Altbier, Alt

Born in German breweries, primarily in and around the city of Dusseldorf, this often pretty style of beer is the color of orange pekoe tea-like copper to a rich brown hue. The term alt means "old" in German and relates directly to the brewing process, which is more akin to the making of ale than lager since the fermentation is on the warm side of the scale. Though the fermentation is warm, the Germans age alts in cold storage, like lagers, thus the A/L categorization. Alts are aromatic due to the high hop content. 
Amber (A/L): An intensely fruity and hoppy style of domestic ale or lager thatís the color of unadulterated tea. Though not a ponderous style, ambers can be very pleasant quaffing.

American Lager

The rather neutral tasting beer type that made Milwaukee famous. Pale straw to golden in appearance, dry to off-dry, crisp and lean to the point of being flimsy, these low alcohol (4-5%) beers are decent, if on the whole uninspiring, thirst slakers. 

Black Beer

An extremely dark, indeed inky opaque, lager known for its bitter chocolate-like aroma and taste. The best examples come from Japan. 

Bock, also Bok

This classic style of bottom-fermented beer comes in various degrees of strength and depth of flavor. It is believed to have been developed in Einbeck, Germany in the early 13th century. Sometimes an off-dry to mildly sweet beer which traditionally is consumed in the dark months of the year. Regular bock beer has a deep tawny color and a rich fragrance. Double Bock, called Doppelbock in Germany, is loftier in alcohol (6-8%) and thicker than regular bock. Thereís even an eye-popping triple bock beer available from the Boston Beer Company. A commonly held misconception is that bock beer is beer thatís been at the bottom of the barrel. The "dregs" label that has been foisted upon bock for decades is totally false. 

Dry Beer

Totally uninteresting, mass-produced beers of North America that have no sweetness, scant body or texture, and about as much complexity as mineral water. Clean enough, however, to kill a hearty thirst on a July day. 


Quite commonly an attractive pale lemon yellow to a straw gold color, this nimble, medium-bodied lager is a direct product, or a wannabe send-up, of the German city of Dortmund. The authentic Exports are noted for their inherent silkiness and crisp drinkability. 

Light Beer

A lager that is lower in calories than full-strength standard bottlings. Usually a gutted, vapid, shadow of a beer. Few exceptions exist.

Malt Liquor

Generally, a higher alcohol beer (6-8% by volume) with a neutral taste and full body. Created more for a quick hit of alcohol than for any sense of character or complexity. The bottom feeders of the beer category. Please note, however, that many beers from Germany have the words "Malt Liquor" on their labels, which has nothing to do with the over-inflated, over-alcoholic domestic style of beer. 

Marzen/Oktoberfest, a.k.a. Vienna

Originated in Munich in the pre-refrigeration era, Marzen was developed as a beer that was brewed in the month of March and stored all summer long in cool caves. Come October, hey, itís party time. Go get whatís left of the Marzen! As a result, itís known either as Marzen or Oktoberfest. The Oktoberfest moniker was started in 1810 with the royal marriage (in October) of Bavarian Prince Luitpold. These are keenly malty, medium to full bodied lagers which are aromatic and alluring. The color goes from a burnished orange to a dark copper. 

Pilsener, also Pils, Pilsner

Pilsenerís color spans from pale straw yellow to sunny, rich gold. This is a typically light to medium-bodied, floral-scented, hoppy, stone dry, and intensely malty lager whose rÈsumÈ was begun in 1842 in the old Bohemian town of Pilsen. Alcohol level is routinely in the 4 to 5 percent range. Itís said that this was actually the first clear, golden beer of its kind. One of the top five styles of beer and certainly the most globally emulated. 
Vienna (L): See Marzen/Oktoberfest.

All text from the Spirit Journal Beer Style Guide. (c) 2011 F. Paul Pacult. All rights reserved.