The Ultimate Guide to Different Types of Beer (& Non-Alcoholic Alternatives)

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Beer – it’s a beverage that has been shared, enjoyed, and celebrated for thousands of years across cultures worldwide.

From its humble origins in ancient civilizations to its prominence in modern social gatherings, beer has played an integral role in human history. However, beer is much more than just a simple drink; it’s a complex and diverse universe teeming with a multitude of styles, flavors, and traditions.

When it comes to beer, the variety can be overwhelming.

There are countless types and styles, each with its unique characteristics, brewing methods, and flavor profiles. From the fruity and spicy notes in a Belgian Ale to the crisp, malty flavor of a classic Pilsner, and the rich, dark, and creamy texture of a Stout, the world of beer caters to a myriad of palates.

But what if you love the taste of beer, but prefer to do without the alcohol?

The good news is, non-alcoholic beers have made tremendous strides in recent years. For nearly every style of beer, there is a non-alcoholic counterpart that mirrors the taste and experience of traditional beer, without the alcohol content. Whether you are sober-curious, a designated driver, or simply prefer to avoid alcohol, non-alcoholic beers ensure that you can participate in the rich tradition of beer drinking.

The objective of this article is to guide you through the world of beer, demystifying its complexity, and introducing you to the wide range of beer styles – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. By understanding the types of beer that exist and the differences that distinguish them, you can deepen your appreciation of this timeless beverage and make more informed choices about what you drink.

So, grab a pint of your favorite brew, and let’s begin our journey into the world of beer.

The Basic Beer Ingredients

Beer, in its most basic form, is crafted from just four essential ingredients: water, malted grain (usually barley), hops, and yeast. These components come together through a delicate balance and careful process to create the beverage enjoyed by many today. Here’s a closer look at these key elements and how they shape the final product:

Water

Making up about 90-95% of beer, water is undoubtedly the most substantial ingredient in any brew. The quality, mineral content, and purity of water can significantly impact the beer’s overall flavor. Different regions have water with unique mineral compositions, which historically contributed to the development of certain beer styles in those areas.

Malts

Most commonly, the grain used in beer is barley, although wheat, corn, and rye are also used. Barley is malted, which means it is soaked in water until it begins to sprout, and then it’s quickly dried and crushed. This malting process allows the grains to release sugars that the yeast will later consume. The type of malt and the degree to which it’s roasted play a critical role in determining the beer’s color, flavor, and body. Lightly roasted malts will produce lighter, sweeter beers, while heavily roasted malts yield darker, more robust beers with coffee or chocolate-like flavors.

Hops

Hops are flowers added to beer that serve two primary purposes: they impart a bitter taste that balances out the sweetness from the malt, and they contribute to the beer’s aroma. There are numerous varieties of hops, and each provides a unique flavor and aroma profile, ranging from citrusy and floral to piney and earthy. The amount and type of hops used can significantly influence a beer’s bitterness and fragrance.

Because of their importance to flavor and aroma, hops are still used in non-alcoholic beers.

Yeast

Yeast is a microorganism that eats the sugars extracted from the malted barley and produces alcohol, carbon dioxide (which gives beer its carbonation), and a variety of flavor compounds. There are mainly two types of beer yeast: ale yeast and lager yeast, which ferment at different temperatures and result in different flavor profiles. Ale yeast ferments at warmer temperatures and tends to produce a variety of fruity and spicy notes, while lager yeast ferments at cooler temperatures, leading to a cleaner, more crisp and subtle flavor profile.

In conclusion, while the ingredients of beer may seem simple, the variation in their types, proportions, and treatment can create an incredible range of flavors, colors, and aromas. It’s the combination of these ingredients, along with the brewer’s creativity and skill, that make the world of beer so diverse and fascinating.

In the next section, we will delve into the process that brings these ingredients together – the brewing process.

How is Beer Made?

Making beer is a fascinating process that combines science and art, tradition and innovation. While brewing methods can vary widely depending on the style of beer being made, the basic procedure can be broken down into several key stages:

1. Malting

The process begins with malting the grains – usually barley. This involves soaking the grains in water until they germinate, then drying and crushing them to create malt. The malting process allows the grains to release sugars that the yeast will later convert into alcohol.

2. Mashing

The malt is mixed with hot water in a process known as mashing. The heat activates enzymes in the malt which break down the remaining grains into sugars. This mixture, now called mash, is then strained to collect the sugary liquid known as wort.

3. Boiling

The wort is then boiled and hops are added for bitterness, flavor, and aroma. The wort may be boiled for an hour or more, depending on the style of beer. After boiling, the wort is rapidly cooled.

4. Fermentation

Once cooled, the wort is transferred to a fermentation vessel and yeast is added. The yeast consumes the sugars in the wort and produces alcohol, carbon dioxide, and flavor compounds. This stage can last for days or weeks, depending on the type of beer.

5. Conditioning

The beer is then conditioned or lagered. It is stored and allowed to rest for several weeks or months, during which remaining yeast and solids settle, and the flavors continue to develop and mature.

6. Filtration and Carbonation

After conditioning, the beer is often filtered to remove any remaining solids, and if necessary, carbonated to achieve the desired level of fizziness.

