Types of Beer

Whether you prefer a smooth stout, hoppy pale ale, or a citrusy pilsner, this brew knowledge can help you navigate the growing beer world. By: Michelle Klug

Beer 101

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Beer 101

Beer is nothing new in America - even our first president was a homebrewer. But George Washington never had to navigate trendy craft beer bar menus with 200+ beers. Like wine, beer can have many different ingredients and tastes. Ales and lagers are the two large categories of beers, but many subcategories exist such a pale ales, stouts, and pilsners. This guide will help you get to know different styles of beers so you can expand your palate and become a beer connoisseur.

Lager

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Lager

Pale lagers are what we typically associate with beer. While Bud, Miller, and Coors are big pale lager sellers, many craft lagers have emerged also. Bocks and pilsners are types of lagers. Lagers are distinct from ales because their yeast is bottom-fermenting, meaning the yeast sinks to the bottom and does not release as many flavorful esters as ales.

Color: Light to golden yellow

Taste: Light and carbonated, mild, clean, slightly malty

Alcohol Content: Low, typically 4-5%

 

Ale

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Ale

Ales can range from light to dark, and encompass a variety of flavors and styles. Stouts, pale ales, IPAs, and porters are all ales. Ales are usually more flavorful that lagers and are distinct because they are top-fermented, meaning a thick layer of yeast rises to the top during brewing and releases flavor components called esters.

Color: Light amber to dark brown

Taste: Citrusy, hoppy, full-bodied

Alcohol Content: Medium to high, 5-10+%

 

 

Pale Ale

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Pale Ale

Pale ales have become a major style of beer in America with many variations including amber, blonde, and India pale ales. The slight bitterness and fresh, hoppy taste is balanced by malt flavors.

Color: Amber, not opaque

Taste: Slightly bitter, floral, and fruity

Alcohol Content: 5-10%

 

India Pale Ale

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India Pale Ale

As a crisp, and more full-bodied version of a pale ale, IPAs generally have strong hop, citrus, and floral flavor with a high alcohol content.

Color: Amber to orange, slightly cloudy

Taste: Bitter, piney, floral, citrusy, grassy, or fruity

Alcohol: 6-10%

 

Stout

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Stout

Roasted malts lend a smooth, rich flavor here. Stouts will be dark with low carbonation, and often nitrogen-based with little to no bitterness. Types of stouts include oatmeal, imperial, milk, coffee, chocolate, and dry stout.

Color: Black, opaque

Taste: Smooth, coffee-like, chocolaty, or rich

Alcohol: 4.5-12%

 

 

Porter

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Porter

Porters are slightly lighter than stouts but still maintain a dark, rich taste. They are not as smooth as stouts but are still very full-bodied and complex.

Color: Brown, slightly opague

Taste: Chocolaty, nutty, smooth, and rich

Alcohol: 4.5-8%

Pilsner

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Pilsner

Pilsners are light, clear, crisp lagers that can have a malty citrusy taste.

Color: Light yellow to golden, clear

Taste: Clean, crisp, citrusy, highly-carbonated, mild

Alcohol: 4-5%

 

Wheat Beer

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Wheat Beer

This top-fermented style of beer is naturally cloudy from its brewing process and includes hefeweizens, witbiers, and lambics.

Color: Light yellow to dark golden, cloudy, opaque

Taste: Crisp, fruity, light, sour, banana-like or grainy

Alcohol: 3.5-6%

 

Imperial/Double

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Imperial/Double

Any style of beer can be an imperial or double. These terms refer to a bold-tasting beer that is twice or three times as strong as regular beers. The high alcohol content results from the ingredients (hops and malts) being doubled in the brewing process. These beers will usually be served in a small glass or chalice.

Color: Dark amber to black

Taste: Strong, bold, flavorful, intense, boozy

Alcohol: 8-12%

 

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