Volunteering at a beer festival gets you so much more than just a free t-shirt and beer tokens. Not only are you somebody everybody loves--because you're serving them beer--but you have the power of suggestion. This week at Beer Hawk University, let's learn about which beer styles you should suggest to those thirsty punters.

Beer festivals can be overwhelming! Sometimes there are hundreds of beers and hundreds of breweries. And just when you think you know what you're headed for--it's gone off only to be replaced with something else! There's goes the plan.

If you're volunteering at a beer festival, you're in prime position to help out those now desperate looking people, forlornly standing there with an empty glass. But many times a patron may not know exactly what they're looking for or even what they like. They throw around words they only partially know the meaning to or want to try something completely the opposite of their usual. So let's go through some terminology that is widely used so we can steer people in the right direction.


Ahh yes, we're talking about hops here. Most of the time when somebody wants something hoppy they're talking about something bitter with a lot of flavour (and conversely if they say they DON'T like something hoppy.) Steer them to these styles if hops are their preference:

Double IPA

American IPA (or any IPA, really)

American Pale Ale

English IPA

English Pale Ale




American Amber Ale/Red Ale

Pilsner/Imperial Pilsner

Hoppy Lager

or...anything that says it's been dry-hopped or wet-hopped


It's a bit difficult to describe how "dark" tastes. With that said, when someone says they're looking for something a bit dark, we assume they mean they like malty beers with a medium-medium full body. Malts take centre stage in these beers and they are typically a bit chewy or strong. 

Imperial Stout/Russian Imperial Stout

Milk Stout

Oatmeal Stout

Porter (English or American)

Brown Ale (American or English)

Dark Mild


Belgian Quadrupel/Strong Dark Ale




or...anything that says it's been barrel-aged


Of course lovers of the fruit beer will say they're looking for something fruity. And while there are usually a fair few on at a beer festival sometimes the fruitiness can be hidden in the title. Since those who are looking for something along these lines typically like something sweet and, err, fruity--guide them to these styles:


Berliner Weisse

New England-style IPA

Fruit lambics (Framboise, Kriek)

Flanders Red Ale

Wild Ale

Fruit Beer



American Wheat (sometimes served with actual fruit)


We've all heard it: "I just like a lager". Well, that's not much of a problem at a beer festival. We're not talking your bog-standard lager. Indeed, there are many styles of beer that'll satisfy the thirst-quenching simplicity that a lager-lover is looking for:


Bohemian/Czech Pilsner






Cream Ale

California Common/Steam Beer

Belgian Blond Ale

Surprise Me

These people are the best: they can hardly complain! That and they're a bit adventurous. Which is a good thing because brewers love to roll out some interesting experimental beers at a beer festival. So if someone says that they wouldn't mind something a bit out of the ordinary, here are some speciality styles that brewers can go a bit crazy with:

Rauchbier--this German style is a lager that has been made with smoked malts. The result is a beer that can taste like bacon.

Black IPA--A cross between a porter and an American IPA, the Black IPA features both roasty malts and zesty hops. And whatever else a brewer may decide to do with it.

White IPA--This is essentially an American IPA made with a Belgian yeast strain. So while you've got all of the vibrant hop character from American hops it is contrasted by the distinctive spicy Belgian yeast. This is such an adaptable style and we've seen LOTS of experimentation with this.

Smoked Porter--A mainstay at many beer festival, the smoked porter--or a variant--will be on pretty much every bar. This style is usually the base of a robust American porter but made with smoked malts. Many times there will be chillis added to the brew for an extra-special kick.

Rye Ale--It's in the name: these beers are made with rye, which gives off a distinctive spicy character. There are traditional classics--like the German Roggenbier--or modern versions but either way, rye makes for an interesting beer. 

Vegetable Beer--Yes, we've had beers made with radishes and pumpkins and courgettes. While they usually take on the character of the base style, these interesting concoctions are well-suited for a beer festival because they're like nothing you've had before.

While clearly that's not an exhaustive list, it should be a good help in getting something great into an excited festival-goers glass. Or at the very least, something into yours!

We're wrapping up BHU Unit 2 next week with a cheeky taste of a couple of beers before we head into a review. Until next time--cheers!