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Over the past years more and more foreign beers have made an appearance on off-license shelves. A lot of the time the labels are not in English and it is only through trial and error that a beer suitable to the palate can be found. I set out the following list in the N. Ireland CAMRA branch Newsletter, when I was Editor, back in 1992. It came from a book entitled "The Beer Guide", from a company called The Beer Cellar, who gave me permission to reproduce it at the time. Naturally, things progress and change over the years but the basics still apply. I hope it helps you in your choice.



Not necessarily made in an abbey, or by monks, but imitating the Trappist style. Sometimes licensed by an abbey (see TRAPPIST).


The English language term for a beer made with a top fermenting yeast, which should impart to it a distinctive fruitiness. Ales are produced to a wide variety of colours, palates and strengths (see also BITTER, BROWN ALE, INDIA PALE ALE, LIGHT ALE, MILD, OLD ALE, SCOTCH ALE, etc.). Only in some American states is the term determined by law (wrongly) to indicate a brew of more than 4% weight (5% by volume).


German for "old". See ALTBIER.


A German term for a top fermenting brew. The classic examples, copper in colour, mashed only from barley malt, fermented from a single cell yeast and cold conditioned, with an alcohol content of 4.5%-4.7% by volume, are made in Dusseldorf.


An English term for an extra ale (implied to be as potent as wine). Usually more than 6.0% by volume and classically closer to 11.0%. Most often bottled. Both pale and dark versions can be found.


A German word for Bavaria.


Confusingly, the Americans use the term "beer" to mean only lager. The British employ it to mean "ale". Neither is correct. Both lager and ale - as well as porter, stout and all the German and Belgium specialities - are embraced by the general term "beer". It is all beer, so long as it is made from a fermented drink made from grain and seasoned with hops.


Berlin's classic "white" (cloudy), sedimented, top fermenting wheat beer, with the quenching sourness of a lactic fermentation, the sparkle of a high carbonation and a low alcohol content of around 3.0% by volume.


French term originally applied to copper coloured top fermenting brews, bottle conditioned for laying down. Today's examples have an alcohol content in the range 4.4%-7.5% by volume, and may be bottom fermented and filtered.


English term for a well hopped ale, most often on draught. Although examples vary widely, the name implies a depth of hop bitterness. there is usually some acidity in the finish and colour varies from bronze to deep copper. Basic bitters usually have an alcohol content of around 3.7%-4.4% by volume. "Best" or "special" bitters at 4.4%-4.75%. The odd "extra special" bitters come in at about 5.5%.


The German term for a beer. If unqualified, it indicates a bottom fermenting brew from barley malt. In Germany a bock beer usually has more than 6.25% alcohol by volume and may be golden, tawny or dark brown. Outside Germany strengths vary and a bock is usually dark. Bock beers are served in autumn, late winter or spring, depending upon the country (se also MAIBOCK, DOPPLEBOCK, WEIZENBIER).


In the south of England, a dark brown ale, sweet in palate, low in alcohol (3.0%-3.5% by volume). In the north east, a reddish brown ale, drier and of 4.0%-4.5%. the slightly sour, brown brews of Flanders are also ales, though they generally do not use the designation.


An American designation, implying a very pale (usually golden), mild, light bodied ale that may actually have been blended with a lager. Around 4.75 by volume.


There are many, quite unrelated styles of dark brew. If this vague term is used without qualification it usually means a dark lager of the MUNICH type.


This has nothing to do with slimming, but was originally intended for diabetics. A German style so popular in Britain that many drinkers think there is no other kind of "Pils". Carbohydrates are diminished by a very thorough fermentation, creating a relatively high content of alcohol (about 6.0% by volume) and therefore lots of calories. In German law, the alcohol now has to be reduced back to a normal Pilsner level (5.0% by volume).


"Double" bock. German extra bottom fermenting beer, tawny or dark brown. Around 7.5% by volume orer. Southern speciality, seasonal to March and April. Names usually end in -ator.


Abbreviation used in Belgium and the Netherlands to indicate a beer in the Dortmunder Export style.


This indicates merely a beer brewed in Dortmund, but the city's classic style is Export (see EXPORT).


Originally a milder adaptation of the German Diat Pils, renamed "dry beer" by the Japanese. After its great marketing success in Japan, the term was taken up in North America. There the still was made milder still. American dry beer has a conventional alcohol content but is notable for having scarcely any taste, and no finish.