7. Bottling and Packaging

The final step is bottling or packaging the beer. The beer can be filled into bottles, cans, kegs, or casks, ready to be distributed and enjoyed.

Brewing Non-Alcoholic Beer

It’s important to note that non-alcoholic beer undergoes a very similar brewing process. The key difference lies in an additional step to remove or limit the alcohol content. This can be achieved in a couple of ways:

  1. Low-Temperature Distillation: Here, the beer is heated gently, and since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, it evaporates first. The evaporated alcohol is then removed, resulting in non-alcoholic beer.
  2. Interrupted Fermentation: In this process, the brewer stops the fermentation process before the yeast has a chance to produce much alcohol. This can be achieved by cooling the beer rapidly or by using yeast strains that produce little alcohol.

Both methods retain the traditional beer flavors while keeping the alcohol content to a minimum. Whether you’re reaching for a classic IPA, a refreshing lager, or a non-alcoholic alternative, there’s a rich history and careful process behind every sip.

Now that we’ve explored how beer is made, let’s delve into the various styles of beers that this process creates.

Lager vs Ale: What’s the Difference?

While the world of beer is vast and varied, all beers can broadly be classified into two fundamental categories: ales and lagers. These two types are distinguished by the kind of yeast used during fermentation and the fermentation conditions, which directly influence the beer’s flavor and character.

Ales

Ales are among the oldest types of beer and are known for their robust flavors and aromas. They are brewed using a type of yeast known as ‘Saccharomyces cerevisiae,’ commonly referred to as top-fermenting yeast. This is because the yeast ferments near the surface of the beer at relatively warmer temperatures, between 60-75°F (15-24°C).

During this process, the yeast produces a variety of byproducts, including esters and phenols, which contribute to the complex, often fruity and spicy, flavor profile of ales. This type of yeast also ferments quickly, meaning ales can be produced in a shorter timeframe compared to lagers. Some popular styles of ales include Pale Ales, Stouts, Porters, and Wheat Beers.

Lagers

Lagers, on the other hand, are brewed with a yeast strain known as ‘Saccharomyces pastorianus,’ a bottom-fermenting yeast that prefers cooler fermentation temperatures, usually between 45-55°F (7-13°C). As the name suggests, this yeast ferments at the bottom of the beer.

The lower temperatures slow down the fermentation process, leading to a longer, more extended period for lagering or conditioning. This results in a beer with cleaner, crisper flavors, allowing the malt and hops to shine through without being overshadowed by yeast-derived flavors. Lagers tend to be light to medium-bodied with a smooth, mellow taste. There are many different styles of lagers, including Pilsners, Märzens, Bocks, and Dunkels.

In summary, while ales and lagers share the same basic ingredients, the different yeast strains and fermentation conditions yield beers with distinctly different characters. In the sections that follow, we’ll explore an array of specific ale and lager styles, diving deeper into their unique flavors, histories, and brewing techniques.

Some Technical Terms

As you delve deeper into the world of beer, you may come across several technical terms, abbreviations, and jargon used by brewers and beer enthusiasts. Understanding these terms can greatly enhance your beer tasting experience and provide a more in-depth appreciation of the beverage. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used beer terminologies:

1. ABV (Alcohol By Volume)

ABV is a standard measure used worldwide to quantify the amount of alcohol (ethanol) contained in a beverage. It is expressed as a percentage of total volume. The ABV gives you a rough estimation of the beer’s strength. For instance, a beer with an ABV of 5% means that 5% of the total volume of the beer is pure alcohol.

See our ABV Calculator

2. IBU (International Bitterness Units)

IBUs measure the amount of isomerized alpha acids in a beer, which come from hops and contribute to a beer’s bitterness. The higher the IBU, the more bitter the beer will taste. However, perceived bitterness can vary based on the balance with malt sweetness. A beer with a high IBU may not taste as bitter if it also has a high malt content.

Learn more about IBU and its impact on the taste of your beer.

3. SRM (Standard Reference Method)

SRM is a scale that measures the color intensity of a beer. It’s determined by the malt’s color and amount used in the beer. The scale ranges from the palest lagers, which are around a 2, to the darkest stouts or porters, which can exceed 40.

Learn more about SRM and beer color.

4. Gravity

In brewing terminology, gravity refers to the sugar concentration in the wort (unfermented beer). Brewers often refer to ‘original gravity’ (OG) and ‘final gravity’ (FG). OG is the sugar concentration before fermentation, and FG is the concentration after fermentation. The difference between the OG and FG helps brewers calculate the ABV.

5. Body

The body of a beer describes its thickness or mouthfeel on a scale from thin to full. Beers with a higher malt or alcohol content usually have a fuller body.

6. Session Beer

A session beer is a beer with a relatively low alcohol content, meaning you can drink several over a “session” and still maintain a level of sobriety. These beers are usually characterized by their balance and ability to deliver great flavor while maintaining a lower ABV, typically under 5%.

Understanding these terminologies can enrich your beer-drinking experience, giving you a more nuanced perspective and a greater appreciation for this intricate and diverse beverage.

Types of Beer

Across the globe, beer styles vary wildly, yet all stem from these essential ingredients.

From the light, crisp, and subtly flavored Pilsners and Lagers to the dark, robust Stouts and Porters with their notes of chocolate and coffee. Moving towards the hoppy end of the spectrum, there are IPAs and Pale Ales, boasting a bitterness balanced with a medley of fruity, floral, or piney notes.

