Know Your Beer

16 Sep 13

Know your beer stylesFancy yourself quite the beer connoisseur? If so, the following styles of beer should be very familiar to you. It’s interesting to see how each beer is an extension of either lagers or ales or a hybrid of both.

We recently touched on the difference between lagers and ales in our craft beer post, but these are the main differences:

The differences between lagers and ales


  • Take longer to ferment using a bottom fermenting process and cooler temperatures
  • They are usually served ice cold
  • They are crisp and refreshing and fizzier than ales


  • Are fermented in warmer environments
  • Use a top fermenting process that is much quicker than other methods

Some of South Africa's most popular styles of beer

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular styles of beer brewed in South Africa today as taken from African Brew – Exploring The Craft Of South African Beer, by Lucy Corne and Ryno Reyneke.


American Amber Ale

The American Amber Ale is also referred to as a red ale due to its copper colouring. You’d be familiar with it if you’ve had one from local brewers Citizen, Clarens, Devil’s Peak or Triggerfish.

  • Aroma: citrus notes within a malty scent
  • Flavour: sweet with caramel undertones and a high hop flavour


American Pale Ale (APA)

Found in varying shades of amber, the American Pale Ale is best experienced through beers from local breweries such as Chameleon, Cockpit and Triggerfish.

  • Aroma: not so much of a malty aroma with prominent citrus notes
  • Flavour: the citrus aroma comes through in the flavour along with a strong hops bitterness. A bread-like, biscuit flavour might also be noted


Belgian Dubbel

This beer originated in Belgian monasteries and is an offering from the Clarens Brewery. It has a dark amber or copper colour and a thick head that lasts for ages.

  • Aroma: sweet malty aroma with a touch of banana, chocolate, raisins and caramel with a spicy undertone
  • Flavour: the aromas translate into flavours with a dry finish


Belgian Trippel

The Belgian Trippel is a large beer without a prominent taste of alcohol. Golden in colour, you can sample one at the Clarens Brewery.

  • Aroma: reminiscent of perfume and floral notes intertwined with citrus and spice
  • Flavour: the flavour is much like the aroma with a definite sweetness


Blonde Ale

The blonde ale can be touted as the “Craft Beer 101” and is found in a number of local breweries, such as: Anvil, Chameleon, Clarens, De Garve, Irish Ale House, Porcupine Quill, Three Skulls and Triggerfish.

  • Aroma: reminiscent of perfume and floral notes intertwined with citrus and spice
  • Flavour: the flavour is much like the aroma with a definite sweetness


English Bitter

A traditional ale that is generally low in alcohol, small of head and light yellow in colour. It can be found in local breweries such as: Birkenhead, Mitchell’s or Porcupine Quill.

  • Aroma: fruitiness, caramel and a defined malty aroma
  • Flavour: a defined bitterness that varies in intensity with a little caramel and small traces of hop


English Pale Ale

The English Pale Ale is low in alcohol, carbonation and makes for easy drinking. The Anvil Brewery, Cockpit, Copper Lake, Emerald Vale, Jack Black, Nottingham Road and Shongweni breweries all have their own variants for you to try.

  • Aroma: an equal divide of malt and hops with some caramel and fruity scents too. Some sulphuric aroma is also deemed acceptable
  • Flavour: the aromas translate into flavours with the addition of nutty, biscuit tastes


India Pale Ale (IPA)

The India Pale Ale is extremely popular and could have evolved from the English Pale Ale; the origin is a bit sketchy, but there are English and American versions of the IPA. You can find local varieties at Devil’s Peak, Drayman’s, Three Skulls and Triggerfish breweries.

  • Aroma: a strong hoppy aroma with citrus, pine, tropical fruit and a grassy note can be found in the American version, while the English variety has a strong caramel aroma with earthy, floral notes
  • Flavour: flavours are indicative of the aromas in both cases. The English has a medium hops flavour, while the American is high on hops


Light Lager

Without a doubt, the most popular beer available, the Light Lager is light in colour, crisp and refreshing and is available through SAB as well as a range of other breweries, including: Birkenhead, Black Horse, Boston, Copper Lake, Darling, Gilroy’s, Jack Black, Mitchell’s, Old Main, Saggy Stone and Stellenbrau.

  • Aroma: not a pungent aroma with slight traces of corn and malt
  • Flavour: light, dry, refreshing and crisp in flavour with neither malt nor hops being extremely prevalent



Pilsners originated in the Czech Republic in 1842 and can be found locally through SAB, as well as these fine local breweries: Birkenhead, Brauhaus am Damm, Bridge Street, Jack Black, Little Brewery on the River and Nottingham Road. There are German and Bohemian versions.

  • Aroma: the German version has faint notes of grain and corn, while the Bohemian version is rich and malty
  • Flavour: somewhat bitter, yet refreshing, especially in the German versions. The Bohemian styles tend to have equal flavours of malt and hops



The predecessor to the Stout, a Porter is lighter in body and can be found at Little Brewery on the River, Nottingham Road and Wild Clover.

  • Aroma: slight indications of chocolate, coffee or toffee
  • Flavour: a maltiness that brings the aromas through into the flavours



A Belgian beer produced seasonally that is pale orange to amber in colour. It can be found locally at Anvil, De Garve, Devil’s Peak, Dog and Fig and Three Skulls.

  • Aroma: fruity with citrus notes as well as floral and peppery aromas
  • Flavour: refreshing and can have a dry finish. Strong in fruit and spice flavours



Stouts evolved from the Porter, only with more alcohol content, although these levels are quite similar today. You can find a local Stout at SAB, as well as Anvil, Birkenhead, Bridge Street, Chameleon, Clarens, Cockpit, Dog and Fig, Mitchell’s, Old Main, Three Skulls and Triggerfish.

  • Aroma: delicious aromas of coffee and chocolate with a sweetness on the nose
  • Flavour: definitive chocolate and coffee flavours come through with both the sweet and dry versions



A light coloured German beer with a fresh appeal, Weissbier has at least a 50% malted wheat content. You can find it locally at Boston, Brauhaus am Damm, Chameleon, Clarens, Cockpit, Dog and Fig, Drayman’s and Triggerfish.

  • Aroma: spicy, sweet banana, clove and bubblegum combinations
  • Flavour: aromas that convert to flavours with the addition of bread-like tastes from the wheat



Another Belgian born beer, Witbier is a refreshing, pale beer with a light golden hue. You can find locally brewed versions at Anvil and Darling breweries.

  • Aroma: sweet, citrus notes with a little bit of spice
  • Flavour: the sweet, citrus aroma carries through to the flavour along with coriander and other herbs


How many of these delicious beer styles have you had the pleasure of drinking? Let us know in the comments section below.