With so many types of beer in the market, it takes time to pick a favorite. From sour beer to classic lagers to sweet beers, it’s not easy even for the avid drinker to keep up.
Associations like the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the Brewers Association (BA) issue guidelines for nearly 100 types of beer but with homebrewers and brewers sketching out their recipes, their efforts can only do so much.
Learning the basic differences between popular types of beers can go a long way in understanding their numerous iterations and tastes. Here’s a detailed overview.
18 Types of Beer You Should Know
Beers are broadly categorized into two—ales and lagers. They’re further divided into subcategories that spawn a vast range of beer types, each with unique colors, aromas, and beer tastes. Here are 18 types of beer:
Amber beer is an ale beer type that derives its name from its golden-amber color. The color originates from the crystal malt and caramel additions that give this beer its unique medium-high body–perfect for a beer cocktail!
You’ll likely notice a distinct bitter taste due to the American hops used in the brewing process. They lend it the distinct notes of pine, citrus, and fruit, balancing the sweet malty taste.
Amber beer has an average ABV of 4-7, making it the most versatile accompaniment for grilled meats, roasted lamb, pizza, stews, chicken, and desserts like chocolate cheesecake. Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Yuengling Lager are excellent examples of brands of Amber beer.
Blonde beer is an umbrella term for different beer styles, including Blonde Ale, Golden Ale, and American Ale. It derives its name from its unique blonde color, which varies between deep gold, pale yellow, and light orange.
Besides color, blonde beer gives off a low-to-moderate malty aroma reminiscent of fruity and hoppy scents and finishes with a lingering dry and sweet taste. The taste varies based on where blonde beer is brewed.
Belgian beer, for example, is more aromatic, giving off banana and clove flavors, while American blonde beer has a more balanced strength and flavor. Blonde beer has such ease and smoothness that it pairs well with many foods, including pasta, cheese, roasted chicken, fried shrimp, cookies, and more.
Its average ABV is 5.8-8%, and if you are looking for one, check out brands like Catamount Gold, Redhook Blonde, Mother Lode Golden, and Kiwanda Cream Ale.
Bock beer dates back to the Medieval era when the Bavarian monks brewed it during Lenten fasts to mark the end of winter. Bock has an intense amber color with light hoppiness and robust malt flavors, making it an excellent accompaniment for Swiss and Gruyere cheeses, seared foods, and jerk chicken.
Being one of the lager beers, it’s fermented for a long time and aged in cool temperatures to smooth out the intense flavors and create a well-balanced beer.
Typical bock beer has an ABV of 6-7%, but substyles of the beer may vary in profile and flavor. The doppelbock, for example, is darker, heavier, and maltier, while Maibock is hoppier and paler.
For a taste of the original dark bock, check out the Einbecker May Urbock or Schneider Aventinus Eisbock. You may also try Belgian beer like the La Chouffe, Brugse Bok, or Maneblusser Bok.
Brown ales date back to the 17th and 18th centuries when London brewers used the phrase to describe brown-colored mild ales. The beer is known for its tasty malty flavors giving off delicious notes of raisins, caramel, nuts, and chocolate.
It finishes with a hoppy, mildly bitter flavor to balance the malty taste defining its style. As for its color, it varies depending on the location. Brown ales from Northern English has a deep amber to brown color, while the one brewed in America has malt, chocolate, and caramel tones.
It explains the different Brown Ale beer styles like the English Brown Ale, the American Brown Ale, Nut Brown Ale, and the Strong Brown Ale.
Being a medium-to-full-bodied beer with an ABV of 3.6 – 4.4%, the Brown Ale is excellent for pairing with pork, roast beef, and chicken. The Newcastle Brown Ale, Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale, and the Brooklyn Ale make great brands to try out.
If you’re looking for an ale that tastes like a lager, try the cream ale beer style. Native to American ale breweries, the beer is pale, and light-bodied with a smooth mouthfeel perfect for pairing with salty bar foods.
Typically, ales are heavier than lagers, but American ale breweries learned to lighten beers using ingredients like sugar, rice, corn, and wheat instead of barley.
This brewing style gives the cream ale a fresh, crisp style. The beer also has high carbonation and a low ABV of 5%, making it very drinkable.
