A microbrewery is a brewery which produces a limited amount of beer.

In the UK, the term has become synonymous with small scale breweries operating under the UK Progressive Beer Duty threshold of 5,000 hls. The most common product is cask conditioned bitter. Breweries are often described by their production capacity or brew length, mostly ranging from 2 to 20 bbls (a brewer’s barrel or bbl is 36 imperial gallons (43 US gal; 164 L)).

In the US, the American Brewers Association provides the definition for a “craft brewery” as “small, independent and traditional”, and gives a production size of less than 6,000,000 US beer barrels (700,000,000 L) a year (a barrel is 31 US gallons (26 imp gal; 117 L)). A craft brewery can not be more than 24% owned by another alcoholic beverage company that is not itself a craft brewery. The ABA further groups craft breweries as microbrewery: annual production less than 15,000 US beer barrels (1,800,000 L); A “brewpub” brews and sells beer on the premises. A brewpub may also be known as a microbrewery if production has a significant distribution beyond the premises – the American Brewers Association use a fixed 75% of production to determine if a company is a microbrewery.; regional craft brewery: at least 50% of its volume is all malt beers. A regional brewery has annual production between 15,000 US beer barrels (1,800,000 L) and 2,000,000 US beer barrels (230,000,000 L) per year. In order to be classified as a “regional craft brewery” by the brewers association, a brewery must possess “either an all-malt flagship or [have] at least 50% of its volume in either all-malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.” Of the 1,759 breweries in America, only 43 are not defined as craft brewers, and 100 not defined as either a micro or brewpub.

Tawandang Microbrewery

Tawandang Microbrewery (Photo credit: chooyutshing)

Pale Ale

Pale Ale (Photo credit: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library)

Roald Smeets, Pale ale is a beer which uses a warm fermentation and predominantly pale malt. It is one of the world’s major beer styles.

The higher proportion of pale malts results in a lighter colour. The term “pale ale” was being applied around 1703 for beers made from malts dried with coke, which resulted in a lighter colour than other beers popular at that time. Different brewing practices and hop levels have resulted in a range of taste and strength within the pale ale family.

Pale ale was a term used for beers made from malt dried with coke. Coke had been first used for roasting malt in 1642, but it wasn’t until around 1703 that the term “pale ale” was first used. By 1784, advertisements were appearing in the Calcutta Gazette for “light and excellent” pale ale. By 1830, the expressions “bitter” and “pale ale” were synonymous. Breweries would tend to designate beers as pale ale, though customers would commonly refer to the same beers as bitter. It is thought that customers used the term bitter to differentiate these pale ales from other less noticeably hopped beers such as porter and mild. By the mid to late 20th century, while brewers were still labeling bottled beers as pale ale, they had begun identifying cask beers as bitter, except those from Burton on Trent, which tend to be referred to as pale ales regardless of the method of dispatch.

Amber ale is a term used in Australia, France and North America for pale ales brewed with a proportion of crystal malt to produce an amber colour generally ranging from light copper to light brown. A small amount of crystal or other coloured malt is added to the basic pale ale base to produce a slightly darker colour, as in some Irish and British pale ales. In France the term “ambrée” is used to signify a beer, either cold or warm fermented, which is amber in colour; the beer, as in Pelforth Ambrée and Fischer Amber, may be a Vienna lager, or it may be a Bière de Garde as in Jenlain Ambrée. In North America, American-variety hops are used in varying degrees of bitterness, although very few examples are particularly hoppy. In Australia the most popular Amber Ale is from Malt Shovel Brewery, branded James Squire in honour of Australia’s first brewer, who first brewed beer in Sydney in 1794.