And let’s not forget about the burgeoning non-alcoholic beer market, providing the full spectrum of beer flavors without the buzz.

Each beer style holds its unique allure, and exploring them is an adventure that invites you to savor, appreciate, and celebrate the extraordinary range of this age-old beverage.

So let’s take a look at some of the most popular style of beers.

Amber Ale

Amber Ales, sometimes known as Red Ales, are a versatile and approachable style of beer that holds a cherished spot in the craft beer world. Their color ranges from amber to deep reddish-gold and they boast a well-rounded flavor profile that strikes a balance between malt and hops.

Typical ABV4.5% – 6.5%
Typical IBU20 – 40
Flavor ProfileBalanced taste with notes of caramel, toffee, and toasted bread. Moderate hop bitterness, can have hints of fruity esters.
ColorAmber to deep reddish-gold.
Food PairingsGrilled meats, sausages, aged cheddar, burgers, spicy dishes.
Country of OriginUnited Kingdom, but popularized and varied in the United States.

Amber ales originated in the United Kingdom, but have been enthusiastically adopted by American craft brewers, with each putting their unique spin on this traditional style. The malt profile of these beers can be complex, often delivering notes of caramel, toffee, and toasted bread. This is beautifully counterbalanced by a moderate hop bitterness and some versions also offer a hint of fruity esters.

While it’s the unmistakable amber hue that lends these ales their name, it’s their harmonious blend of flavors that makes them a perennial favorite among beer enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike.

American Lager

American Lagers represent a significant part of the history of beer in the United States and are among the most widely consumed beer styles in the country. These lagers were influenced by European immigrants who brought their brewing techniques to America, and over time, they evolved into a style that is distinctively American.

Typical ABV4.0% – 5.0%
Typical IBU8 – 20
Flavor ProfileMild flavor, typically with notes of grains, corn, or rice, and a slight hint of hop bitterness.
ColorPale straw to golden.
Food PairingsFried foods, light seafood, chicken, salads, or mild cheeses.
Country of OriginUnited States.

The American Lager is generally light in color, crisp, clean, and very refreshing. These beers are characterized by a mild flavor profile, with a balance tilted more towards malts than hops. They exhibit subtle notes of grains, corn, or rice, with a faint hint of hop bitterness.

This style of beer is known for its high level of carbonation and its light body, which make it an excellent thirst quencher. It’s a popular choice for social occasions, barbecues, and warm weather gatherings.

American Pale Ale

American Pale Ale, often abbreviated as APA, is a style of beer that emerged as part of the craft beer revolution in the United States in the early 1980s. Inspired by the classic British Pale Ale, American brewers took the style and made it their own, using locally grown Cascade hops, which impart a distinctive citrusy aroma and flavor.

Typical ABV4.5% – 6.2%
Typical IBU30 – 50
Flavor ProfileBalanced with citrusy, floral hop bitterness and caramel malt sweetness.
ColorAmber to deep golden.
Food PairingsGrilled meats, fish, spicy dishes, sharp cheddar cheese, caramel or buttery desserts.
Country of OriginUnited States.

APAs are typically medium-bodied and coppery-gold in color, with a crisp, moderately high hop bitterness balanced by a solid malt backbone. Flavor profiles often feature floral and citrusy notes from the hops, along with a touch of caramel sweetness from the malt. The finish is typically dry, encouraging another sip.

The American Pale Ale style was truly solidified with the success of Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, which remains a quintessential example of the style. Today, APAs are a staple in the craft beer world, loved for their refreshing, hop-forward character that is approachable yet full of flavor. They represent the innovation and spirit of American craft brewing.

Barley Wine

Barley Wine is a strong, complex beer style that originated in England. Despite the name, Barley Wine is very much a beer, with the term “wine” reflecting the high alcohol content that’s closer to wine than most beers. Barley Wines are brewed from specific gravities as high as those of wine, hence their alcohol content.

Typical ABV8.0% – 12.0% (Some versions can reach upwards of 15%)
Typical IBU50 – 120
Flavor ProfileRich and malty, with notes of caramel, toffee, and dark fruit. Can be quite sweet, but typically balanced by strong hop bitterness.
ColorRanges from amber to dark brown.
Food PairingsBarley Wine pairs well with hearty, robust dishes like stews or roasted meats. Its sweetness also makes it a good match for strong, blue cheeses and rich desserts.
Country of OriginEngland.

This style is known for its rich and intense flavors, often showcasing deep malt complexity, with notes of caramel, toffee, and dark fruit. Barley Wines can be quite sweet, but this is usually balanced by a strong bitterness from the hops. Many versions, especially American ones, are also characterized by a prominent hop aroma.

Barley Wine is a beer to be savored and respected. It’s often best enjoyed in a small quantity, similar to how one might drink a glass of wine. Its rich, complex flavor profile makes it a great choice for a special occasion, or simply as a warming brew on a cold evening. Whether you’re enjoying an English classic or an American interpretation, a Barley Wine offers a beer experience unlike any other.

Bock

Bock is a traditional style of German lager that is stronger than your typical lager and known for its rich, complex, and smooth character. Originating from the northern German city of Einbeck during the 14th century, the style was later adopted by Munich brewers in the 17th century and evolved into the Bock we know today.

