Beer has been around for centuries, with its discovery stemming back to the Sumerians in Mesopotamia around 4,000 BCE.1 Since then, beer has come a long way and has become integral to many cultures worldwide.
With its vast history, it’s no surprise beer comes in various styles, flavors, and types. However, with endless choices, knowing what beer to choose can be overwhelming. No need to worry, though; Beer 101 is here to help!
If you’re new to the beer-drinking world, this quick guide will introduce you to the world of beer styles and types and make you a beer connoisseur in no time! And, if you're already a beer enthusiast, this guide will help you navigate the sometimes confusing array of beer styles and types.
What we’ll cover in this guide:
- What are the different types of beer?
- Beer terms you should know
- How is beer classified?
What Are The Different Types Of Beer?
All beer can be classified into two primary styles: lagers and ales. The difference between these two styles comes down to the type of yeast used during fermentation and the aging process (time and temperature). Beers then evolve into different types within these two main styles.
Under the broad lager category, there are several beers, including Bocks, German helles, pilsners, Mexican lagers, American lagers, and Vienna lagers. Ales encompass various types, from the popular pale ales and IPAs to wheat beers and stouts.
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These are top-fermenting beers. Typically, they use a special strain of yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) that ferments at warmer temperatures (60–78°F) and floats on the beer while doing its work. These beers tend to be more flavorful and aromatic than lagers and usually takes at least two weeks for the beer to fully ferment.
Let's explore a few of the most popular ale styles:
Brewed with pale malt and hopped with aromatic hops for a distinct flavor, pale ales are light-bodied and widely available. They range in color from golden to deep copper and have a more balanced malt character. Their ABV usually ranges from 4.5 – 6.2%. Types of pale ales include Belgian pale ale, American pale ale, Blonde ale, and English pale ale.
These are malt-focused and flavorful beers. Typically, they are less bitter (due to low hop content) and come in rich caramel, chocolate, nut, or citrus notes. Their color ranges from dark amber to brown, and their ABV usually ranges from 4.3-6.2%. Types of brown ales include English brown ale, American brown ale, and German brown ale.
These beers are brewed with wild yeast and bacteria (lactobacillus) to produce a tart or sour flavor. They can also be flavored with fruits like raspberry, cherry, and/or peach to create a unique sweet-sour taste. Sour ales vary in color from pale to dark, and their ABV usually ranges from 3.2-8%. Types of sour ales include Belgian Lambic beer, Kettle sours, Fruity Flanders ale, and Berliner Weisse beer.
From pale straw to deep brown, wheat beers are light and refreshing. Usually, they are brewed with a mix of wheat and barley. They are known for their smooth flavor and foamy texture. Also, they contain low alcohol content (2.5% to 3% ABV). Examples include Hefeweizens, Belgian Witbiers, and Dunkelweizen.
Lager is the world's most popular beer style. It's brewed with a bottom-fermenting yeast (saccharomyces pastorianus) that ferments at colder temperatures (48°F) and sinks to the bottom of the beer while doing its work. Lagers are typically light-bodied and take longer to fully ferment. In addition, lagers are known for their crisp and refreshing taste.
Let's check out some of the most popular lager styles:
Pilsners are the most popular type of lager. They are highly carbonated and come in golden color. They offer a crisp, clean taste and have high hoppy bitterness (with a maximum IBU of 50). Their ABV usually ranges from 4.1-5.3%. Types of pilsners include Czech pilsner, German pilsner, and American pilsner.
This beer is characterized by its light gold color, low hoppy bitterness, and malty sweetness. It's a refreshing beer that is often enjoyed as a session beer, with alcohol content ranging from 4.7 to 5.4%. The malt profile is the star of this beer, giving it a smooth and clean taste with a subtle sweetness and balanced hop bitterness.
Mexican lagers are a type of lager that originated in Mexico and are now popular worldwide. They are characterized by their light-bodied, crisp, clean taste and pale yellow color. They also have a low hop bitterness and a light malt character. Their ABV usually ranges from 4-5%. Examples include Corona and Modelo.
American lagers are the most widely available type of lager in the US. They are light-bodied and characterized by their crisp, clean taste and pale color. They also have a low hop bitterness and a light malt character. Their ABV usually ranges from 4-5%. Examples include Budweiser, Coors, and Miller.
