. Like its German counterpart it’s made with a proportion of unmalted wheat malt, but it also adds citrus peel and coriander seeds to give the beer a tangier, spicier feel. The Blue Moon Belgian White (H12-18) is perhaps one of the most popular beers of this style in recent time.
The Golden Ale is a rather varied class of ales – ales are beers made with top-fermenting ale yeasts – that are generally light in colour to being golden hued, but can be rather hop-forward despite being made for drinkability like a lager. Sometimes they are known as summer ales or blonde ales, made as they are to combat the heat of the season.
For this style, you can’t go too wrong with the RedDot Summer Ale (H01-02), Devil’s Peak First Light (H20) from South Africa, Heart of Darkness Sacred Fire Golden Ale (E23), or the Kona Big Wave Golden Ale (W04, E20), all of which are refreshingly crisp but possessive of a light to moderate bitterness.
This is an incredibly wide-ranging category with many different versions made across the world, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll just highlight the more common ones. Despite its name, the pale ale isn’t necessary very pale; its colour can range from pale gold to a light brown colour (in its historical context it was called a pale ale because it was lighter in shade compared to the dark, almost black, porter).
Flavours can also vary widely. British-style pale ales tend to be made for drinkability and tend to be lower in alcohol, for example. There’s an interesting subset of English pale ales here too – the British Bitter, and the slightly stronger Extra Special Bitter (generally a misnomer, they aren’t really bitter at all!) are what you find in traditional British pubs; Singapore brewery Archipelago has made its own version with the Archipelago Extra Special Bitter (E01-02), as has Brewlander with The Fringe Project 004 – Beware The Seagulls (E06-07).
Likewise with Australian pale ales; for example the Little Creatures Pale Ale (H06, E24) and the Coopers Pale Ale (H07) are sessionable beers – i.e. you can drink a lot of it in one single session – with their crisp and bright flavours.
American-style pale ales are a different ball game; these tend to be a lot more hop-forward than their continental counterparts, resulting in brews that can be as bitter as they are refreshing. The Lervig Lucky Jack (W19-21) or the Archipelago American Pale Ale (E01-02) fall into this category.
Then there are new world, cross-continent pale ale variants that combine the best hops from around the world, like the award-winning Rocky Ridge Ace Pale Ale (H09) or Gweilo Crescendo DDH Pale Ale (E22).
Red Ale and Amber Ale.
These ales, as you can imagine, named for their reddish hues. Both the Red Ale – also known as the Irish Red Ale – and the more modern American-style Amber Ale have malty, caramel flavours, but the latter tend to also possess of a moderate to strong hoppy bitterness to help balance out that sweetness.
The Darling Brew Gypsy Mask (H20) from South Africa would be an example of a red ale, while the Meantime Yakima Red (H12-18) – more aggressively hopped with five different varieties from Washington’s Yakima Valley – is more typical of an American Amber.
Also named for its colour – from the use of more darker, roasted malts – the Brown Ale tends to be sweeter like the red ale but frequently have chocolate, caramel and even coffee-like flavours. Hop bitterness here can vary from mild, all the way to bitingly strong.
A good example of this style would be the Beerfarm Brown Ale (E13-15).
India Pale Ale (IPA).
If you’ve ever tried a pale-looking but very hoppy beer, chances are you’ve drunk an India Pale Ale (not Indian Pale Ale, mind you). The India Pale Ale came about because, as legend and truth has it, the pale ales made in Britain meant to be shipped to the far-flung reaches of the British Empire – including India – needed strong hopping levels with hops being a form of preservative.
These days modern brewers across the world have gone to town with this style, using a variety of hops at insane levels for hair-raising bitterness. The American West Coast popularised this extremely bitter version; the Gweilo Blazon IPA (E22), Beerfarm India Pale Ale (E13-15), Pirate Life Mosaic IPA (H23, E11), Moon Dog Suncat (E15), and Stone Virtuale IPA (H09) all embody such bitterness.
In recent time, American breweries on the East Coast has evolved a style of their own to rival their West Coast counterparts; the New England IPA, or the NEIPA (“knee-pah”) as it’s more affectionately called – is an unfiltered IPA that’s as juicy and bitter as it is hazy. Its popularity has exploded across the United States, and indeed the rest of the world, for its juicily fruity and floral flavours backed by a smooth, almost creamy, mouthfeel. For this style try the Rocky Ridge Peach Invasion (H09), Brewerkz New England IPA (E16-17, W12-13), Brewlander The Fringe Project – 008 (E06-07), Pasteur Street NEIPA (E08, O02), Garage Project Omg That’s The Funky Shit! (H23, E11), and Daryl’s Urban Ales Nothing Fishy (O01).
For those who enjoy high-octane and strongly bitter beers, the Double IPA, also known as the Imperial IPA, have the bitterness levels of the regular IPA but comes at far higher alcohol levels as well. If you like this style, you might enjoy the Rogue 10 Hop IPA (H09), Brewlander Courage (E06-07), Pasteur Street Double IPA (E08, O2) or the BrewDog Native Son (E17-18).
On the other hand if you like your beers bitter but not quite so alcoholic – you’d really prefer to drink a few beers in a single sitting without getting wasted – the session IPA is for you. This style evolved out of the IPA, but features a far lower alcohol level (around 4-5% ABV instead of the usual 6.5-7%). Here you may like the Fourpure Session IPA (E24), the Gweilo IPA (E22), Kona Hanalei Session IPA (W04, E20), or the Pirate Life Throwback IPA (H23, E11).