Typical ABV6.3% – 7.5%
Typical IBU20 – 30
Flavor ProfileHigh malt sweetness with flavors of toasted bread, caramel, and toffee. Low bitterness with minimal hop flavor.
ColorDeep amber to dark brown.
Food PairingsHearty dishes like stews, roasted meats, smoked sausages, and rich desserts like chocolate cake.
Country of OriginGermany.

Bocks are typically deep amber to dark brown in color, with a high malt sweetness and a robust body. They have a toasted or baked bread quality, often with flavors of caramel, toffee, and sometimes a hint of chocolate. Despite their richness, they remain clean and crisp, with a well-hidden alcohol content and a very low hop profile.

In Germany, Bocks are traditionally associated with special occasions and religious festivals, such as Christmas, Easter, and Lent. However, their full-bodied smoothness and complex malt flavors make them a delicious choice for any beer lover at any time. Variations on the Bock style include Maibock, Doppelbock, and Eisbock, each offering their unique take on this venerable beer tradition.

Blonde Ale

Blonde Ales, also known as Golden Ales, are a modern American style that blends simplicity and sophistication. They’re designed to be approachable and easy-drinking, making them a popular choice for those who are new to craft beer or those looking for a light, refreshing option.

Typical ABV4.0% – 5.5%
Typical IBU15 – 25
Flavor ProfileMild and balanced, with subtle malt sweetness and a hint of hop bitterness. Some may have a slight fruitiness.
ColorLight gold to deep gold.
Food PairingsLight foods such as chicken, salads, salmon, or mild cheeses. Blonde ales also work well with spicy foods.
Country of OriginUnited States.

Blonde Ales are typically light gold to deep gold in color and known for their clean, smooth, and well-balanced character. They showcase a delicate balance between mild-to-moderate hop bitterness and a sweet, biscuity malt character. The finish is usually dry, making these beers feel crisp and refreshing.

Flavor profiles can range from slightly malty to almost neutral, allowing the subtle flavors of the malt and hops to shine through. Some versions may also have a slight fruitiness.

Blonde Ales are a versatile style that can be enjoyed in a variety of settings, from summer barbecues to casual dining. Their light, well-rounded character makes them a great match for a wide range of foods and a satisfying choice for beer drinkers of all kinds.

Dunkel

Dunkel, which translates to “dark” in German, is a traditional style of dark lager that originated in Bavaria. Dunkels were the original lagers of the world before the advent of paler versions. They are characterized by their smooth, malty flavor and dark color, which ranges from deep copper to dark brown.

Typical ABV4.5% – 6.0%
Typical IBU18 – 28
Flavor ProfilePredominantly malty with flavors of toasted bread crusts, chocolate, and nuts. Low bitterness with minimal hop flavor.
ColorDeep copper to dark brown.
Food PairingsTraditional German foods like bratwurst and pretzels, as well as roast pork, grilled chicken, and chocolate-based desserts.
Country of OriginGermany.

Dunkels have a robust malt profile, typically with flavors of toasted bread crusts, chocolate, nuts, and sometimes a hint of caramel. Despite their dark color and rich flavors, Dunkels are often medium-bodied and quite smooth, with a clean, crisp finish characteristic of lagers. They exhibit low bitterness and any hop flavors are usually quite subdued.

Dunkels represent the traditional, time-honored flavors of Bavarian brewing. While they might not boast the hoppy punch of an IPA or the intense richness of a stout, Dunkels offer a complex and satisfying array of malty flavors that can be appreciated by both beer novices and connoisseurs alike. They’re a delightful reminder of the history and tradition inherent in the world of beer.

English Pale Ale

English Pale Ales, often referred to as Bitter, have a rich history in the UK and remain one of the country’s most popular beer styles. They were one of the first styles to be pale in color, thanks to the use of coke (a type of coal) for roasting malt, which resulted in a lighter, less smoky beer.

Typical ABV3.8% – 6.0%
Typical IBU20 – 40
Flavor ProfileBalanced interplay between malt and hops. Earthy, herbal hop flavors paired with biscuity malt sweetness.
ColorGolden to copper.
Food PairingsTraditional British fare like fish and chips, roast chicken, or bangers and mash. Also pairs well with mild or medium cheeses.
Country of OriginUnited Kingdom.

These ales are characterized by their balance and the interplay between malt and hops. They often showcase British hop varieties, which lend a range of flavors from earthy and herbal to floral and slightly fruity. The malt provides a solid backbone, often with notes of biscuit, toast, or a light caramel sweetness.

English Pale Ales are generally more subdued and less hop-forward than their American counterparts. They’re known for their drinkability and the delicate balance of flavors they offer.

Whether you’re in a historic pub in London or sampling craft beers in a modern taproom, an English Pale Ale is a testament to the tradition and craftsmanship of brewing. Their balance and approachability make them a beer style that’s enjoyed by many, and a great introduction to the broader world of ales.

German Helles

The German Helles, or simply “Helles,” is a traditional style of German lager known for its light color and refined taste. “Helles” in German translates to “bright,” “light,” or “pale,” reflecting the beer’s appearance. First brewed in Munich in 1894 as a response to the popular Pilsners coming out of Czech Bohemia, Helles has become a staple in Bavarian beer gardens.

