Alt. Put simply an Altbier has the smoothness of a classic lager with the flavors of an ale. A more rigorous definition must take account of history. Ale brewing in Germany predates the now predominant lager production. As the lager process spread from Bohemia, some brewers retained the top fermenting ale process but adopted the cold maturation associated with lager. Hence the name ’Old Beer’ (Alt means old in German). Altbier is associated with Dusseldorf, Munster, and Hanover. This style of ale is light to medium-bodied, less fruity, less yeasty, and has lower acidity than a traditional English ale. In the US some amber ales are actually in the alt style.
California Common/Steam Beer. This style was the end result of attempting to brew a lager-type beer without access to refrigeration. The high temperature during fermentation leaves a fruitier profile when compared to a true lager. The beers are typically highly carbonated, malty, yet crisp, with a noticeable hop presence.
Cream Ale. Cream Ale is a North American specialty that is a hybrid in style. Despite the name, many brewers use both ale and lager yeasts for fermentation, or more often just lager yeasts. This style of beer is fermented like an ale at warm temperatures, but then stored at cold temperatures for a period of time, much as a lager would be. The resultant brew has the straightforward crisp characteristics of a light pale lager, but is endowed with a hint of the aromatic complexities that ales provide. Pale in color, they are generally more heavily carbonated and more heavily hopped than light lagers.
Kölsch. These German beers are a specialty of Cologne. They are warm-fermented and then cold conditioned, and therefore have some of the characteristics of both an ale and lager. Kölsch are clear and bright beers, very refreshing with lovely citrus accents and sometimes a lightly toasted biscuit-like quality. The beers are hopped, but not fatiguingly so, making the beers highly sessionable.