There many different styles of real ale, varying from malty, lightly-hopped milds to dark and bitter stouts and porters.
With over 1,200 breweries producing over 6,000 ales on a regular basis, it can truly be said that British real ale is an incredibly diverse product. Whatever your taste preference you can be sure that there is a beer to suit almost everyone!
Mild is one of the most traditional beer styles which is enjoying a revival in today's real ale market. Usually dark brown in colour, due to the use of well-roasted malts or barley it is less hopped than bitters and often has a chocolate character with nutty and burnt flavours.
Bitter was developed towards the end of the 19th century as brewers began to produce beers that could be served in pubs after only a few days storage in cellars. Bitters grew out of pale ale but were usually deep bronze to copper in colour due to the use of slightly darker crystal malts.
Light bitter is any bitter with an ABV of 3.4 or lower (original gravity (OG) 1034 or lower). By light bitter, we generally mean low gravity or low strength, but they do also tend to be lighter in colour than stronger bitters.
Pale Ale/India Pale Ale (IPA) changed the face of brewing early in the 19th century with juicy malt, citrus fruit and a big spicy, peppery bitter hop character, and strengths of 4 upwards. Today this style is enjoying a revival with the introduction of robustly hopped American-style Pale Ales.
Porter is complex in flavour, ranging from 4 to 6.5 and typically black or dark brown in colour, which comes from the use of dark malts.
Stout on the other hand derives its colour and flavour from roasted malted barley. Stouts can be dry or sweet and range from 4% to 8% ABV.
Barley Wine dates from the 18th/19th century, often strong at 10%-12% and stored for as long as 18 months to two years. Expect massive sweet malt and ripe fruit of pear drop, orange and lemon, with darker fruits, chocolate and coffee if darker malts are used.
Old Ale can be pale and burst with lush sappy malt, tart fruit and spicy hop notes. Darker versions have a more profound malt character. Old Ales have a lengthy period of maturation, often in bottle rather than bulk vessels and typically range from 4% to 6.5%.
Scottish Beer tended historically to be darker, sweeter and less heavily hopped than English and Welsh ales. However, many of the new craft breweries produce beers lighter in colour and with generous hop rates.
Golden Ale is a pale, well-hopped and quenching beer developed in the 1980s. The hallmark will be the biscuity and juicy malt character from pale malts, underscored by tart citrus fruit and peppery hops, often with the addition of hints of vanilla and cornflour.