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Beer Styles
Strong Ale
Old Ale
Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.060 – 1.090+  IBUs: 30 – 60+  FG: 1.015 – 1.022+  SRM: 10 – 22+  ABV: 6 – 9+%
Ingredients:
Generous quantities of well-modified pale malt (generally English in origin, though not necessarily so), along with judicious quantities of caramel malts and other specialty character malts. Some darker examples suggest that dark malts (e.g., chocolate, black malt) may be appropriate, though sparingly so as to avoid an overly roasted character. Adjuncts (such as molasses, treacle, invert sugar or dark sugar) are often used, as are starchy adjuncts (maize, flaked barley, wheat) and malt extracts. Hop variety is not as important, as the relative balance and aging process negate much of the varietal character.  British ale yeast that has low attenuation, but can handle higher alcohol levels, is traditional.
Aroma:
Malty-sweet with fruity esters, often with a complex blend of dried-fruit, vinous, caramelly, molasses, nutty, toffee, treacle, and/or other specialty malt aromas.  Some alcohol and oxidative notes are acceptable, akin to those found in Sherry or Port. Hop aromas not usually present due to extended aging.
Appearance:
Light amber to very dark reddish-brown color (most are fairly dark).  Age and oxidation may darken the beer further.  May be almost opaque (if not, should be clear).  Moderate to low head; may be adversely affected by alcohol and age.
Flavor:
Medium to high malt character with a luscious malt complexity, often with nutty, caramelly and/or molasses-like flavors.  Light chocolate or roasted malt flavors are optional, but should never be prominent.  Balance is often malty-sweet, but may be well hopped (the impression of bitterness often depends on amount of aging).  Moderate to high fruity esters are common, and may take on a dried-fruit or vinous character.  The finish may vary from dry to somewhat sweet.  Extended aging may contribute oxidative flavors similar to a fine old Sherry, Port or Madeira. Alcoholic strength should be evident, though not overwhelming.  Diacetyl low to none.  Some wood-aged or blended versions may have a lactic or Brettanomyces character; but this is optional and should not be too strong (enter as a specialty beer if it is).
Mouthfeel:
Medium to full, chewy body, although older examples may be lower in body due to continued attenuation during conditioning.  Alcohol warmth is often evident and always welcome.  Low to moderate carbonation, depending on age and conditioning.
Overall Impression:
An ale of significant alcoholic strength, bigger than strong bitters and brown porters, though usually not as strong or rich as barleywine. Usually tilted toward a sweeter, maltier balance. “It should be a warming beer of the type that is best drunk in half pints by a warm fire on a cold winter’s night” – Michael Jackson.
History:
A traditional English ale style, mashed at higher temperatures than strong ales to reduce attenuation, then aged at the brewery after primary fermentation (similar to the process used for historical porters).  Often had age-related character (lactic, Brett, oxidation, leather) associated with “stale” beers.  Used as stock ales for blending or enjoyed at full strength (stale or stock refers to beers that were aged or stored for a significant period of time).  Winter warmers are a more modern style that are maltier, fuller-bodied, often darker beers that may be a brewery’s winter seasonal special offering.
Comments:
Strength and character varies widely.  Fits in the style space between normal gravity beers (strong bitters, brown porters) and barleywines.  Can include winter warmers, strong dark milds, strong (and perhaps darker) bitters, blended strong beers (stock ale blended with a mild or bitter), and lower gravity versions of English barleywines.
English Barleywine
Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.080 – 1.120+        IBUs: 35 – 70     FG: 1.018 – 1.030+        SRM: 8 – 22       ABV: 8 – 12+%
Ingredients:
Well-modified pale malt should form the backbone of the grist, with judicious amounts of caramel malts. Dark malts should be used with great restraint, if at all, as most of the color arises from a lengthy boil.  English hops such as Northdown, Target, East Kent Goldings and Fuggles.  Characterful English yeast.
Aroma:
Very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel-like aroma.  May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dried-fruit character.  English hop aroma may range from mild to assertive.  Alcohol aromatics may be low to moderate.  The intensity of these aromatics often subsides with age.  The aroma may have a rich character including bready, toasty, toffee, molasses, and/or treacle notes.  Aged versions may have a sherry-like quality, possibly vinous or port-like aromatics, and generally more muted malt aromas.  Low to no diacetyl.
