The 29th Festival will be held on Fri
22nd - Sat 23rd March 2019 once again at Brighton Racecourse.
There's a lot of information
available on the different styles of real ale available today -
not least CAMRA's
own online guide and the invaluable Good Beer Guide (available
so we're not trying to reinvent the wheel here.
Instead, and to help you find your way around our Programme (handed
out free on admission to the festival), here are the symbols we
use and a summary of the sorts of beers you can expect to find them
describing, along with some examples (starting with local breweries)
from our 2011 Beer List.
Note: for 2013, the Festival programme beer styles has combined
bitter and strong bitter, whilst splitting off IPA. Some of the
glass colours used in the programme have also changed. The information
below under 'Additional website info' remains valid.
A generic term for highly hopped ales ranging from 3.0%
to around 5.5% A.B.V; within this range, the term is most commonly
applied to “ordinary or session bitters” in the 3.2%
to 4.3% A.B.V band.
Additional website info: The word "bitter"
is a broad term when it comes to real ale, with many non-ale drinkers
applying the word as a catch-all description. In technical terms,
bitters developed at the end of the 19th century as larger brewers
sought beers that could be easily distributed amongst their estates
of tied pubs and would be ready to serve within a few days of reaching
We also list most pale ales, including IPA ("Indian Pale Ale"),
in the "Bitter" category (although some may sneak under
the radar as Golden Ales - see below). Pale ales are traditionally
brewed with lighter malts for colour, whilst IPAs were traditionally
brewed to a strong ABV with lots of hops: both of these factors
aided preservation for the long sea journey around the Cape of Africa
en route to India for the enjoyment of the colonialists.
The Sussex Beer & Cider Festival uses a white pint glass symbol
to denote bitters that are less than 5% ABV, and examples have included:
- Hepworth Prospect (4.5%)
- Fullers Gales HSB (4.8%)
- Triple fff Alton's Pride (3.8%)
We have previously used a lilac
pint glass symbol to denote stronger bitters (but not very strong
ales such as barley wines - see below), which in the past has included
the likes of:
- Langham Special Draught (5.2%)
- Butcombe Brunel IPA (5%)
- Crouch Vale Amarillo (5%)
A true IPA (India Pale Ale) should be strong in alcohol
and high in hops. Look for juicy malt, citrus fruit and big spicy,
peppery, bitter hop character, with strengths well above 4.5% A.B.V.
Additional website info: Originally a variation
on pale ale, use of slightly darker malts tend to give a bronze
or copper colour and a full palate. Typically, an ordinary bitter
would be 3.9% or less, a "best bitter" would weigh in
at 4-5% and a "strong" or "special" (see below)
would come in at 5%+, but none of these are hard and fast rules.
Is usually (but not always) a beer of low strength and
low hop rate, although some of the stronger milds have a lot in
common with OLD ALES. Milds can be either light or dark in colour
and tend to be more malty and sweeter than BITTERS. The lower strength
milds can quite delicate in flavour, so it is recommended that you
try them early on in your visit.
Additional website info: A very traditional beer
style that dipped in popularity but is now enjoying a revival and
even benefits from an annual "Mild in May" promotion.
The word "mild" refers to its less bitter taste, rather
than strength: although today's specimens often weigh in at less
than 4%, there are good examples at 6%-plus. Contrary to popular
belief, a mild doesn't have to be dark in colour either: each May,
Harveys brews an excellent light mild called "Knots of May"
which is well worth hunting down.
Some examples of milds include:
- Arundel Sussex Mild (3.7%)
- Bank Top Dark Mild (4%)
- Surrey Hills Hammer Mild (3.8%)
This new style pale, well-hopped and thirst quenching beers
developed in 1980’s. The hallmark will be the biscuity and
juicy malt character derived from pale malts underscored by tart
citrus fruit and peppery hops, often with the addition of hints
of vanilla and sweetcorn.
Additional website info: Golden Ale has only come
to prominence in the past few years, and has been widely targetted
at younger drinkers tempted to switch from lager. In fact, the earliest
examples originated as early as the 1980s, but popularity of this
ale type has soared (with Fullers developing its Discovery ale as
a drink to be served at a cooler temperature than traditional ales
as a summer thirst-quencher). Flavours tend to be light and easy-drinking,
although often with unusual hop combinations to add to the taste.
A good style for a new real ale drinker to start with!
Some good specimens include:
- Dark Star American Pale Ale (4.7%)
- Langham Hip Hop (4%)
- Hogs Back HOP (4.6%)
- OLD ALES: These are full-bodied with a malty richness and complex
character. Most are dark in colour, but some are lighter, all
are considerably full-bodied. Many Old Ales are only produced
and sold on draught in the winter months.
