Beer Styles

Organizations or individuals that use the Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines (“Guidelines”) must be aware that they are updated yearly with significant changes including editing, deletion and/or addition of beer styles. Changes are not tracked from year to year. The updated version of the Guidelines is usually posted in February or early March each year. Therefore, Brewers Association recommends annual updates to products based on the Guidelines.

Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines 2015 Edition

Use of Guidelines

Organizations or individuals that wish to use the Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines as a resource or as the basis for products may do so as follows:

When Guidelines Content is Provided Free

Individuals may use by inserting the following verbiage in all print, web, app or other instances that reference the beer style guidelines, with the correct year inserted for 20xx:

  • Unchanged: “20xx Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines used with permission of Brewers Association”
  • With any changes: “Based on Brewers Association 20xx Beer Style Guidelines published by Brewers Association with changes”

When Guidelines Content is Provided for a Cost

Permission to use the Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines is usually not granted when the end use is for a cost (that is, not provided free). Those wishing to use the Guidelines for a cost must contact the Brewers Association via email to arrange for explicit permission to use the guidelines in all print, web, app or other instances that are delivered for a fee or cost.


Submit your suggestions for updating and existing style guideline, or propose a new one. Substantive comments are welcome from beer judges, brewers and beer aficionados.

About these Guidelines

The Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines are compiled for the Brewers Association (BA) by Charlie Papazian, copyright 1993 through and including 2015, with Style Guideline Committee assistance and review by Paul Gatza, Chuck Skypeck, Chris Swersey and suggestions from Great American Beer Festival® and World Beer Cup® judges.

Since 1979, the Brewers Association has provided beer style descriptions as a reference for brewers and beer competition organizers. Much of the early work was based on the assistance and contributions of beer journalist Michael Jackson. The task of creating a realistic set of guidelines is always complex.

The beer style guidelines developed by the BA use sources from the commercial brewing industry, beer analyses, and consultations with beer industry experts and knowledgeable beer enthusiasts as resources for information. The Brewers Association’s beer style guidelines reflect, as much as possible, historical significance, authenticity or a high profile in the current commercial beer market. Often, the historical significance is not clear, or a new beer in a current market may be only a passing fad, and thus, quickly forgotten. For these reasons, the addition of a style or the modification of an existing one is not taken lightly and is the product of research, consultation and consideration of market actualities, and may take place over a period of time.

Another factor considered is that current commercial examples do not always fit well into the historical record, and instead represent a modern version of the style. Our decision to include a particular historical beer style takes into consideration the style’s brewing traditions and the need to preserve those traditions in today’s market. The more a beer style has withstood the test of time, marketplace, and consumer acceptance, the more likely it is to be included in the BA’s style guidelines.

The availability of commercial examples plays a large role in whether or not a beer style “makes the list.” It is important to consider that not every historical or commercial beer style can be included, nor is every commercial beer representative of the historical tradition (i.e., a brewery labeling a brand as a particular style does not always indicate a fair representation of that style).

Please note that almost all of the classic and traditional beer style guidelines have been cross-referenced with data from commercially available beers representative of the style. The data referenced for this purpose has been Professor Anton Piendl’s comprehensive work published in the German Brauindustrie magazine through the years 1982 to 1994, from the series “Biere Aus Aller Welt.”

Each style description is purposefully written independently of any reference to another beer style. Furthermore, as much as possible, beer character is not described in terms of ingredients or process. These guidelines attempt to emphasize final evaluation of the product and try not to judge or regulate the formulation or manner in which it was brewed, except in special circumstances that clearly define a style.