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Know your beer

As part of OXcountry’s celebration of pubs, we thought we’d give you the run-down on the basics, along with a recommendation of each from one our world-class local breweries
"Modern barley wine originates from the 18th and 19th centuries when England was often at war with France and it was the duty of patriots, usually from the upper classes, to drink ale rather than French wine."

Brown Ale

Spawned from the Mild Ale, Brown Ales tend to be malty and sweet on the palate, with a full body. Colour can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. Brown ales tend to have a low hop aroma and bitterness.

MALT: Pale/Crystal/Chocolate
HOPS: Light
OXcountry recommends: Hobgoblin from Wychwood Brewery

Wheat Beer

Wheat beers are actually similar to some of the first brewed beers. They are a mixture of barley and wheat grains and have very little hop presence. They are typically cloudy in appearance and the range of flavours depends heavilty on the type of wheat used. Traditionally, this style of beer accounts for many popular summer and spring seasonal brews.

MALT: Pale/Pilsner + malted wheat
HOPS: Very light
OXcountry recommends: Symposium from Compass Brewery


The birth of Pilsner beer can be traced back to its namesake, the ancient city of Plzen (or Pilsen) in what was once Czechoslovakia and previously part of the Bohemian Kingdom. Pilsner beer was first brewed back in the 1840's when the citizens, brewers and maltsters of Plzen formed a brewer's guild and called it the People's Brewery of Pilsen.

The Czech Pilsner is light straw to golden colour and crystal clear. Hops are prevalent, usually with a spicy bitterness or a spicy floral flavour and aroma. Smooth and crisp with a clean malty palate, some of the originals will show some archaic yeast characteristics similar to very mild buttery or fusel flavours and aromas.

MALT: Pilsner (lager)
HOPS: Moderate
OXcountry recommends: Regal Lager from Wychwood Brewery


The India Pale Ale, also commonly referred to as an IPA, comes from the 1700’s when English troops lived in India. Additional hops were added to their typical beer to keep it from spoiling before their ship reached Indian shores. This style is known to have a strong hoppy flavour with a slightly bitter taste. The colour of an IPA can range from a light golden yellow to a darker red amber.

MALT: Pale, often with a small amount of crystal
HOPS: Moderate to heavy, often very heavy in American IPAs
OXcountry recommends: Isis Pale from Compass Brewery


Mild ale, whilst almost unheard of in the South of the UK nowadays, used to be very popular before the lager boom. Malt accented, with typically little or no hop flavour, milds are usually medium to dark brown in colour, although many English examples are almost black. Mild is usually between 3-4% ABC, and whilst stronger variations exist, these rarely exceed 5 or 6%.

MALT: Pale/Mild. Most milds also contain crystal malt
HOPS: Very light
OXcountry recommends: Hooky Mild from Hook Norton Brewery


Originally brewed in London in the 18th century, the porter is a very dark style of beer. A porter includes roasted malts or roasted barley, and are typically mild beers with hints of chocolate and toffee.

MALT: Pale/Brown/Chocolate/Black
HOPS: Moderate to high
OXcountry recommends: Black Horse Porter by White Horse Brewery


Stouts are always 100% opaque and are consistently the darkest beers. The head of a stout beer is extremely thick and usually brown. They have a controversial history, but it’s widely believed that the stout style originally derived from porters. They feature a heavily roasted flavor and often contain hints of chocolate, licorice, molasses, or coffee.

MALT: Chocolate/Black/Crystal
HOPS: Moderate to high
OXcountry recommends: Baltic Night from Compass Brewery

Barley Wine

Originating in ancient Greece, barley wine is a very strong variety of ale, often reaching 12% or higher.

Modern barley wine originates from the 18th and 19th centuries when England was often at war with France and it was the duty of patriots, usually from the upper classes, to drink ale rather than French wine.

Many small brewers now produce their own interpretations of barley wine, and the flavour is usually packed with powerful fruit flavour.

Trappist Beer

Trappist beer is brewed by monks in eleven monasteries across Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as one each in Austria, Italy and the US.

The Trappist beer naming system designates different varieties according to the amount of malt used in brewing, as well as the original gravity (density). Beers are designated Enkel (single), Dubbel (double) or Tripel (triple), and originally, beers were unlabelled and were identified by the colour of the bottle cap alone.


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