Shock Top is a multiple-time award-winning beer that has captured many beer lovers’ hearts and taste buds around the United States. Interestingly, the beer was only supposed to be a seasonal offering, but it was too good a beer to be restricted to just one part of the year. However, despite this beer brand having one of the most ardent fan bases in the industry, many still don’t know what kind of beer it is. Let’s provide a quick answer.
Shock Top is best classified as a Belgian witbier. This classification is justified by the beer’s moderate bitterness (IBU of 10), high carbonization, light gold color (SRM of 3), the standard alcohol content of 5.2%, and Shock Top being top-fermented rather than bottom-fermented.
The question of what kind of beer is shock top requires a far more comprehensive answer than the quick one above. Not to worry, though; we will go into more detail in this article about why Shock Top is considered an ale and Belgian witbier. Additionally, we will consider if other variants of Shock Top are Belgian witbiers and if the ber has always had this style.
Sit back and enjoy!
Is Shock Top a Lager or Ale?
The first step to fully classifying beer is to classify it as a lager or ale. Without this foundational classification, no other classification is possible. Lagers and ales differ solely in their fermentation technique during brewing.
Ales are brewed using a particular type of top-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F). Contrarily, lagers are brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) at cold temperatures (35˚–50˚F).
Since Shock Top is fermented with top-fermenting yeast at warm temperatures, it is duly classified as an ale.
What Kind Of Ale Is Shock Top?
At this stage, we have established that Shock Top is an ale. However, this is only the first stage of the beer’s classification as there are several different types of ales today. To further sub-classify Shock Top, we will be using the guidelines of one of the most reputable beer certifying organizations on the planet, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).
The classification of beer as a lager or ale is straightforward; sub-classifying it, not so much. Instead, we need to consider different factors before placing the beer in a sub-classification group.
In concordance with BJCP guidelines, Shock Top is best classified as a Belgian Witbier, a type of Belgian ales. Below we will detail the factors that have been assessed in arriving at this classification.
Why Is Shock Top A Belgian Witbier?
To reach this classification, five factors are considered: bitterness (measured in IBU), color intensity (measured in SRM), original gravity, final gravity, and alcohol by volume of the beer. Let’s examine all of these and how Shock Top compares.
First on the list is the bitterness of the beer. Rather obviously, this factor measures how bitter a beer is and is measured using the International Bitterness Units (IBU). Bitterness increases up the IBU scale, meaning more biter beers have higher IBU.
Per the Beer Judge Certification Program, the IBU range for a Belgian witbier is between 8 and 20. In comparison, Shock Top has an IBU of 10, which is well within the recommended Belgian witbier range. As such, this beer meets the bitterness criterion for Belgian witbiers.
Another relevant factor to consider is the color intensity of the beer, which, as you would imagine, indicates how dark beer is. This metric is measured using the Standard Reference Method. The higher the SRM of a beer, the darker it will be.
For Belgian witbiers, the standard range is between 2 and 4. Shock Top has an SRM of 3, having a light golden color. Therefore, it also complies with the color intensity requirements for Belgian witbiers.
What’s more, the gravity of the beer can help classify it. For sub-classifying beer, the two relevant gravities are original gravity and final gravity, abbreviated as OG and FG, respectively. The beer gravity helps brewers ascertain the alcohol content of the beer before and after brewing.
The original gravity of a beer reflects the sugar content in the wort before fermentation began. Conversely, the final gravity measures the number of unfermentable sugars present in the beer after fermentation.
The Beer Judge Certification Program specifies an original gravity between 1.044 and 1.052 for Belgian witbiers. Shock Top has an estimated OG of around 1.052, which falls within the desired range. Also, Belgian witbiers have a final gravity between 1.008 and 1.012. Concordant to this is Shock Top, with an estimated FG of 1.011.
The final relevant factor for sub-classifying beer is its alcohol content, which measures the pure alcohol present in beer. The Beer Judge Certification Program states that Belgian witbiers should have an ABV between 4.5 and 5.5%. In comparison, Shock Top has an ABV of 5.2%. This is well within the allowed range, and this beer meets the alcohol content requirement for Belgian witbiers.
Shock Top satisfies all of the standard requirements for Belgian witbiers; therefore, it is classified as such.
If you want to find out if we think this is a good example of the style, have a look at our review here.
Has Shock Top Always Been A Witbier?
Shock Top is relatively new in the American beer industry, only hitting the market in 2006. It was supposed to be a seasonal beer and was first brewed under the name Spring Heat Spiced Wheat.
However, the beer did excellently well in the American market, copping awards in its first year. This led to it becoming a year-round available beer. The beer started as a Belgian witbier and has remained one. Along the way, Shock Top Brewing Co. released several variants of the beer, but only the flavor varied, with the Belgian style remaining characteristic of all their beers.
Are All Shock Top Variants Belgian Witbiers?
There are several variants of Shock Top. We will examine some of them below and see if they are all Belgian witbiers.
- Belgian White: This is the flagship product of the Shock Top beers and is a Belgian witbier.
- Raspberry Wheat: This variant is very similar to Shock Top Belgian White and is also a Belgian witbier. Additionally, it has a unique raspberry hint, hence the name.
- Pumpkin Wheat: Again, this variant is similar to Shock Top Belgian White in style, being a Belgian witbier itself. However, it is a seasonal beer made specifically for fall.
- Lemon Shandy: This variant is a Belgian witbier as the flagship. The difference between this beer and Shock Top Belgian White is the natural lemonade flavor it has.
As you can see, all of the variants we have examined here are Belgian witbiers, with differences being only in their flavor profile. The beer brewing company, Shock Top Brewing Co., specializes solely in Belgian-style ales.