German word for "dark".


Extra (Dopple) bock beer in which potency has been heightened by a process of freezing. because water freezes before alcohol, the removal of ice (eis) concentrates the beer.


In Germany, a pale Dortmund style bottom fermenting beer that is bigger in body than a Pilsner, and less dry, but not as sweet as a Munich pale beer. It iser than either, at 5.25%-5.5% by volume. Elsewhere, Export usually indicates a premium beer.


Once Brussels' local style, a version of a lambic sweetened by candy sugar. 4.5%-5.5% by volume.


In Germany, any beer made for a festival. Styles vary, but such beers are usually above strength, often around 5.5%-6.0% by volume.


Raspberry beer, usually based on lambic. Alcohol content varies.


A blend of old and young lambic beers. Around 4.4%-5.5% by volume.


French for top fermentation.


German for "yeast", indicating that a beer is bottle conditioned and sedimented.


German for "pale", indicating an everyday beer that is golden in colour. Ordered as a Helles (hell-es).




A reminder of the days when the British Empire was supplied with ales (high in gravity and well hopped, to stand the voyage) by the British. Today the term implies a super premium pale ale.


A German term indicating an unfiltered lager, in which there is usually high hop content and a low carbonation. Strengths vary according to the original style.


"Cloister Beer". A German term for a beer that is. or formerly was, produced in a monastery or convent.


Cologne's distinctive style of golden, top fermenting brew. 4.3%-5.0% by volume.


In German custom, a traditional technique of carbonation is to add a small dosage of unfermented malt sugars (in England, wort) to the conditioning tank. In normally krausened beer, the wort ferments out and the beer is conventionally filtered. An unfiltered beer based on this technique is known as Krausenbier.


Cherry beer usually based on a lambic. 5.0%-6.0% by volume.


Flemish term for spiced beer.


Any beers made by bottom fermentation. In Britain, lagers are usually golden in colour, but in continental Europe they can also be dark. In Germany and the Netherlands, the term may be used to indicate the most basic beer of the house, the "bier ordinaire".


Spontaneously fermenting style of wheat beer unique to Belgium, notably the Senne Valley. About 4.4% by volume.


English term describing the bottle counterpart of a basic bitter. In Scotland, "light" indicates the lowest gravity draught beer (usually dark in colour), neither term implies a low calorie beer.


A bock beer of super premium quality, usually pale. Made for the end of April and beginning of May to celebrate spring.


Not especially malty, although they are usually low in hop character; not liquors, though they are usually theest beers in American brewers' range. Malt liquor is the American term for a, pale lager (from 5.0%-7.5%), often cheaply made. regrettably, laws in some states encourage the term to be used on imported lagers of far greater character.


From "March" in German. Originally a beer brewed in March and laid down in caves before the summer weather rendered brewing impossible. Stocks would be drawn upon during the summer, and finally exhausted in October. In Germany, this tradition has come to be associated with a specific style. "Marzenbier" has a malty aroma, and is a medium version (classically, more than 5.5% by volume) of the amber red Vienna style. It is essential to the "Oktoberfest", where it is offered as a traditional speciality alongside paler beers of a similar strength. Confusingly, in Austria the term refers not to style but to gravity.


English term indicating an ale that is only lightly hopped. Some milds are copper in colour, but most are dark brown. these beers were devised to be drunk in large quantities by manual workers, and have in recent years suffered from their blue collar image. Around 3.0% by volume but relatively full in body.


Means "Munich style". In international brewing terminology, indicating a dark brown lager, a style developed in Munich (although another Bavarian town, Kulmbach, also has a long tradition of very dark lagers). In Munich, such a brew is clearly identified as "Dunkel" (dark). Classic examples have an alcohol content of about and just over 5.0%. The brewers of Munich, and Bavaria in general, also import their own distinctively malty accent to their everyday, lower gravity (3.7% by volume) pale beer, sometimes identified as "Muncher Hell", to distinguish from the same brewer's Pilsner style product.


German for top fermenting




In Australia, "old" simply means dark ale. In Britain, it is most commonly used to indicate a medium dark ale like Old Peculier, at just under 6.0% by volume. However, by no means all ales describing themselves as "old" are in this style.


A London style that became extinct, although recently revived. At 5.0% by volume, it was a lighter bodied companion to Stout. The most accurate revivals are probably the porters made by US micro brewers like Sierra Nevada. In some countries, the porter tradition remains in roasty tasting dark brews that are often of greater strength.


