Beer Styles 101

Each and every brewery has a story, along with an offering of specific beer styles that you may or may not have sipped on before depending on your experience in the art of drinking beer. Some of these styles have taken the craft beer world by storm, such as the famous India Pale Ale, while others have been slowly growing into their own space (like Sours). Old Redwood Brewing Company brews a collection of beer styles, each with a purpose and specific flavor profile that makes it unique. If you’re just now getting into craft beer and want to learn more about beer styles, look no further.

An Ale of Cream

Ever heard of a cream ale? Many casual beer drinkers haven’t and it’s alright – but this beer is definitely not a sweet creamy dessert. Cream ales actually originate from the traditional American light Lager style from before prohibition, although they are brewed as an ale. Hoppiness is usually missing from this beer style, presenting it with a light body and crisp finish. Cream ales were brewed by German/European immigrants coming to the United States, as they couldn’t get the ingredients to brew the beers of their homeland. If you’re looking for a refreshing, easy to drink cream ale, look no further than The River Rider from Old Redwood Brewing Company, which in fact won Best American light Ale in 2016 at the Battle of the Brews!   

The Saison (Say What?)

Saison’s are another style of beer which many casual beer drinkers have probably never heard of. Typically brewed in the fall or winter for drinking in the summer, this style tends to have fruity aromas and flavors while maintaining a somewhat dry finish. These beers have always been known to be refreshing, and the story goes that they were specifically brewed for farmers to drink during hot days filled with hard work. That does sound great, but sitting on the porch and having one without any exhausting labor sounds even better. That’s where the Sunup Saison for Old Redwood comes in as a crucial player. Brewed with fresh lemon peel and peppercorn, this beer is sure to give you that necessary refresher during summer.

The Beer of the Industrial Revolution

This sounds intimidating, and sometimes this beer style even looks intimidating. But fear not! The famous Porter style is actually a complex blend of flavors waiting to be tested by your taste buds. It was the first beer created by the Industrial Revolution in London, originating from an Ale. Documents dating back to the Industrial Revolution state that Porters were actually made up of three different styles – an old stale ale, a new brown ale, and a mild ale. This gave the feel that the Porter was actually the first real engineered beer for a specific taste! Old Redwood Brewing Company stays true to this thought, having engineered the Commissioner Porter with bold, deep flavors and made with 4 pounds of JJ Royal single estate reserve coffee. The coffee and chocolate flavors make for a  very unique beer which goes perfect with rich fudge brownies!

The Brew from a Voyage to India

Ah, the famous India Pale Ale with its hoppiness and bitterness. But why the name? If you’re new to craft beer, this one is a staple of the industry, and also has a very interesting backstory. During the reign of the British Empire, the country had troops, outposts, and colonies seemingly everywhere around the world, with one of the most important spots being India. There was a high demand for beer (as always), yet most product would perish in the long sea voyage from Britain to India. Breweries began producing strong Pale Ales with more hops and at a higher alcohol content to act as preservatives for the journey over seas. That’s when the magic occurred.

The long trip transformed the drink into what we call today an IPA. With so many different variations and flavors of IPA, there’s one out there for everyone, but Old redwood Brewing Company produces three, all of a delicious hoppy nature. The Little Windsor, Half Windsor, and Full Windsor (IPA, Double IPA, and Triple IPA, respectively). These beers usually have very hoppy and herbal flavors, and tend to be much bitter than other beer styles. 

A Royal (Imperial) Family’s Love for Beer

While walking down the beer aisle of the store or looking at a brewery’s menu, you have probably seen the word Imperial once or twice. While “Imperial” is technically not a style itself, it originates from the Russian Imperial Stout which was brewed in England in the 1700’s for the Royal family of Russia. Confused yet? No worries, I’ll explain. Catherine the Great of Russia had fallen in love with the Stout beer style while visiting England, but when trying to take it back to the Motherland she had the same issue that the British had when transporting beer from England to India. It would spoil. So, to make the beer hardier to survive the trip, it was brewed with extra alcohol and hops (nature’s preservatives). So nowadays the name Imperial is often used to designate a high alcohol version of another style, such as Imperial Stouts, Imperial IPAs, Imperial Pilsners etc.

Timber and Imperial Red Ale coming straight out of Old Redwood Brewing Company is a perfect example. A red ale with caramel and toffee notes make for a delicious brew clocking in at 8% ABV. Made with plenty of Cascade hops this beer has a piney, resinous, and citrusy finish around its beautiful red color.

Now You Know

Well, you have a start. The beer world is full of wonderful history and interesting back story, along with complex science. With your base knowledge about a few different beer styles from this blog, you should now be able to get a feel for a basic beer menu. Old Redwood Brewing Company does a fantastic job of creating unique beers under a varied number of beer styles, hence why it’s the perfect place for seasoned craft beer veterans, or even the newest newbie to the beer scene. So what are you waiting for? Get over there and and grow your beer knowledge!

Nick Billings