Throughout brewing history, brewers have strayed from the standard ale or lager brewing methods. Necessity or creative desire have played a role in the development of hybrid styles. Whether beer purest feel brewers should break traditional style boundaries or not, brewers have already tossed strict style guides out the window, opening up spectacular arrays of beer variety and choice.
The majority of beer styles stem from either the ale or the lager, but when a brewer starts to dance between these two, something magical happens. Two becomes one, baby…
This magical moment for a brewer can be relatable to a non-brewer as dating. You go on lots of them. You give it time. You make it a journey. And when you are breaking it down on the dance floor and the hot, but totally off limits guy from the next town over asks you to dance, you can’t just ignore your tummy butterflies. You take the chance. The result of this interaction may just be worth your mother’s agony.
Okay, so back to beer hybrids. Think of it this way…
Imagine you are an ale. You=
Your yeast ferments on top of you which allows for rapid fermentation throughout your body of sugary wort.
You have a pretty quick fermentation cycle and you ferment at warm temperatures: between 60-75 degrees.
You are complex, fruity, and hearty.
Now, imagine the hot, off-limits guy is a lager. He=
His yeast ferments lower in his body and during fermentation it sinks even lower.
He has a much longer fermentation cycle and likes temperatures less than 50 degrees.
This makes him crisp, clean, and smooth
So, if you take the chance and dance with him, things begin to progress: you kiss, go on dates, your mother freaks out, you become an “opposites attract believer,” he proposes, you say yes, the two of you go to Mexico for your honeymoon, do the doodle do and… vuala! You produce beautiful bouncing hybrid bundles of joy!
Baby Hybrid #1: Kolsch
Brewed with ale yeast
Brewed at cooler Temperatures
This style’s place of birth is Koln (Cologne), Germany. Traditionally, these beers are light and crisp because they are lagered, but it is still complex with biscuity and slightly fruity flavors from the ale yeast. This style often has quite delicate flavors, inviting you in for another sip.
Baby Hybrid #2: California Common
Brewed with lager yeast
Brewed at warm temperatures
This hybrid was was born in America, coastal California to be exact. During the gold rush days, settlers would take their beloved lagers out west, but with warmer temperatures and a lack of refrigeration, brewers were forced to adjust their brewing techniques. California Commons will have more floral and hop qualities with a higher bitterness level. They also have familiar flavors of caramel and fruity esters that are quite promotant.
With these magical moments of necessity, or creative desire, brewers have expanded our craft beer choices and taught us to appreciate styles beyond the traditional. Next time you are browsing the craft beer aisle, look for some of the following hybrid styles: Altbier, Cream Ale, Fruit Beers, Smoked Beers.