The English Strong Ale is a beer of respectable alcoholic strength, traditionally bottled-conditioned and cellared. Can have a wide range of interpretations, but most will have varying degrees of malty richness, late hops and bitterness, fruity esters, and alcohol warmth. Judges should allow for a significant range in character, as long as the beer is within the alcohol strength range and has an interesting ‘British’ character, it likely fits the style. The malt and adjunct flavors and intensity can vary widely, but any combination should result in an agreeable palate experience.
Deep gold to dark reddish-brown color (many are fairly dark). Generally clear, although darker versions may be almost opaque. Moderate to low cream- to light tan-colored head; average retention.
Malty-sweet with fruity esters, often with a complex blend of dried-fruit, caramel, nuts, toffee, and/or other specialty malt aromas. Some alcohol notes are acceptable, but shouldn’t be hot or solventy. Hop aromas can vary widely, but typically have earthy, resiny, fruity, and/or floral notes. The balance can vary widely, but most examples will have a blend of malt, fruit, hops, and alcohol in varying intensities.
Medium to high malt character often rich with nutty, toffee, or caramel flavors. Light chocolate notes are sometimes found in darker beers. May have interesting flavor complexity from brewing sugars. Balance is often malty, but may be well hopped, which affects the impression of maltiness. Moderate fruity esters are common, often with a dark fruit or dried fruit character. The finish may vary from medium dry to somewhat sweet. Alcoholic strength should be evident, though not overwhelming. Diacetyl low to none, and is generally not desirable.
Medium to full, chewy body. Alcohol warmth is often evident and always welcome. Low to moderate carbonation. Smooth texture.