Beer 101Beer 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.
LagerPale 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%
AleAles 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 than 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 AlePale 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 AleAs 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
StoutRoasted 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
PorterPorters 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
PilsnerPilsners 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
Wheat BeerThis 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
Imperial/DoubleAny 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
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.