Beer Drinking Styles Guide – A beer for every season

When to drink certain beers…Beer Drinking Styles Guide

So far we here at HomeBrewRockStars have been highlighting commercial beers that we thought were worthy of attention. These have been based somewhat on randomness, but did you know that beer styles are relative to the seasons and holidays?

18796091In the days before controlled refrigeration, brewing schedules were determined regarding seasonal temperature of said region and ingredients available during those seasonal temperatures. Early brewers also based their brewing schedules according to dark strong beer being consumed during the cold months and lighter less alcohol beers were quaffed during the warmer months. The American craft beer industry has tried to mimic this type of scheduling along with featuring styles during a holiday like St. Patrick’s Day.

Here in Rockford, IL the original brewery, founded in 1849 by British immigrant Jonathan Peacock under the name Rockford Brewery would cut ice blocks from the Rock River during the winter to store in the cellar in order to keep its fermentation and storage cool during the warmer months. The heirs of Jonathon eventually sold to a Montana tycoon named John V. Petritz in 1900. The brewery succumbed as one of the many victims of Prohibition and never opened again. A few years back an investment group purchased the historic brewery building and has renovated into a brewery once again.

With modern refrigeration and brewing practices any style can be created at anytime. If there is particular ale or lager you really like it is more than likely to be available year round unless the brewery designates it as a seasonal beer, then you have a small window of opportunity to enjoy it. If the latter is the case I just look forward to that time of year. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? However, homebrewers have the advantage of brewing what they want when they want which along with creative freedom is a very appealing aspect of the hobby.

For most people, they prefer a few styles and stick with those, rarely branching out, which is perfectly acceptable. Hey, drink what makes you happy. As for me I am a bit of a traditionalist and tend to seek out styles according to the season or holiday. Dark strong beers in the cold winter months, malty beers in the early months before spring, hoppy IPA’s and Pale Ales in the later spring, wheat and light refreshing beers during the dog days of summer, Marzen and mild ales in the fall. In March I always seek out Foreign Extra and Dry Stouts along with my beloved Irish Red for St Patrick’s Day. A good Mexican beer like Modello (NOT Corona, bleah) for Cinco De Mayo. In September it is all about the Oktoberfests. During the Christmas/New Year’s season I tend to seek out the holiday beers.

Here is a guide to what type of beer is appropriate for each month:

  • January / February: Belgian Strong Ales and Trappist which is also a Belgian style

  • February / March: Dry Stout, Porter, Red Ale, Lambics and Dopplebocks

  • March / April: Kolsch, Bock, Munich Helles, Dunkles and Pale Ales

  • April / May: Pilsners, Dunkleweisen and Lambics

  • May / June: Biere De Garde/ Saisons, Maibock

  • June / July: India Pale Ale, Fruit Beers, Lagers and Pale Ales

  • July / August: Belgian White, Weizen, Weisse and Berliner Weiss

  • September / October: Marzen & Oktoberfest (of course!) Old Ale, and Mild Ale

  • October / November: English Brown Ale, California Common, Scottish Ale

  • November / December: Imperial Stout, Barley Wine, Altbier and Extra Special Bitter

For a complete description of the above styles, download this PDF courtesy of Brewers Association – Beer Styles Guidelines.



Michael Sears

Michael Sears

Mike is the former President of Forest City Brewers, an established home-brew club in Rockford, IL. He is and experienced and passionate brewer and an aspiring beer journalist, with a love for sharing time with his brewing buddies and dogs (not necessarily in that order).
Michael Sears

Leave A Reply