American Pale Ale (APA), was developed around 1980. The brewery thought to be the first to successfully use significant quantities of American hops in the style of APA and use the name Pale Ale, was the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, who brewed the first experimental batch of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in November 1980, distributing the finished version in March 1981. Anchor Liberty Ale, a 6% abv ale originally brewed by Anchor Brewing Company as a special in 1975 to commemorate Paul Revere’s midnight ride in 1775 which marked the start of the American War of Independence, was seen by Michael Jackson as the first modern American ale. Fritz Maytag, the owner of Anchor, visited British breweries in London, Yorkshire and Burton upon Trent, picking up information about robust pale ales, which he used when he made his American version using just malt rather than the malt and sugar combination common in brewing at that time, and making prominent use of the American hop, Cascade. The beer was popular, and became a regular in 1983. Other pioneers of a hoppy American pale ale were Jack McAuliffe of the New Albion Brewing Company and Bert Grant of Yakima Brewing.

American Pale Ales are generally around 5% abv with significant quantities of American hops, typically Cascade. Although American brewed beers tend to use a cleaner yeast, and American two row malt, it is particularly the American hops that distinguish an APA from British or European pale ales. The style is close to the American India Pale Ale (IPA), and boundaries blur,though IPAs are stronger and more assertively hopped. The style is also close to Amber Ale, though Amber Ales are darker and maltier due to use of crystal malts.
Bière de Garde, or “keeping beer”, is a pale ale traditionally brewed in the Pas-de-Calais region of France. These beers were usually brewed by farmhouses in the winter and spring, to avoid unpredictable problems with the yeast during the summertime.

The origins of the name lies in the tradition that it was matured/cellared for a period of time once bottled (and most sealed with a cork), to be consumed later in the year, akin to a Saison.

There are a number of beers named Bière de Garde in France, but some of the better known brands include:Brasserie de Saint-Sylvestre, Trois Monts (8.5%abv); Brasseurs Duyck, Jenlain (6.5%abv); and Brasserie La Choulette, Ambrée (7.5%abv).

Blonde ales are very pale in colour. The term “Blonde” for pale beers is popular in Europe and South America – particularly in France, Belgium, the UK, and Brazil, respectively, though the beers may not have much in common, other than colour. Blondes tend to be clear, crisp, and dry, with low-to-medium bitterness and aroma from hops, and some sweetness from malt. Fruitiness from esters may be perceived. A lighter body from higher carbonation may be noticed. In the United Kingdom, golden or summer ales were developed in the late 20th century by breweries to compete with the pale lager market. A typical golden ale has an appearance and profile similar to that of a pale lager. Malt character is subdued and the hop profile ranges from spicy to citrus; common hops include Styrian Golding and Cascade. Alcohol is in the 4% to 5% abv range. The UK style is attributed to John Gilbert, owner of Hop Back Brewery, who developed “Summer Lightning” in 1989, which then won several awards and inspired numerous imitators. Belgian blondes are often made with pilsner malt. Some beer writers regard blonde and golden ales as distinct styles, while others do not. Duvel is a typical Belgian blonde ale, and one of the most popular bottled beers in the country as well as being well-known internationally.

Later in the second half of the nineteenth century, the recipe for pale ale was put into use by the Burton upon Trent brewers, notably Bass; ales from Burton were considered of a particularly high quality due to synergy between the malt and hops in use and local water chemistry, especially the presence of gypsum. Burton retained absolute dominance in pale ale brewinguntil a chemist, C. W. Vincent discovered the process of Burtonisation to reproduce the chemical composition of the water from Burton-upon-Trent, thus giving any brewery the capability to brew pale ale.

The expression first appeared in the early 19th century as part of the development and spread of Pale Ale. Breweries would tend to designate beers as “pale ale”, though customers would commonly refer to the same beers as “bitter”. It is thought that customers used the term bitter to differentiate these pale ales from other less noticeably hopped beers such as porter and mild. Drinkers tend to loosely group modern bitter into “session” or “ordinary” bitter (up to 4.1% abv), “best” or “regular” bitter (between 4.2% and 4.7% abv) and “special” or “strong” bitter (4.8% abv and over).