Typical ABV4.7% – 5.4%
Typical IBU16 – 22
Flavor ProfileSlightly sweet, bready malt profile balanced by low hop bitterness. Hints of honey or toast from the malt, with a light floral or spicy note from the hops.
ColorPale gold to light amber.
Food PairingsTraditional German foods like pretzels and sausages, as well as grilled chicken, seafood, and mild, creamy cheeses.
Country of OriginGermany.

Helles beers are noted for their delicate balance, featuring a slightly sweet, bready malt profile and low hop bitterness. The malt provides flavors that hint at honey or toast, while the hops, though not dominant, lend a light floral or spicy note. Despite their understated profile, Helles beers are full-bodied and flavorful, with a clean, crisp finish typical of lagers.

German Helles is a testament to the power of balance and subtlety in brewing. It’s a beer style that doesn’t shout for attention but instead wins you over with its understated, finely tuned flavors. Whether enjoyed in a Munich beer garden or at home, a Helles is a supremely drinkable beer that’s always satisfying.

Gose

Gose is a historical beer style that originated from Goslar, Germany, and is named after the Gose River. This style almost disappeared in the mid-20th century but has experienced a revival in recent years, especially among American craft breweries.

Typical ABV4.2% – 4.8%
Typical IBU10 – 12
Flavor ProfileTart, lemon-like sourness, a herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness. Coriander often adds a spicy or peppery note.
ColorCloudy yellow.
Food PairingsGose pairs well with light and fresh dishes, such as salads, seafood, and grilled chicken. It also complements rich, creamy dishes by cutting through the fat.
Country of OriginGermany.

Gose is a top-fermented beer style known for its sourness and high level of carbonation. It’s brewed with at least 50% malted wheat, which gives the beer a cloudy yellow color and a refreshing crispness. What sets Gose apart is its unique flavor profile: it is characterized by a tart, lemon sourness, a herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (from added salt). Coriander is often added to provide a spicy or peppery note.

Gose is a unique and intriguing beer style that offers a complex array of flavors. Its refreshing sourness and distinct salty note make it a highly enjoyable choice, especially during warmer months. While it may not be for everyone, those who appreciate tart, sour beers will find much to love in a well-crafted Gose.

Hefeweizen

Hefeweizen, often referred to as “Weissbier” or “Weizenbier,” is a traditional style of wheat beer from Bavaria, Germany. “Hefe” translates to yeast, denoting the beer’s unfiltered status, leaving yeast in suspension which gives the beer its characteristic cloudy appearance.

Typical ABV4.3% – 5.6%
Typical IBU10 – 15
Flavor ProfileDominant flavors of banana and clove imparted by the yeast, alongside a wheaty, slightly creamy, and often slightly tart or sour character.
ColorStraw to light amber, typically hazy or cloudy.
Food PairingsLight foods such as seafood, sushi, or salads. The banana and clove flavors can also complement desserts or dishes with similar spices.
Country of OriginGermany.

Hefeweizens are known for their unique yeast strain, which imparts flavors of banana and clove, a combination not found in any other style of beer. They are also marked by a low hop profile and high carbonation, but they are ultimately different from the Pilsner style.

Hefeweizens are a unique style of beer that brings something different to the table. Their distinct flavor profile and refreshing qualities make them an excellent choice for those seeking a break from the more hop-centric styles. Enjoyed in a tall, slender glass to showcase its hazy beauty, a Hefeweizen is a testament to the versatility and range of flavors in the world of beer.

India Pale Ale

India Pale Ale, widely known as IPA, is a beer style that originated in the United Kingdom but has become a staple in the American craft beer scene. The style was initially developed in the 18th century for export to the British colonies in India, hence the name. The brewers increased the amount of hops and alcohol in the beer to help preserve it during the long sea journey.

Typical ABV5.5% – 7.5% (for traditional English and American IPAs, though this can go much higher for Double or Imperial versions)
Typical IBU40 – 60 (can be much higher in American or Double/Imperial versions)
Flavor ProfileProminent hop bitterness, with flavors and aromas that can range from citrusy and fruity to floral and piney, depending on the hop varieties used. The malt profile is usually moderate, providing some balance to the hops.
ColorGolden to reddish amber.
Food PairingsSpicy foods, grilled meats, or strong, aged cheeses. The hop bitterness can balance out spicy heat and stand up to rich, flavorful dishes.
Country of OriginUnited Kingdom.

IPAs are characterized by strong hop bitterness, floral, fruity, or piney aromas, and higher alcohol content. Over time, several variations of the style have emerged, including English, American, Double or Imperial, and New England IPAs, each with its unique characteristics.

Today, the IPA is one of the most popular and varied styles in the craft beer world, particularly in the United States. Its bold flavors and seemingly limitless potential for variation have made it a favorite among craft brewers and beer lovers alike. Whether you prefer the traditional English versions or the hop-heavy American ones, there’s an IPA out there for almost every palate.

Kölsch

Kölsch is a unique style of beer originating from Cologne, Germany. It’s known for its clear, bright, straw-yellow hue and its distinctive brewing process. Kölsch is a top-fermented beer, similar to ales, but then it undergoes a lagering period at cold temperatures, much like lagers. This hybrid brewing method gives the Kölsch its characteristic light, crisp, and refreshing qualities.