Appearance:
Color may range from rich gold to very dark amber or even dark brown. Often has ruby highlights, but should not be opaque. Low to moderate off-white head; may have low head retention.  May be cloudy with chill haze at cooler temperatures, but generally clears to good to brilliant clarity as it warms.  The color may appear to have great depth, as if viewed through a thick glass lens.  High alcohol and viscosity may be visible in “legs” when beer is swirled in a glass.
Flavor:
Strong, intense, complex, multi-layered malt flavors ranging from bready and biscuity through nutty, deep toast, dark caramel, toffee, and/or molasses.  Moderate to high malty sweetness on the palate, although the finish may be moderately sweet to moderately dry (depending on aging). Some oxidative or vinous flavors may be present, and often complex alcohol flavors should be evident.  Moderate to fairly high fruitiness, often with a dried-fruit character.  Hop bitterness may range from just enough for balance to a firm presence; balance therefore ranges from malty to somewhat bitter.  Low to moderately high hop flavor (usually UK varieties).  Low to no diacetyl.
Mouthfeel:
Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long conditioning).  A smooth warmth from aged alcohol should be present.  Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.
Overall Impression:
The richest and strongest of the English Ales.  A showcase of malty richness and complex, intense flavors.  The character of these ales can change significantly over time; both young and old versions should be appreciated for what they are.  The malt profile can vary widely; not all examples will have all possible flavors or aromas.
History:
Usually the strongest ale offered by a brewery, and in recent years many commercial examples are now vintage-dated.  Normally aged significantly prior to release.  Often associated with the winter or holiday season.
Comments:
Although often a hoppy beer, the English Barleywine places less emphasis on hop character than the American Barleywine and features English hops.  English versions can be darker, maltier, fruitier, and feature richer specialty malt flavors than American Barleywines.
American Barleywine
Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.080 – 1.120+        IBUs: 50 – 120+  FG: 1.016 – 1.030+        SRM: 10 – 19     ABV: 8 – 12+%
Ingredients:
Well-modified pale malt should form the backbone of the grist.  Some specialty or character malts may be used.  Dark malts should be used with great restraint, if at all, as most of the color arises from a lengthy boil.   Citrusy American hops are common, although any varieties can be used in quantity.  Generally uses an attenuative American yeast.
Aroma:
Very rich and intense maltiness.  Hop character moderate to assertive and often showcases citrusy or resiny American varieties (although other varieties, such as floral, earthy or spicy English varieties or a blend of varieties, may be used).  Low to moderately strong fruity esters and alcohol aromatics.  Malt character may be sweet, caramelly, bready, or fairly neutral.  However, the intensity of aromatics often subsides with age.  No diacetyl.
Appearance:
Color may range from light amber to medium copper; may rarely be as dark as light brown. Often has ruby highlights. Moderately-low to large off-white to light tan head; may have low head retention.  May be cloudy with chill haze at cooler temperatures, but generally clears to good to brilliant clarity as it warms.  The color may appear to have great depth, as if viewed through a thick glass lens.  High alcohol and viscosity may be visible in “legs” when beer is swirled in a glass.
Flavor:
Strong, intense malt flavor with noticeable bitterness.  Moderately low to moderately high malty sweetness on the palate, although the finish may be somewhat sweet to quite dry (depending on aging). Hop bitterness may range from moderately strong to aggressive.  While strongly malty, the balance should always seem bitter.  Moderate to high hop flavor (any variety).  Low to moderate fruity esters.  Noticeable alcohol presence, but sharp or solventy alcohol flavors are undesirable.  Flavors will smooth out and decline over time, but any oxidized character should be muted (and generally be masked by the hop character).  May have some bready or caramelly malt flavors, but these should not be high.  Roasted or burnt malt flavors are inappropriate.  No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel:
Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long conditioning).  Alcohol warmth should be present, but not be excessively hot.  Should not be syrupy and under-attenuated.  Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.
Overall Impression:
A well-hopped American interpretation of the richest and strongest of the English ales.  The hop character should be evident throughout, but does not have to be unbalanced.  The alcohol strength and hop bitterness often combine to leave a very long finish.
History:
Usually the strongest ale offered by a brewery, and in recent years many commercial examples are now vintage-dated.  Normally aged significantly prior to release.  Often associated with the winter or holiday season.
Comments:
The American version of the Barleywine tends to have a greater emphasis on hop bitterness, flavor and aroma than the English Barleywine, and often features American hop varieties.  Differs from an Imperial IPA in that the hops are not extreme, the malt is more forward, and the body is richer and more characterful.



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