The Anderson Valley Brewing Summer Solstice, Newburgh Cream Ale, and Kiwanda Cream Ale are great brands to try out.
Dark ale is an umbrella term to refer to Belgian darker beers that range between the Belgian Strong Dark Ale and the Dubbel style. It has a high alcohol content and a rich malty taste, often balanced by spice and yeast.
Like its name, it has a dark brown to brown color and an ABV of 4%-7%, making it an excellent choice for those who love Belgian beer.
There’s a more robust iteration of the dark ale referred to as the Belgian Strong Dark Ale, perfect for drinkers looking for a higher alcohol content and more robust flavor.
This stronger version has a maltier, spicier, and hoppier taste with a dry, sweet finish. The beer’s strong notes are perfect for pairing with shortbread, fried finger food, oven-baked apples, and pears.
The dark larger is a term used to describe dark beers brewed with lager yeasts. Generally, dark lagers originate from Europe but go by different guises depending on their profile.
In Germany, for example, they go by names like Dunkel and Schwarzbier, while in Spain and Mexico, they’re referred to as Negras. What makes dark lagers so popular is that they’re deceptively drinkable thanks to the low alcohol content (3.8%-6.0%).
The use of lager yeast creates a bright, vibrant finish that’s pretty refreshing when served ice cold. Dark lagers also have the best qualities for dark and light beers, varying in flavor profiles that range between coffee, chocolate, and molasses.
Beers brands like the Yuengling Lager, the Great Lakes Eliot Ness, Guinness Black Lager, and Paulaner Oktoberfest-Marzen are great for pairing with burgers and spicy foods like tacos.
Typically, fruit beer is any beer that has fruit and vegetable flavors added. Initially, fruit was only added to lambic beer styles, but the proliferation of homebrewing and craft beer has made adding fruit commonplace.
Fruit beer is categorized into different styles, depending on the base beer. The popular fruit styles are added stouts, blonde ales, IPA and Pale Ales, stouts, and wheat beer.
Its ABV varies between 2.5% and 12%, and an excellent choice for pairing with duck and pork dishes, light white meat, pickled foods, and salads with fruit dressing.
The Modern Times Beer’s Fruitlands Sour Cherry Gose and Samuel Adams Rebel Grapefruit IPA are great fruit beers to try.
The honey beer is an ale or lager brewed with honey to add flavor and sweetness. It’s made from grain-based malts like rye, corn, barley, or wheat, and the brewer’s yeast is added in the fermentation process, depending on the type of beer.
Since it’s a specialty beer, no regulatory standards define the proportions of honey or malt required. This means the honey beer has varying aromas, colors, textures, flavors, and ABV (2.5-12.0%).
But you’re likely to find it smoother, sweeter, and more aromatic than your regular lager or ale beer styles.
Honey beer makes an excellent accompaniment for light creamy cheeses and salad, and the Burial Beer Company’s The Keeper’s Veil Honey Saison is a great brand to try out.
India Pale Ale
India Pale Ales are British-brewed ales that contain extra hops. It consists of different types of beer but gets its main characteristics (bitter, citrusy taste) from hops and herbs.
They’re also responsible for the high alcohol content (ABV of 6.3-14.0%). Indian pale ales have citrusy, piny flavors that vary depending on the origin.
British IPA, for example, is bitter and malty, while beer from the West Coast has a balance of bitter and fruity flavors. The bitter flavor makes IPA an excellent accompaniment for spicy dishes like tacos and burgers with barbecue sauce.
If you are a fan of the American IPA, pair it with Indian cuisine, fish, and meat. Try out brands like the Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, Lagunitas Maximus, Shipyard IPA, and Dogfish Head IPA.
If you’ve tried IPAs and found the alcohol content too high, try the Pale Ales. It’s light, hoppy, and has a lower alcohol content (4.4-6.1%).
Pale ales have different styles, the most common being the English pale ale. It has a copper color, fruity aroma, and strong hoppy flavor balanced by the sweet malty taste.
Other types of beer of the pale ales are the American Amber Ale, a medium-bodied beer with an amber color and caramel taste, and the American Pale Ale.