Typical ABV4.4% – 5.2%
Typical IBU18 – 30
Flavor ProfileSubtly complex, offering a softly fruity and vinous character, balanced by a clean, crisp finish. Mild hop bitterness and slight sweetness from the malt.
ColorClear, bright, straw-yellow.
Food PairingsTraditional German fare, such as bratwurst and sauerkraut, as well as lighter foods like salads, seafood, or chicken.
Country of OriginGermany.

The flavor profile of a Kölsch is subtly complex, offering a softly fruity and vinous character from the ale fermentation, which is then balanced by a clean, crisp finish thanks to the lagering. It’s typically mildly hopped, allowing for a slight sweetness from the Pilsner malt to shine through.

Kölsch is a testament to the German tradition of beer brewing, blending the characteristics of ales and lagers to create a unique, refreshing style. Its delicate balance of flavors and high drinkability make it a wonderful beer to enjoy on any occasion. Whether savored in a traditional German beer garden or enjoyed at home, a Kölsch is always a satisfying choice.

Lambic

Lambic is a type of beer brewed in the Pajottenland region of Belgium, southwest of Brussels. Lambic beers are a showcase of traditional brewing methods, being fermented spontaneously with wild yeasts and bacteria native to the region, instead of with cultivated brewer’s yeast.

Typical ABV5.0% – 7.0%
Typical IBU0 – 10
Flavor ProfileDry, vinous, and cidery, with a tart, sour character. Often has notes of funk, fruit, or oak.
ColorVaries depending on type, from pale yellow (unfruited) to deep red or pink (fruited).
Food PairingsLambic pairs well with a wide range of foods, from rich, creamy cheeses to lighter options like salads and seafood. The tart, fruity flavors make it a great partner for desserts as well.
Country of OriginBelgium.

Lambics are typically dry, vinous, and cidery, with a slightly sour aftertaste. They often have a tart, sour flavor profile that can be quite complex, with notes of funk, fruit, or oak depending on the specific variety. It’s common to find Lambics that have been fermented or aged with cherries (Kriek) or raspberries (Framboise), adding fruit flavor and sweetness to balance the tart base beer.

Lambic beers are a unique expression of their place of origin, reflecting the character of the wild yeast and bacteria present in the Belgian countryside. They offer a complex array of flavors and a tart, refreshing character that’s unlike any other type of beer. Whether you’re trying a traditional unblended Lambic or a fruit-infused variation, you’re in for a unique and memorable beer experience.

Marzens

Märzen is a traditional German lager that originated in Bavaria. It’s also known as Oktoberfest beer, as it is the style traditionally served at the Oktoberfest festival in Munich. The term “Märzen” comes from the German word for March, as this beer was historically brewed in March and allowed to lager in cool cellars during the summer months, ready to be consumed by autumn.

Typical ABV5.8% – 6.3%
Typical IBU18 – 24
Flavor ProfileRich and toasty malt character, with notes of bread and sometimes caramel. Clean, with a balanced hop bitterness.
ColorDeep golden to amber.
Food PairingsMärzen pairs well with traditional German fare, including sausages, pretzels, and sauerkraut. It’s also great with pork, roast chicken, and hearty, cheesy dishes.
Country of OriginGermany.

Märzens are characterized by their clean, rich, and toasty malt character, showcasing notes of bread and sometimes caramel, but without any residual sweetness. They have a full body and a deep golden to amber color. The hop presence is generally low to moderate and serves to balance the malt flavor rather than stand out.

Märzen is a beer that captures the spirit of traditional German brewing and Oktoberfest celebrations. Its rich malt profile, balanced character, and clean finish make it a satisfying and festive choice. Whether you’re hoisting a stein at Oktoberfest or enjoying a Märzen at home, this beer is a toast to tradition and good times.

Pilsner

The Pilsner beer style originated in the city of Plzeň, in what is now the Czech Republic, and it has since become one of the most popular styles of lager worldwide. The first Pilsner was brewed in 1842, and its clear, golden appearance — a sharp departure from the darker, murkier beers of the day — quickly made it a sensation.

Typical ABV4.5% – 5.5%
Typical IBU25 – 45
Flavor ProfileA balance of malt sweetness and hop bitterness, with the hops often contributing floral, spicy, or herbal notes. Crisp, clean, and refreshing.
ColorLight straw to golden, with crystal clear clarity.
Food PairingsVersatile food pairings ranging from spicy dishes (where the beer’s crispness can balance heat) to lighter fare like seafood, chicken, or salads. Also pairs well with a wide variety of cheeses.
Country of OriginCzech Republic.

Pilsners are characterized by their light straw to golden color and crystal clear clarity. They’re typically crisp and refreshing, with a balanced profile of malt sweetness and hop bitterness. The hop presence is more notable in Pilsners than in many other lager styles, often contributing floral, spicy, or herbal notes. Although similar, there are differences between Pilsners and Helles style lagers.

Pilsners have inspired countless brewers worldwide and led to variations like the German Pilsner, which is often a bit drier and more bitter, and the American Pilsner, which can feature native hop varieties. Regardless of the variation, the Pilsner style is a showcase for both malt and hops, delivering a balanced, crisp, and refreshing beer.