Golden or summer ales have an appearance and profile similar to that of a pale lager. Hop Back Brewery brewed one of the first, called “Summer Lightning”, in 1989.

India Pale Ale was a British October pale ale or keeping beer bought for export to India. Worthington White Shield, originating in Burton-upon-Trent, is a beer considered to be part of the development of India Pale Ale.

Irish red ale, red ale, or Irish ale is a name used by brewers in Ireland; Smithwick’s is a typical Irish red ale. There is some dispute as to whether Irish Red Ale is a genuine style or the same as English keg Bitter. In the United States, the name can describe a darker amber ale or a “red” beer that is a lager with caramel colouring. Smithwick’s has introduced a Pale Ale craft brewed product advertised as 100% pale ale malt and aromatic hops with a 4.5% alcoholic content.

India Pale Ale or IPA is a style of pale ale developed in England for export to India. The first known use of the expression “India pale ale” is in an advertisement in the Liverpool Mercury of January 30, 1835.

Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale

Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Strong pale ales are ales made predominantly with pale malts and have an alcohol strength that may start around 5%, though typically starts a bit higher at 7 or 8% by volume and may go up to 12%, though brewers have been pushing the alcohol strength higher. In 1994 the Hair of the Dog Brewing Company produced a Strong Pale Ale with an abv of 29%. Brewdog recently released “Sink the Bismark”, a 41% alcohol volume pale ale. Orval typifies the Belgian pale ale style, and is fermented with some Brettanomyces in addition to Saccharomyces yeast.

American strong ale is a broad category used in America to describe ales of 7.0% abv or higher. Beers in this category may also be classified as double India Pale Ales, barley wines, or old ale depending on the style.
Strong Ale

Scotch ale is the Edinburgh version of Burton Ale: dark, with a bittersweet, sometimes slightly metallic tang, and generally strong. Scotch Ale was first used as a designation for strong ales exported from Edinburgh in the 18th century. The term has become popular in the USA, where strong ales which may be available in Scotland under a different name are sold in America as “Scotch Ale”, for example, Caledonian’s Edinburgh Strong Ale or Edinburgh Tattoo, is sold in the USA as Edinburgh Scotch Ale. As with other examples of strong ales, such as Barley wine, these beers tend toward sweetness and a full body. Examples from the Caledonian brewery would have toffee notes from the caramelizing of the malt from the direct fired copper. This caramelizing of Caledonian’s beers is popular in America and has led many American brewers to produce strong toffee sweet beers which they label as a Scotch Ale.

Scotch Ale or Whiskey Ale is a designation used by brewers in France and Belgium for peat-smoked malt flavoured beers. Even though the malt used by distillers in Scotland is no longer dried by peat burning, some peat smoke flavour is added during malting by an additional process. Although recent research from brewing historian Ron Pattinson shows a lack of evidence for peat smoked malt being used by any Scottish breweries, American craft brewers often add peat smoked malt in their versions of Scotch ale. These malts are occasionally used in beers where the peat smoke flavour is reminiscent of whisky. The most popular French example is Fischer’s Adelscott. The brewer Douglas Ross of the Bridge of Allan brewery made the first Scottish example of a Whiskey Ale for the Tullibardine Distillery in 2006; this beer was made with unpeated malt and aged in whisky barrels that had not contained a peated malt whisky so has a vanilla and nutty profile.

Scotch Ale is sometimes conflated with the term “Wee Heavy”, as both are used to describe a strong beer. Examples of beers brewed in the USA under the name Wee Heavy tend to be 7% abv and higher, while Scottish-brewed examples, such as Belhaven’s Wee Heavy, can be found between 5.5% and 6.5% abv. McEwan’s Scotch Ale is also 8% abv.

In North East England, “Best Scotch” refers to a beer similar to Mild Ale but with a drier, more burnt palate. Strong Ale is the name given to strong pale ale brewed in England above the strength of 5% abv.