Pale ales can be paired with meat, blue cheese, seafood, Italian cuisines, and English cheeses. The Black Sheep Ale, Flying Fish Summer Ale, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale are great brands.
Pilsner is a lager beer that originates from the Czech Republic. What makes it stand out is the soft water used in the brewing process instead of neutral or hard water. Saaz hops and malty barley are then added, giving it a distinct malty, slightly bitter flavor.
Pilsners have a light gold color, crisp finish, and clear body that makes them great summer drinks, and you can choose from the four types-German, American, Czech, and Belgian Pilsners.
Their ABV isn’t too high (3.2-5.6%); hence great for pairing with Asian and German cuisines, fish, brie, spicy food, and pork.
For a taste of the original Pilsner, try out the Dogfish Head Piercing Pilsner, but Troegs Sunshine Pilsner is an excellent drink if you like German iterations.
Porter is a traditional beer that dates back to the 18th century. The English beer gets its name from river and street porters of Central London, where it was popular. Initially, it was blended from brown ale, sour ale, and mild ale and was among the first beer styles to be brewed worldwide.
Porter beer is dark in color due to the ingredients used to brew it- chocolate and dark-roasted malts. The dark color makes it look like stouts, except it tastes like coffee with a chocolate feel.
Like most English beers, Porter disappeared during World War II but came back in the 1970s and 80s, making brands like Stone Smoked Porter and Arcadia London Porter popular.
There are different types of beer Porter including the Robust Porter (5.1-6.6%), the English Brown Porter (4.5-6.0%), and the American Imperial Porter, which has an ABV of 7-12%.
The red lager is a Vienna-style lager which is drier and less hoppy. It’s a craft beer with a clean, malty, and crisp presence with a light to medium body and is also referred to as the American Amber Lager.
The color of the red lager range from copper to bronze with a few red hues, and it is excellent for pairing with cheddar, steak, barbecue, American cuisine, and poultry.
Rye beer is a style known for carrying notes of cloves and bananas. It can be an ale or lager and consists of malted barley and rye, which gives the beer a spicy character in taste and aroma.
The beer taste varies depending on where it’s brewed. American Rye beer, for example, has a hoppy taste which yields spicy and citrusy flavors.
Rye beer is perfect for pairing with creamy cheeses and spicy meat. Its ABV varies by style and the base beer used to brew, but it tends to range between 4-6%.
Sour ale is an ancient beer crafted from wild yeasts that produce a tart or sour flavor. It’s a sour beer that pairs well with spicy food, strong cheese, meat, and tropical fruit.
Sour ales take on different forms, including fruity Flanders, Belgian-style Lambic beer, and lemony Berliner Weisse beer.
Stouts resemble porters in a lot of ways, except for the taste. Stouts are less sweet than their counterparts and have a bitter coffee taste reminiscent of the unmalted roasted barley added to the wort.
Sweet versions originate from England and Ireland, while bitter stout beer styles are brewed in America. They are great for pairing with burgers, barbecues, Mexican cuisine, shellfish, and oysters.
Like its name, wheat beer is made from wheat, producing a malty taste. It has a lighter color and tangy flavor that pairs well with poultry, Mexican cuisine, and seafood.
Wheat beers are available in different styles, including Belgian Witbier, Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen, and Berliner Weisse.
Frequently Asked Questions
Besides knowing the different types of beer, you may be wondering:
What’s the difference between a lager and ale?
The main difference between an ale and a lager is the yeast used in fermentation. Yeasts used to make ales are fermented in warm temperatures and have bright, spicy, and fruity flavors.
Conversely, yeasts for lagers are fermented in cool temperatures and produce smoother, more subtle finishes
Which type of beer is most popular?
Lagers are the most popular type of beer because of their soft, crisp and refreshing taste. The taste makes it great for mass production compared to stronger beer types like the stout.
Is bottled beer better than canned beer?
Canned beer tends to be better than bottled beer because it’s more portable. It also has limited exposure to air and light, keeping it fresh and tasty longer.
With this guide, you won’t be oblivious to the types of beer served in a bar. You can quickly tell between brown ales, IPAs, pale ales, sour ales, wheat beers, and fruit beer. Not to mention, beers from all different countries!
Be sure to leave a comment below. We’d like to know your favorite beer and why you love it.