Porter

Porter is a style of beer that originated in London in the 18th century. It was named after its popularity with the city’s river porters, who found the hearty, robust beer to be a satisfying end to a hard day’s work. The Porter style played a significant role in beer history and is the precursor to the Stout, which started as a stronger version of Porter known as “Stout Porter.”

Typical ABV4.0% – 6.5%
Typical IBU20 – 40
Flavor ProfileComplex flavors of chocolate, caramel, and coffee from the use of dark malts. Can range from fairly balanced to quite malt-forward.
ColorDark brown to almost black.
Food PairingsHearty foods like roasted or grilled meats, smoked foods, and strong cheeses. The chocolate and coffee notes also make Porters a great match for desserts.
Country of OriginUnited Kingdom.

Porters are known for their dark, almost black color, and complex flavors of chocolate, caramel, and coffee, derived from the use of dark malts. They are typically medium to full-bodied, with a creamy mouthfeel. Porters can range from being fairly balanced to showcasing a significant malty sweetness, with the hop bitterness playing a more supporting role.

Porters are a cherished style among those who love dark beers. Their robust flavors, hearty character, and historical significance make them a fascinating style to explore. Whether you’re enjoying a classic British Porter or trying one of the many modern interpretations, a Porter offers a depth and complexity that is sure to satisfy.

Saison

Saison, French for “season,” is a pale ale that is highly carbonated, fruity, spicy, and often bottle conditioned. Originally brewed in the Wallonia region of Belgium during the cooler and less active months for farm workers to drink during the summer months, Saisons have gained international popularity, and are now brewed year-round by many craft breweries around the world.

Typical ABV4.5% – 6.5%
Typical IBU20 – 35
Flavor ProfileFruity and spicy, with notes of pepper and citrus. Saisons finish dry and are highly carbonated.
ColorPale to golden orange.
Food PairingsSaison pairs well with a wide variety of foods, from seafood and poultry to grilled vegetables and goat cheese.
Country of OriginBelgium.

The Saison flavor profile can be quite complex, with a broad range of flavors and aromas due to the use of various grains and spices, as well as the strain of yeast. This style is known for its distinctive fruity and spicy notes, with peppery and citrusy flavors often apparent. Despite its complexity, a Saison finishes quite dry, and the high carbonation level gives it a refreshing quality.

The Saison is a testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of the Belgian farmhouse brewers. It’s a style that offers a lot of room for variation and experimentation, which makes it a favorite among craft brewers. Whether you’re enjoying a traditional Belgian Saison or a modern interpretation, this beer style is a feast for the senses.

Sour

Sour beers encompass a broad range of beer styles known for their intentionally acidic, tart, or sour taste. These beers have a long history, originating from traditional brewing methods across different cultures, including Belgian Lambics and German Berliner Weisses. Today, modern brewing techniques have also given rise to American-style sours using controlled methods for introducing souring bacteria and wild yeasts.

Typical ABVThis can vary widely depending on the specific style, but many sour beers fall in the 3% – 7% range.
Typical IBUGenerally low, often less than 20, as bitterness can clash with sour flavors.
Flavor ProfileCharacterized by a tart, acidic flavor profile. Can also present fruity, funky, or earthy notes depending on the style and brewing technique.
ColorThis can vary widely depending on the specific style, from pale straw to deep amber or even darker.
Food PairingsSour beers can pair well with a wide range of foods due to their acidity. They work well with rich, fatty foods as the acidity can cut through the richness. Also pairs well with shellfish and tangy, sharp cheeses.
Country of OriginVarious, with notable traditional styles originating from Belgium and Germany.

Sour beers are characterized by their sharp, tart, and refreshing flavor profile. Depending on the specific style and brewing techniques, sour beers may also present fruity, funky, or earthy notes. Their acidity levels and flavor complexity can vary significantly, from mildly tart to intensely sour, and they are often considered similar to Gose beers.

Sour beers are an exciting style for those looking to explore a different side of beer. Their unique flavor profile and wide range make them a favorite among craft beer enthusiasts. Whether it’s the subtle tartness of a Berliner Weisse or the intense sour punch of an American wild ale, sour beers offer a refreshing and complex alternative to more traditional beer styles.

Stout

Stout is a dark, top-fermented beer with a history dating back hundreds of years. It evolved from porter, a dark beer popular in London during the 18th century. Stout originally referred to a stronger, fuller-bodied version of porter, called “stout porter.” Over time, “porter” was dropped, and the beer became known simply as “stout.”

Typical ABV4% – 12% (can be higher for certain styles like Russian Imperial Stout)
Typical IBU20 – 50 (can be higher for certain styles)
Flavor ProfileStrong, roasty flavors, often showcasing notes of coffee, chocolate, and sometimes caramel. Can range from dry to sweet, depending on the style.
ColorVery dark brown to black.
Food PairingsHearty foods like steak, BBQ, and stews. They also pair well with desserts, especially those featuring chocolate, and oysters.
Country of OriginUnited Kingdom.

Stouts are known for their rich, dark color and strong, roasty flavors, often showcasing notes of coffee, chocolate, and sometimes caramel. They are typically full-bodied and can range from dry to sweet, depending on the style. The most well-known stout style today is probably the Irish Dry Stout, exemplified by brands like Guinness, but there are many other variations, including Sweet or Milk Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Chocolate Stout, and Russian Imperial Stout.