- PORTERS: These are bitter in flavour and range in colour from
red to black. The darkness in the colour comes from the use of
black malts; coffee and chocolate flavours are common as is the
use of bitter hops to produce a pronounced finish.
- STOUTS: Dry stouts have initial malt and caramel flavour with
a distinctive dry-roasted bitterness in the finish. This dry-roasted
character is achieved by the use of roasted barley. Sweet stouts
are distinctively sweet in taste and aftertaste, the stout’s
sweetness is derived from lactose.
Additional website info:
Old Ale dates from the centuries-old tradition of maturing ale
for lengthy periods in wooden vessels called tuns, which imparted
a slightly acidic sourness to the beer due to wild yeasts creeping
in via the wood. Usually, but not always, dark and often on the
stronger side. Luckily for us, many Sussex breweries have an excellent
pedigree in this particular style!
Stout and porter share a common evolution as drinks originally
brewed for London market workers, although WWI restrictions on malting
led to Ireland becoming market leaders in this style. Both beer
styles are characterised by their dark colour and rich flavours,
evoking dried fruits, coffee, liquorice and molasses, all balanced
with hoppy bitterness. Unlike more commercially available stouts
that pub-goers may be more familiar with, the real cask versions
are not served from nitrogen kegs and will lack the artificial creaminess,
although they are all the more drinkable (and tasty) for it! CAMRA's
"beer with personality" campaign leaflet explains that
one distinction between stouts and porters is the use of roasted
barley by the former compared to the dark malts used by the latter;
the other key difference being that "stout porters" tended
to be stronger versions than normal porters. Imperial stouts (which
we tend to class as Strong Ales - see below) are examples of stouts
that brewed to be particularly strong so as to survive the sea journey
to Russia, where it was rumoured to be a particular favourite of
The following examples of each style have previously graced the
- King's Old Ale (4.5%)
- Weltons Horsham Old Ale (4.5%)
- Hogs Back O.T.T. (Old Tongham Tasty) (6%)
- Hammerpot Bottle Wreck Porter (4.7%)
- Elland 1872 Porter (6.5%)
- Oakleaf Piston Porter (4.6%)
- Dark Star Espresso Stout (4.2%)
- Hop Back Entire Stout (4.5%)
- Whitstable Oyster Stout (4.5%)
Range from copper and tawny to dark brown in colour and
may have a high residual sweetness. They are usually over 6.0% A.B.V
with a high hop rate, extended fermentation times lead to high alcoholic
Additional website info: Barley Wine developed
as a result of England's historic conflicts with France, to give
the landed gentry a patriotic alternative to French wines (we have
wine from England too these days - some of which will be available
at the Festival!). The style is strong (usually
over 10%), requires lengthy maturation and tends to be drunk in
smaller quantities as a "sipping beer"; it tends to be
a minority beer style, and may be pushed even further to the fringes
thanks to plans to increase taxation on the production of stronger
We also use the black pint glass symbol to denote any particularly
Examples of such styles include:
- Adur Merry Andrew (6.2%)
- Ballards Duck House (9.7%)
- Dark Star Imperial Stout (10.5%)
- Brewdog Hardcore IPA (9%)
- Goachers 1066 Old Ale (6.7%)
Many beers do not fall neatly into the above beer styles.
There are a number of brewers who like to use different ingredients
in their beer brewing. They may range from using malted wheat instead
of barley, or adding herbs or spices to give that something extra,
or the use of fruit to emulate the famous Belgian styles, or even
not using any hops!
Additional website info: Sometimes, a beer defies
normal classification. This may be due the use of exotic ingredients
or adjuncts, or because it's in the vanguard of what will, in time,
become a recognised style of its own.
What we classify as "unusual" could include Scottish
heather or peat, smoked malt, ginger or other fruit or even a "cask
lager". Here are some previous examples:
- FILO Ginger Tom (4.6%)
- Weltons Flower of Scotland (4.7%)
- Bowmans Elderado (3.5%)
- Harviestoun Schiehallion (4.8%)
||Although we don't use the same type
of key in the programme, we shouldn't forget that not all ales are
cask-conditioned. CAMRA recognises beers that have undergone a secondary
fermentation in the bottle, and some of these will be on sale from
our Bottle Stall. Feel free to ask
at the stall for further details and remember, any beer recognised
by CAMRA as Real Ale in a Bottle will have the CAMRA logo on the label.