Vienna lagers are a type of lager that originated in Vienna, Austria, in the 19th century. They are characterized by their amber to copper color and a rich malt flavor that is balanced by a moderate hop bitterness. Their ABV usually ranges from 4.5-5.5%. Examples include Negra Modelo and Dos Equis Amber.
Types Of Stouts
Stouts are dark beers that are characterized by their rich, full-bodied flavor and dark color. They are typically made with roasted malt or barley, which gives them their distinctive dark color and strong, coffee-like flavor. They also have moderate to high hop bitterness and a higher alcohol content (usually around 4-12% ABV).
Let's check out some of the most popular stout styles:
Dry stouts are a type of stout that originated in Ireland and are characterized by their dry, roasted flavor and dark color. They are known for their tad bitter taste. Their ABV usually ranges from 4.2-5.3%. Examples include Guinness, Murphy's, and Beamish.
Also known as cream stouts, these stouts are characterized by their sweet, creamy flavor and dark color thanks to the addition of lactose. They have a low hop bitterness and a medium to full body. Their ABV usually ranges from 4-6%. Examples include Mackeson's XXX Stout, Samuel Adams Cream Stout, and Left Hand Milk Stout.
Oatmeal stouts are a type of stout that are characterized by their smooth, creamy texture and dark color. They are brewed with oats, which give them a unique, silky texture and a slightly sweeter flavor than other stouts. Their ABV usually ranges from 4-6%. Examples include Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, Young's Oatmeal Stout, and Founders Breakfast Stout.
Imperial stouts are a type of stout that is characterized by their high alcohol content, intense sweetness, and dark color. Their ABV usually ranges from 8-12%. Examples include Rogue Imperial Stout, Bell's Expedition Stout, and Three Floyds Dark Lord Imperial Stout.
Types Of IPAs
India Pale Ales (IPAs) are a type of ale that are characterized by their high hop, herbal, citrus, and/or fruity flavors. They were first brewed in England in the 18th century and were specifically formulated to survive the long sea voyage to British troops in India.
Let's check out some of the most popular IPA styles:
New England IPAs
Less bitter IPAs (compared to American IPAs) as hops are added during the fermentation process. They are characterized by their hazy appearance, juicy and fruity flavor, and low bitterness. Moderate alcohol content (5-7% ABV). Examples include Alchemist Focal Banger and Tree House Julius.
Hops are usually added during the “boiling” brewing process, hence their bitter taste. They have an ABV of 5.5-7.5%. Examples include Sierra Nevada IPA, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, and Stone IPA.
Double or Imperial IPAs are a type of IPA that is characterized by their high alcohol content (usually around 7-10% ABV) and intense hop flavor and aroma. Examples include Bell's Hopslam, Russian River Pliny the Elder, and Founders Devil Dancer.
Types Of Porters
Porter is a type of dark beer that originated in London, England, in the 18th century. It is characterized by its rich, full-bodied flavor and dark color, which is created by using roasted malt or barley. It also has a moderate to high hop bitterness and a higher alcohol content (usually around 4-8% ABV).
Let's check out some of the most popular porter styles:
An English porter is a type of porter that is characterized by its dark brown color and rich, malty flavor. They are also known for their smooth texture and slightly sweet finish. Their ABV usually ranges from 4-5%. Examples include Taddy Porter by Samuel Smith Old Brewery and Young's London Porter by Eagle Brewery. .
American porters are a robust type that is characterized by their dark color and rich, complex flavor. They are also known for their strong coffee, chocolate flavors, and dry finish. Their ABV usually ranges from 4.8-6.5%. Examples include RainCloud Porter from Foolproof Brewing Company and the Oatmeal Porter by Zipline Brewing Co.
Baltic porters are a type of porter that originated in the Baltic region and are characterized by their dark color and rich, malty flavor. They are also known for their smooth texture and slightly sweet finish. Their ABV usually ranges from 7-9%. Examples include Sinebrychoff Porter and Okocim Mistrzowski Porter.
What Is The Difference Between An IPA And Craft Beer?
IPA stands for India Pale Ale, a beer style known for its high hop bitterness, aroma, and flavor. It can still be considered a craft beer when it’s brewed by small breweries that focus on the quality of its flavors and uniqueness rather than mass production.
Craft beer, on the other hand, refers to any beer that is made traditionally (in a non-mechanized way) by small, independently-owned breweries that focus on quality and unique flavors rather than mass production.
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Beer Terms You Should Know
There are a few terms that you should know to fully understand the characteristics and qualities of the different styles and types of beer.
What Is ABV?