Stout is a style that offers a wide range of flavors and aromas. Its variations provide a spectrum of experiences, from the smooth and sessionable Irish Dry Stout to the bold and robust Russian Imperial Stout. For those who appreciate the darker side of beer, exploring the many faces of stout can be a richly rewarding journey.

If you like stouts, but wish to try alcohol free versions, why not check out our list of top non-alcoholic stouts?

Tripel

Tripel is a style of beer that originated in Belgium, named for the brewing process’s traditional practice of using up to three times the amount of malt than a standard Trappist “Simple.” These strong pale ales are known for their complex and refined characteristics.

Typical ABV7.5% – 9.5%
Typical IBU20 – 40
Flavor ProfileComplex with notes of fruits (often banana), spices, and sometimes a hint of grainy sweetness, balanced by moderate hop bitterness. Effervescent and surprisingly light on the palate.
ColorDeep yellow to gold.
Food PairingsRich dishes like roasted meats, creamy sauces, and strong, creamy cheeses. The high carbonation and alcoholic strength make it a good palate cleanser.
Country of OriginBelgium.

Tripels are deep yellow to gold in color and are typically high in alcohol content, yet they display a surprising lightness on the palate and a crisp, dry finish, which can be dangerously deceptive. The flavor profile is complex with notes of fruits (often banana), spices, and sometimes a hint of grainy sweetness, balanced by a moderate hop bitterness. Despite their richness, Tripels are effervescent, with high carbonation levels achieved by bottle conditioning, a process in which sugar and yeast are added at bottling to create a secondary fermentation.

Tripels are a testament to the skill and craft of Belgian brewing. They combine power and finesse, presenting layers of complexity while remaining approachably easy to drink. Whether you’re savoring one from an esteemed Trappist brewery or exploring a modern interpretation of the style, a Tripel is a beer to be savored and respected.

Vienna Lager

Vienna Lager originated in Vienna, Austria, in the mid-19th century. It’s a style that’s known for its balance, showcasing both malt and hops without allowing either to dominate. While not as popular in its country of origin these days, Vienna Lager has found a home in other parts of the world, particularly Mexico, thanks to Austrian brewers who emigrated there in the late 19th century.

Typical ABV4.5% – 5.5%
Typical IBU18 – 30
Flavor ProfileModerate maltiness with flavors of toasted bread, and sometimes caramel or toffee. Balanced by a moderate hop bitterness.
ColorAmber to reddish-brown.
Food PairingsVienna Lager pairs well with a variety of foods, including Mexican dishes, roasted pork, grilled chicken, and mild cheeses.
Country of OriginAustria.

Vienna Lagers are characterized by their amber to reddish-brown color and their clean, crisp finish. They have a moderate maltiness, offering flavors of toasted bread, and sometimes caramel or toffee, but without residual sweetness. The hop presence is also moderate, providing balance and occasionally a hint of floral or spicy aromatics.

Vienna Lager is a well-balanced, versatile beer that pairs well with a wide range of foods and occasions. It’s a testament to the art of lager brewing, offering depth of flavor along with easy drinkability. Whether you’re enjoying an authentic European brew or a craft version from a local brewery, a Vienna Lager is always a satisfying choice.

Wheat

Wheat beers, as the name suggests, are brewed with a significant proportion of wheat in addition to barley. They are a broad category that encompasses several distinct beer styles, including German Weizenbier and American Wheat Ale, among others. Wheat beers can be top-fermented (ales) or bottom-fermented (lagers), but most are ales.

Typical ABV4.0% – 5.5%
Typical IBU10 – 20
Flavor ProfileLight and slightly tangy, with notes of bread, bananas, and cloves. Low hop bitterness.
ColorTypically pale yellow to amber, often hazy.
Food PairingsWheat beers pair well with a wide variety of foods due to their balance of flavors. They work especially well with light and delicate dishes such as salads, seafood, and sushi, and also complement fruity desserts.
Country of OriginVarious, with notable traditional styles originating from Germany and Belgium.

The inclusion of wheat contributes to a light, refreshing character and a distinctive, slightly tangy flavor. Wheat beers are often hazy due to proteins from the wheat, and they typically showcase a creamy, long-lasting head. The flavor profile varies depending on the style but often includes notes of bread, bananas, and cloves, with a generally low hop bitterness.

Whether you’re enjoying a traditional German Weizenbier, a Belgian Witbier, or a modern American Wheat Ale, wheat beers offer a refreshing and versatile option for beer lovers. Their delicate flavors, light character, and distinctive tang make them a favorite during the warmer months, but they can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Concluding The Different Beer Types

There is a lot of information to take in from this mega article, but you should have learnt a thing or two that will help you when it comes to picking your next beer.

There is no ‘best beer’ type and it always comes down to personal preference. If your favourite beer type is listed here, then you may have learnt some similar beers to consider in the future, or maybe what you should eat with your favourite pint.

A lot of the information here is also written generically towards alcoholic beer. But a lot of the same information and principles apply to non-alcoholic and low alcoholic alternatives.

So whilst you’re here, why not check out our list of the best non-alcoholic beers?