Miles of Styles
There are thousands of beer styles around the world, and Fitger’s Brewhouse has brewed a whole spectrum over the years. But there are a few broad categories we return to time and time again. Here’s a brief introduction to some of our favorites.
North Shore Style Pale Ale
Hop forward, dry finishing, and brewed with Lake Superior water, this style was originally pioneered by master brewer Dave Hoops and is unique to the Twin Ports brewing scene.
Examples: Starfire Pale Ale, Duluth Pale Ale Minnesota Nice
India Pale Ales were brewed for British soldiers stationed in India, where high alcohol and a good dose of hops protected them from breaking down. Nowadays, the wide variety of hops available can give these beers flavors from
pine and grapefruit to black pepper to lemon to blueberry and peach.
Examples: Superior Trail IPA, Hoppelujah, The Mayor, El Niño
Dark, malty, and often poured on nitrogen for a super-creamy mouthfeel, stouts
have plenty of backbone.
Examples: Big Boat Oatmeal Stout, Tugboat Irish Stout
In the pantheon of great beer countries, Belgium is right up there with Germany. This is the country that brought us powerful dubbels and tripels, crisp and spicy saisons, and sour lambics.
Examples: Breakwater Wit, Summer Lightning Saison, St. Stephen’s Abbey, El Diablo
The original Bavarian Reinheitsgebot held that beer could only have three ingredients: barley, hops, and water. Wheat beers are a delicious way to be an outlaw. From yeasty hefeweizens to high-gravity weizenbocks, this style has plenty of variety.
Examples: French River Hefeweizen, Dread Pirate Dunkelweizen, Lester River Hefeweizen
Bottom fermented and conditioned at low temperatures, lagers have mild, clean flavors. Pilseners, bocks, Oktoberfest-style Märzen beers, altbier and more are examples of this type of beer.
Examples: Park Point Pilsener, Timmy’s Edelstoff, Procrastinator Doppelbock
Fruit can add complexity, depth, and sweetness, depending on how it’s used. From infusing orange peel into cloudy wheat beer to adding blueberries to our winter porter, we use fruit to add another dimension to beer.
Examples: Apricot Wheat, Cherry Batch, Apostle Apple Ale, Devil’s Track Pumpkin Ale, Blitzen’s Blueberry Porter, Red, Wheat, and Blue
English pub culture is legendary, and so are its porters and browns. Malt aromas, caramel and toffee flavors, and low to moderate English hops make these beers smooth and approachable.
Examples: Beaver Bay Brown, Petroglyph Porter , Witchtree ESB, XXX English Ale
This category has exploded at the Great American Beer Festival, and for good reason. American brewers are rediscovering the virtue of wooden barrels that impart their flavors into the beer.
Example: Wine Barrel Aged El Diablo, Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Boat Oatmeal Stout
Sour is the new hoppy. Lactobacillus, pediococcus, and Brettanomyces yeasts naturally turn beer funky, tart, and complex.
Examples: Goosebery Gose, Champagne of the North, Fitger’s Framboise
IBU means International Bittering Units, and a beer can have anywhere from 0 to 120.
0–10 Don’t want any bitterness? Well, then, you’d better be ok with sour! Styles with a super-low IBU include fruity lambics, sour geuzes, and the tart and refreshing Berliner weisse.
10–20 With rare exceptions like those mentioned above, most beers will have at least a few IBUs. This category includes ultra-mild American lagers, Scottish heavy ales, witbier, and Flanders red ales.
20–40 Most beers fall into this range. From light pilsners, on through porters and brown ales, and into sweet stouts and oatmeal stouts, this is the norm. Saison, Belgian ales, and even rauchbier all typically fall between 20 and 40 IBUs.
40–70 Now it starts to get intense. Beers with a lot of bitterness tend to also be high in alcohol content and flavor, but sometimes malt wins the day (American stout) and sometimes it’s all hops (American IPA, English IPA). Traditional English barleywines fall in this category.
70+ This is where you sip! The only beers this bitter are American barleywines, imperial IPAs, and some Russian imperial stouts. Drink these beers with care.
(Data from the Beer Judge Certification Program)
ABV: Alcohol By Volume
ABV is a simple percentage of alcohol by volume—tap water is 0% ABV, pure ethanol (the alcohol in beer) is 100% ABV, and your favorite beer is somewhere in between.
Below 0.5% Beers with an ABV of 0.5% or less are legally considered non-alcoholic. The only drink with less than 0.5% ABV brewed at Fitger’s is our Driftwood Draft Root Beer (which has 0.0% ABV!)
2–4% Lite American beers like Bud Light do not have much alcohol, but there are more complex lower alcohol beers as well. Standard/ordinary bitters, Scottish light ale, Southern English brown ale, and Berliner weisse all typically fall in this range.
4–6% This is the most common range, especially for German beers. Weizens, pilseners, Oktoberfest/märzen, and kölsch fall here, as does Munich helles, North German altbier, and rauchbier. American amber and brown ales fall here, as do sweet stouts, Belgian pale ales, and more.
6–8% Make sure you have a cab on speed dial. These stronger beers include traditional bocks, English and American IPAs, biere de garde, and Belgian dubbels.
8–12% This is getting into wine territory (wines are typically 8–14%). Barleywines, Russian imperial stouts, Belgian strong ales, and imperial IPAs are definitely made for sipping, not gulping.
Beyond 12% A few adventurous souls have pushed beyond normal boundaries into very high ABV beers. The current record is 65% ABV (Brewmeister Armagdddon) which is significantly stronger than most spirits.
Want proof? In the US, “proof” is determined by doubling the ABV. It’s usually used for spirits (Russian vodkas are 80 proof or 40% ABV). If you’re drinking a 10 ounce glass of beer with a 12% ABV, that’s the same amount of alcohol as two shots of vodka. Drink responsibly!
(Data from the Beer Judge Certification Program)