• Jacopo Mazzeo

The Brewers Association adds four new categories to its Beer Style Guidelines

American trade group The Brewers Association (BA), which represents US craft brewers, has identified four new beer styles as part of its annual Beer Style Guidelines review.

Source: Unsplash

The new beer styles are:

  • Kentucky Common Beer

  • New Zealand-Style Pale Ale

  • New Zealand-Style India Pale Ale

  • Belgian-Style Session Ale

In addition to the new styles, the BA says that “hundreds of revisions, edits, format changes, and additions were made to this year’s guidelines”. These include a significant revision of the Belgian-origin ale styles group, following numerous comments from BA judges and Belgian beer experts.


Full details for each new category are given below.


Kentucky Common Beer

Colour: Medium to deep amber

Clarity: Chill haze or yeast haze is acceptable

Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Medium-low to medium. Sweet malt is the dominant flavour attribute. Notes of corn, caramel, toffee and/or bread may be present.

Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium. May exhibit floral or spicy attributes typical of early 20th century North American hop varieties.

Perceived Bitterness: Low to medium

Fermentation Characteristics: Low to medium-low fruity esters may be present. Very low levels of DMS, if present, are acceptable. Diacetyl should not be present.

Body: Medium-low to medium with a dry finish enhanced by high carbonation

Additional notes: This American-born regional style proliferated around Louisville, Kentucky, from the Civil War era until Prohibition. Corn grits or flakes were commonly used at a rate or 25-35% of the total grist. Minerally attributes resulted from the use of hard brewing water. These beers were consumed very young, going from brewhouse to consumer in as little as one week. Early 20th-century brewing literature mentions a slight tartness developing during fermentation as a characteristic attribute of this style. If tartness is present in modern versions, it should be at very low levels.

Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.040-1.055 (10-13.6 °Plato) Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.010-1.018 (2.6-4.6 °Plato) Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 3.2%-4.4% (4.0%-5.5%) Bitterness (IBU) 15-30 Color SRM (EBC) 11-20(22-40 EBC)


New Zealand-Style Pale Ale

Colour: Straw to medium amber

Clarity: Yeast, chill and/or hop haze may be present at low levels but are not essential

Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Very low to medium

Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Medium to medium-high, exhibiting attributes such as tropical fruit, passionfruit, and/or stone-fruit, cut grass and diesel

Perceived Bitterness: Low to medium-high

Fermentation Characteristics: Low to medium fruity esters are acceptable but not essential.

Body: Medium-low to medium with a dry finish

Additional notes: Overall impression is a well-integrated easy-drinking, refreshing pale ale style with distinctive fruity hop aromas and flavours. Diacetyl is absent in these beers. DMS should not be present.

Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.040-1.052 (10-13 °Plato) Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.006-1.010 (1.5-2.5 °Plato) Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 3.2%-4.7% (4.0%-6.0%) Bitterness (IBU) 15-40 Color SRM (EBC) 3-9(6-18 EBC)


New Zealand-Style India Pale Ale

Colour: Gold to copper

Clarity: Chill haze is acceptable at low temperatures. Hop haze is allowable at any temperature.

Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium intensity malt attributes are present in aroma and flavor

Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: High to intense, exhibiting attributes such as floral, fruity (tropical, stone fruit and other), sulfur/diesel-like, citrusy and grassy

Perceived Bitterness: Medium-high to very high

Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity esters are low to high, acceptable but not essential.

Body: Medium-low to medium with a dry finish

Additional notes: Diacetyl and DMS should not be present. The use of water with high mineral content may result in a crisp, dry beer rather than a malt-accentuated version. Hop attributes are dominant and balanced with malt character.

Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.060-1.070 (14.7-17.1 °Plato) Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.010-1.016 (2.5-4.1 °Plato) Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.0%-6.0% (6.3%-7.5%) Bitterness (IBU) 50-70 Color SRM (EBC) 6-12(12-24 EBC)


Belgian-Style Session Ale

Colour: May vary widely

Clarity: Chill haze is acceptable at low temperatures

Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Very low to low

Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Very low to low

Perceived Bitterness: Very low to low but sufficient to balance other attributes

Fermentation Characteristics: Phenolic spiciness may be absent or may be present at low levels. Fruity-ester complexity may range from low to medium, in harmony with malt and other attributes. Diacetyl should not be present.

Body: Very low to low

Additional notes: Beers in this category recognize the uniqueness and traditions of Belgian brewing, but do not hew to any other classic or “Other” Belgian-style categories defined in these guidelines. The most notable characteristic that these beers share is a modest alcohol content of 2.1% – 5% abv. These beers can be lower gravity formulations of their own, or can be produced from second run wort from the production of higher gravity beers. Balance is a key component when assessing these beers. Wood- and barrel-aged versions which exhibit attributes of wood ageing should be categorized as wood- and barrel-aged beers. Fruited versions are categorized as Belgian-style fruit beers.

When using these guidelines as the basis for evaluating entries at competitions, brewers may be asked to provide supplemental information about entries in this category to allow for accurate evaluation of diverse entries. Such information might include an underlying Belgian beer style not otherwise defined in these guidelines or other information unique to the entry such as ingredients or processing which influence perceived sensory outcomes.

Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.018-1.040 (4.5-10 °Plato) Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.002-1.010 (0.5-2.6 °Plato) Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 1.7%-4.0% (2.1%-5.0%) Bitterness (IBU) 5-35 Color SRM (EBC) May vary widely

The full 2021 Beer Style Guidelines can be found on the BA website.

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