Beer brewers have to follow rules just like the rest of us, and those rules come from the Brewers Association’s annual Beer Style Guidelines. Food & Wine reports that the American trade group just released its 2021 Beer Style Guidelines, and they include four new-ish beer styles to be officially recognized for the first time: Kentucky Common Beer, Belgian-Style Session Ale, New Zealand-Style Pale Ale, and New Zealand-Style India Pale Ale.
What’s a Kentucky Common Beer, you ask? It’s actually far from new. The Brewer’s Association guidelines explain that the brew is inspired by a style that grew popular in the Louisville area from the Civil War era until Prohibition. “Early 20th century brewing literature mentions a slight tartness developing during fermentation as a characteristic attribute of this style,” the association wrote. “If tartness is present in modern versions, it should be at very low levels.”
The two New Zealand-inspired additions are a little more flexible in nature. Food & Wine reports that New Zealand “made hop history in 2000" with the undeniably intense Nelson Sauvin hop. This new hop variety fed a number of “New Zealand-style” produced around the globe—however, New Zealand hops aren’t actually mentioned in the new styles’ descriptions. A New Zealand-Style Pale Ale is described as “exhibiting [hop] attributes such as tropical fruit, passionfruit, and/or stone-fruit, cut grass and diesel” to create and overall impression that is “a well-integrated easy drinking, refreshing pale ale style with distinctive fruity hop aromas and flavors.”
Meanwhile, a New Zealand-Style IPA also isn’t necessarily tied to New Zealand. It just has to have hop aromas and flavors that are “ﬂoral, fruity (tropical, stone fruit and other), sulfur/diesel-like, citrusy and grassy,” contributing to “a crisp, dry beer rather than a malt-accentuated version” with “dominant” hop attributes.
Finally, the “new” Belgian-Style Session Ale category stemmed from what the BA called “significant revisions.” It’s not technically a new beer style; instead, Food & Wine writes that the “session ale” label essentially serves as a broader catch-all for beers that share “a modest alcohol content of ranging of 2.1 percent to 5 percent ABV.” Want to tap into one of the four new categories? The full 2021 Beer Style Guidelines are available on the Brewers Association’s website.