Overview for the American Strong Ale

The modern American Strong Ale originated from “Imperial” versions that were crafted of the American Amber Ale and American Red Ale styles. The Strong Ale ranges in color from a deep copper to brown, has a significant malt backbone and is highly hopped with considerable alcohol strength. Its palate is more aggressive and challenging than the American Double IPA but it’s not as strong as an American Barleywine.

Style Expectations

A strong, full-flavored American ale that challenges and rewards the palate with full malty and hoppy flavors and substantial bitterness. The flavors are bold but complementary, and are stronger and richer than average-strength pale and amber American ales.


Medium amber to deep copper or light brown. Moderate-low to medium-sized off-white to light tan head; may have low head retention. Good clarity. Alcohol level and viscosity may present “legs” when glass is swirled.


Medium to high hop aroma, most often presenting citrusy or resiny notes although characteristics associated with other American or New World varieties may be found (tropical, stone fruit, melon, etc.). Moderate to bold maltiness supports hop profile, with medium to dark caramel a common presence, bready or toasty possible and background notes of light roast and/or chocolate noticeable in some examples. Generally exhibits clean to moderately fruity ester profile. Moderate alcohol aromatics may be noticeable, but should not be hot, harsh, or solventy.


Medium to high dextrinous malt with a full range of caramel, toffee, dark fruit flavors. Low to medium toasty, bready, or Maillard-rich malty flavors are optional, and can add complexity. Medium-high to high hop bitterness. The malt gives a medium to high sweet impression on the palate, although the finish may be slightly sweet to somewhat dry. Moderate to high hop flavor. Low to moderate fruity esters. The hop flavors are similar to the aroma (citrusy, resiny, tropical, stone fruit, melon, etc.). Alcohol presence may be noticeable, but sharp or solventy alcohol flavors are undesirable. Roasted malt flavors are allowable but should be a background note; burnt malt flavors are inappropriate. While strongly malty on the palate, the finish should seem bitter to bittersweet. Should not be syrupy and under-attenuated. The aftertaste typically has malt, hops, and alcohol noticeable.


Medium to full body. An alcohol warmth may be present, but not be excessively hot. Any astringency present should be attributable to bold hop bitterness and should not be objectionable on the palate. Medium-low to medium carbonation.


Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale

American Strong Ale  •  Lagunitas Brewing Company

Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale is an American Strong Ale by Lagunitas Brewing Company that blends biting hops and booze with stone fruit and biscuit. Read More

Brown Shugga’

American Strong Ale  •  Lagunitas Brewing Company

Brown Shugga’ is an American Strong Ale by Lagunitas Brewing Company that balances sweet, hoppy and boozy in a rich winter warmer. Read More


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