Jargon and buzzwords drone around the beery world like a motorway on a bank holiday weekend. One of the most common words is "balanced". So what does "balanced" mean exactly? Let Beer Hawk help you discover what's behind the patter.

What is a balanced beer?

There's a lot of discussion about what "balance" means with regards to beer flavour. Before getting in to what it's generally referring to, we can tell you what it's not: it's not describing a beer that is bland, muted or otherwise uninteresting. A balanced beer is not a boring beer. In fact, when there's perfect balance to a beer it's one of the most wonderful things you've ever tasted. Achieving the fine dance between malty sweet and bitterness requires great skill from the brewer. Anybody can chuck a bunch of hops in the kettle and surely there'll be a craft beer lover out there who will enjoy it. But finding perfect harmony and still making it interesting? That takes talent.

A cohesion of flavours, where your tongue doesn't know if you're tasting something sweet or something bitter, is primarily what we're looking for in a balanced beer. It's where all parts become one--the hops, the malts, the alcohol. You can pause and focus on individual flavours but the perfect blend is just as interesting. The most exciting thing about balance, however, is that it can be found in many styles of beer. An IPA can be just as balanced as a golden ale. Essentially, a balanced beer doesn't have any one quality shouting over the others. Think of the motorway: a balanced beer is like smooth-running traffic whether it's a little or a lot. An unbalanced beer will have a big American pickup trying to force its way through, horn blaring and pushing other cars out of the way. 

How is a balanced beer made?

As we said, a balanced beer can really come in any style so long as there is generally a cohesive blend of character. We've discussed malty beers and hoppy beers before so imagine balance as in the middle of the two. For argument's sake, we're just discussing the interaction between malt and hops here. We could go on and on about pH balance, the chemical makeup of water, etc. but we all have lives, we're sure.

It's important to remember what each ingredient contributes to the final product. Malts are responsible not only for colour, body and alcohol content but also give beer its sticky sweet foundation. You could theoretically make a beer without hops but that would surely be a bit, well, unbalanced. Hops are responsible for several things but adding bitterness is one of the big ones. It's the bitterness from the hops that tips the scales of the malt's sweet-tooth. When brewers try to create balanced beers they adjust their recipe so that, basically, there's an appropriate ratio between the amounts used. Make sense?

Malts are responsible for a beer's sweetness while hops' bitterness helps tip the scales.

Balanced beers you'll love

If you're still trying to figure it out nothing will help more than tasting it for yourself. Here are our favourite balanced beers:

Siren Liquid Mistress

Fruity citrus notes, caramel malts and roasted undertones are complemented by a smooth bitter finish that gives way to a clean, lingering aftertaste. We love the hint of fruitcake to this Red IPA from Siren.

Founders Dirty Bastard

The Scotch ale style can tend to tilt to the sweet side of things. We love Founder's version because of its bitter character which gives this otherwise sweet beer a certain drinkability. One of our favourites!

Mike Hess Grazias Vienna Cream

While the malt character takes centre stage in this Vienna-style lager there's still a smooth drinkability. Creamy, balanced and goes down a treat.

Harrogate Brew Co. Pinewoods Pale Ale

Perfectly sessionable, this pale ale is a fantastic example of balance in the bottle. Tropical and citrus fruits cosy up to caramelly maltiness while a pleasant bitterness and carbonation cleanse the palate after each sip. It's lovely!

That's a rather varying list of styles represented here just showing that balance and drinkability can be interesting! We hope that if you've been looking for some ying to go with your yang that you've found a new favourite here. Cheers!