Regularly mistaken as stouts due to their inky black colour – the only real difference between a porter and a stout is the different malts they use, and not in the flavour – traditionally porters from Britain have a roasty, cereal malt note with toffee-like, chocolate, coffee and or caramel notes. The Bridge Road Robust Porter (E15) will fall into this category.
Modern American porters also tend to be bigger, stronger, hoppier, and more roast-forward; the BrewDog VS Bevog – Baltic Fleet (E24) and the Heart of Darkness Director’s Cacao Nib Porter (E23) are examples of this.
The dark beer most of us have come to totally love or hate with a passion – the latter mostly because our parents let us try the crazily bitter Foreign Extra style – the stout gets its flavour and colour from using mostly heavily roasted malts.
And if you love your stouts it’s mainly because of the Dry Irish Stout variant (think Guinness Draught with its silky creaminess and roasty flavour); while Guinness won’t be at Beerfest Asia this year, you can still try this style with the O’Hara’s Irish Stout (H12-18), the BrewDog Jet Black Heart (E24), or the Heart of Darkness Excited Magpie Irish Stout (E23).
There’s also an imperial version for stouts; these big, bold, and strongly alcoholic beers are highly beloved by the craft beer geek community. Examples are the North Coast Old Rasputin (E15), BrewDog VS Amundsen – Mallow Mafia (E17-18) and Pasteur Street Cyclo Stout (E08, O02).
Belgian Strong Ales.
Another wide class of beer styles, these Belgian ales are known for their robust strength as well as fruity, yeast-driven flavours. Even the innocuous and pale-looking Belgian Blonde Ale punches above its weight with an ABV of between 6 to 7.5% ABV, likewise the dark Belgian Dubbel. The Brewerkz Dubbel (E16-17, W12-13) is an example of the latter with its malty, dried fruit notes.
It gets bigger – the spicy and fruity pale Belgian Tripel clocks in around 7.5 to 9.5% ABV, while the behemoth of the family, the rich and sweet Belgian Quadruppel, will easily knock you out with its ABV of 8 to 13%. If you want to try a quadruppel, we recommend the St Bernardus Abt 12 (E15) – at 10% ABV it’s likely the last beer you have for the night.
Another Belgian beer style, the saison – also known as farmhouse ales – originally came about as a form of refreshment and sustenance for those hard at work in the fields. Generally pale, refreshingly effervescent yet moderately strong and ends very dry – think of it as the beer version of Champagne – the saison has in recent time come back in vogue. Modern brewers have begun to adopt this traditional beer style and adding interesting twists of their own.
Traditional examples of saison at Beerfest include the Brewlander Pride (E06-07), Fourpure x Brasserie De La Senne (E17-18) and Darling Brew Long Claw (H20), while the Daryl’s Urban Ales: Citrus Family (O01) and Rocky Ridge Red Saison (H09) are more modern variants.
Not technically a specific style of beer; while many other beer styles do use fruit in some form or another – rinds, juice, pulp etc – in the brewing process, these fruit beers are made specifically with fruit on top of a base beer for a fruit-driven flavour.
Examples of this would be the Brewerkz Raspberry Ale and Brewerkz Apricot Ale (E16-17, W12-13), North Taiwan Lychee Beer and North Taiwan Smoked Plum Ale (E08, O02), and the Sweetwater Blue (E15) made with blueberries.
Other Specialty Beers.
Thanks to the growing interest in craft beer across the world, there’s been a corresponding resurgence of beer styles that aren’t too commonly or easily found… until now. Some of these beer styles – like the Gose or the Berliner Weisse – have previously died out but only recently resuscitated by modern brewers, while others are specific to a locale but now popularised.
The Kolsch is a great example of the latter. This clean, crisp and delicately flavoured beer hails from Cologne in Germany – and remains highly popular there – but a number of modern breweries have begun to make their own versions. The Pasteur Street Roundabout Ale (E08, O02) and Tazawako Kolsch (H11) at Beerfest Asia are good examples.
Then there’s the Sour Ale. Most beer drinkers would consider sour beer to be a bad thing, but there are actually a number of sour beer styles that’s becoming increasingly popular around the world. There’s the Beerfarm Shirazzaweiss (E13-15), Young Master Lemon Tea Pale Ale (H09) and Fourpure British Strawberries & Cream (E24) at the event if you want to try some brews that are as mouth-puckering tangy as they are refreshing.
The afore-mentioned Gose is a highly-carbonated, tart and fruity beer with low bitterness and a hint of brininess from the addition of some salt. Fruit works very well in a Gose, so at Beerfest Asia you will see the likes of the Pasteur Street Dragonfruit Gose (E08, O02), the cheekily-named The General Brewing Co – Trump & Kim Gose Sentosa (O01), and the Beerfarm Asam Boi Gose (H09, E13-15).
Finally there’s the Berliner Weisse, a pale, refreshing and low-alcohol wheat-based beer that has a clean lactic sourness and some fruitiness. Traditionally, the Berliner Weisse is often served with a shot of fruit syrup; modern brewers these days infuse fruit into it, like the North Coast Tart Cherry (E15).
Of course this is in no way the most comprehensive or definitive guide on every beer style you can find across the world, but should work as the perfect cheat sheet to help you navigate the hundreds of beers you’ll find at the coming Beerfest Asia.
[Photo credits: Daniel Goh & Joel Lim]