Smoked malts are used in the production of this dark, bottom fermented speciality, principally made in and around Bamberg, Franconia. Brewed around 5.0% by volume and in Marzen and Bock versions.


Season summer style in the French speaking part of Belgium. A sharply refreshing, faintly sour, top fermenting brew, usually dry hopped, often bottle conditioned. 5.0%-5.8% by volume.


The ales of Scotland generally have a malt accent. In their home country, a single brewery's products may be identified in ascending order of gravity and strength as LIGHT, HEAVY, EXPORT and. Or by a system based on the old currency of shillings, probably once a reference to tax ratings: 60/-, 70/-, 80/- 90/-. Alcohol content might rise through 3.0%, 4.0%, 4.5% and 7.0%-10.0% by volume. The term "Scotch Ale" is sometimes used specifically to identify a very, and often extremely dark, malt-accented speciality from that country.


A name trademarked by the Anchor Steam Brewery of San Francisco. This brewery's principle product is made by a distinctive method of bottom fermentation at high temperatures and in unusually wide shallow vessels. This technique, producing a beer with elements of both lager and ale in its character (although distinctive in its own right), is said to have been common in California when, in the absence of supplies of ice, early brewers tried to make bottom fermenting beers. Although there are more romantic explanations, the term "steam" probably derives from the brewers original source of power. In the days when it represented advanced technology, many brewers proclaimed "steam" (in Germany DAMPF-) in their names, and some still do. In Germany, one brewery has trademarked a product called "Dampfbier", but this is not in the California style.


An extra dark, almost black, top fermenting brew, made with highly roasted malts. "Sweet Stout", an English style is typified by Mackeson, which is only 3.75% by volume in its domestic market but more than 5.0% by volume in the Americas. Sweet stout usually contained milk sugars (lactose), and is a soothing restorative. "Dry Stout", the Irish style, is typified by Guinness, which comes in at around 4.0% by volume in the UK, a little more in North America and as much as 8.0% by volume in the tropics. Dry stouts contain roasted unmalted barley. "Imperial Stout", originally brewed as a winter warmer, for sale in Tsarist Russia, is medium dry and distinguished by its great strength: anything from 7.0% to more than 10.0% by volume.


This order of monks has five breweries in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. By law, only they are entitled to use the term "Trappist" in describing their products. Each of them produces, 6.0%-9.0% by volume, top fermenting brews, characteristically employing candy sugar in the kettle, and always bottle conditioned. Colour varies from bronze to deep brown. In their daily life, the monks will drink their least product, and may refer to their more potent variations (for religious holidays and commercial sale) as "double" and "triple". The latter is usually palest in colour.


German term for sediment.


"Original"/"Source Of", in German. Justifiable when applied to, for example, Einbecker Ur-Boxk or Pilsner Urquell, but often more loosely used.


Amber red, or only medium dark, lager. This was the style originally produced in in Vienna. Brewers still talk of a "Vienna malt" to indicate a kilning to this amber red colour, but the beer style is no longer especially associated with the city.


The German term for "wheat beer", implying a pale brew made from wheat. In the north, a special renown is enjoyed by Berliner Weisse, a style in its own right, see separate entry. A different style of Weissbier is made in the south, with a more conventional alcohol content (usually a little over 5.0% by volume), a higher proportion of wheat (at least 50%) and a yeast (top fermenting) that produces a tart, fruity, spicy palate, sometimes with notes of cooking apples and cloves. Often, instead of Weissbier, the southerners prefer the term "Weizen" (a similar sounding word but it means, quite simply, "wheat"). If the beer is sedimented with yeast, it may be prefixed "Hefe-". Southern wheat beers are also produced in dark versions (these Dunkel Weizen brews have a delicious complex of fruitiness and maltiness), and in Export and Bock strengths. Weizenbock is sometimes served as a Christmas beer.


A term once used in several parts of Europe to describe wheat beers. Apart from those of German speaking countries, Belgium's white beers (Witbier, Bier Blanche etc.) are of considerable interest.


Among several words that are confusingly similar to the non German speaker, this one means "meadow". It implies a beer brewed for a carnival or festival (an Oktoberfest beer may be described as a Wies'n Marzen) or a rustic speciality (such as Kupper's unfiltered Wiess).


German term for an unfiltered beer without the distinguishing features of either a Kellerbier or a Krausenbier.


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