ABV stands for Alcohol by Volume, and it is a measure of the alcohol content of a beer. It is expressed as a percentage and indicates the amount of ethanol (alcohol) present in a specific volume of beer.
What Is IBU?
IBU stands for International Bitterness Units, and it is a measure of the bitterness of a beer. IBU is a scale that ranges from 0 (no bitterness) to 100+ (very bitter).
How To Taste Beer
Tasting beer is a great way to appreciate the different styles, flavors, and aromas that each beer has to offer. Here is a simple guide on how to taste beer:
Use The Appropriate Glassware
Different types of beer are best served in different types of glassware. Using the appropriate glassware can enhance the overall experience of tasting the beer. For example, tulip glasses enhance the aroma of beers such as IPAs and keep them cold. This improves the flavor of the beer and creates a more enjoyable tasting experience.
Smell The Beer
Before taking a sip, take a moment to smell the beer. The aroma can provide a lot of information about the flavor and style of the beer. Beers with a higher hop content will have a more pronounced aroma, while beers with a higher malt content will have a sweeter aroma.
When it comes to tasting the beer, take a small sip and let it sit on your tongue for a moment before swallowing. Beers with a higher hop content will have a more bitter flavor, while beers with a higher malt content will have a sweeter flavor. Also, pay attention to the mouthfeel of the beer, whether it is creamy, crisp, or dry.
How Is Beer Classified?
The broad classification of beers is determined by the ingredients used (especially the yeast used to ferment the beer) and the brewing process. However, beer can further be classified according to the:
For example, beers can be classified as German, Belgian, English, or American.
Light (4-5% ABV)
Regular (5-7% ABV)
Strong (above 7% ABV)
Beers can be classified as light beers (pilsners, lagers), amber beers (amber ales, brown ales) and dark beers (stouts, porters)
Beers can be fruity, spicy, malty, smoky, and so on.
How To Choose The Right Craft Beer For Me?
With so many different styles and types of craft beer available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for you. Here are a few tips to help you make the best choice:
What Beer Tastes The Best For A Beginner?
If you're new to the world of craft beer, it's best to start with a beer that is easy to drink and has a light taste. Lagers are great options for beginners. They have a light taste and are a little malty.
Consider Your Alcohol Tolerance
It's important to consider your alcohol tolerance when choosing a craft beer. Beers with a higher alcohol content will be more potent and may have a stronger effect on you. It's best to start with a beer that has a low ABV, then work your way up.
Ask For Advice
Another way to choose the right craft beer for you is to ask for advice from a beer expert. They can help you find a beer that fits your taste and preferences. They can also recommend beers that are similar to your favorite beers but with a unique twist.
How many types of beer are there?
There are hundreds of different beer styles that have been developed over the centuries. However, the most common way to classify beer is by its style, which can be broken down into two main categories: ales and lagers.
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What kind of beer is the tastiest?
The tastiest beer is a matter of personal preference. It depends on your taste buds, your mood, and the food you are eating. Some people find light and refreshing beer tastier, while others prefer dark and heavy beer.
What type of beer is Heineken?
Heineken is a type of pilsner lager beer. Pilsner lagers are known for their light color, crispness, and moderate hop bitterness.
What beer style is Corona?
Corona is a type of pale lager beer. It's characterized by its light color, crispness, and moderate hop bitterness. It's a pale lager beer with a 4.5% alcohol content.
What type of beer is Stella Artois?
Stella Artois is often regarded by many as a Belgian pilsner. However, it's a premium pale lager beer with a golden color and a crisp, clean taste. It has a 5.2% ABV, which is slightly higher than most other pilsners, giving it a bold and full-bodied flavor.
Final Thoughts: Beer Basics & Beyond
Beer has a rich history and culture that spans centuries and continents. With so many different styles and types of beer available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for you. However, by understanding the basics discussed above, you can easily find a beer that fits your taste and preferences.
Additionally, if you'd like to get an even greater appreciation for craft beer, get in touch with Spike today! We offer a variety of brewing equipment and supplies to help you get started on your beer-making journey.
Plus, we offer additional support through our how-to videos, featured recipes, and excellent customer service to help you brew the perfect beer.
So, why wait? Shop with us today and explore the exciting world of beer-making. You won't regret it!
Sources:Potent potables of the past: Beer & Brewing in Mesopotamia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/350374205_Potent_Potables_of_the_Past_Beer_Brewing_in_Mesopotamia.