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A Comprehensive Guide to Beer Styles: From Ales to Lagers

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A Comprehensive Guide to Beer Styles: From Ales to Lagers

Beer styles can be split into two groups; Ales and Lagers.

Ales use top-fermenting yeast at warm temperatures, 60-75°F, creating a range of flavours and aromas such as fruit, spice and floral notes. Popular ale styles consist of Pale Ales, IPAs, Stouts, and Porters.

Lagers, however, ferment at cooler temperatures, 45-55°F, producing a crisp, light taste. Popular lager styles include Pilsners, Helles and Bocks.

There are hundreds of beer styles each with its own unique flavour, aroma and look. Knowing the styles can help you find one that suits your tastes. Pro-Tip: Try something new to expand your knowledge!

Basics of Beer Styles

Beer categories are vast. Knowing the basics on different types of beer can help you select the correct one. Ask yourself, ale or lager? Porter or stout? This guide will explain the chief contrasts between major beer types–ales, lagers, porters and stouts!

History of beer styles

Beer has been around for ages! In many places around the globe, different types of beer have been created, each with its own flavor, smell and look.

Let’s go over some of the popular ones:

  • Ale – this is one of the oldest beer styles, dating back to ancient times in the Middle East and Europe. It is made with warm-fermenting yeast and is generally fruity, full-bodied and complex.
  • Lager – from Central Europe in the 15th century, lager has become a global favorite. It is made using cold-fermenting yeast so tends to have a clean, crisp taste and light character.
  • Lambic – this beer hails from Belgium and uses wild yeasts from the Senne River Valley. This gives it a sour flavor and aroma, making it quite unique!
  • Stout – an Irish beer style made with roasted malt or barley. It is rich, creamy and has a flavor of chocolate, coffee and caramel.

Each beer style has its own story and characteristics – a great reason to explore the world of beers!

How beers are categorized

Beers are sorted by their style and brewing method. There are two main types: Ales and Lagers. They have different flavors.

  • Ales are fermented at warmer temperatures and give fruity and robust flavors. Some popular styles are Pale Ales, India Pale Ales (IPAs) and Brown Ales.
  • Lagers are fermented at colder temps and provide a light and refreshing taste. Some popular styles are Pilsner, Bock and Märzen.

Knowing the beer styles helps you find the perfect brew for your taste.

Common beer ingredients

Beer is made up of four major ingredients: Water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. Malted barley gives beer its color and body. Hops give the beer its signature bitterness and aromas. Yeast turns sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide and can create different flavors. Water affects flavor, mouthfeel, and color. Depending on the region of water, beer can taste different. Brewers can modify the core components or add more ingredients to create a wide variety of beer with unique characteristics.


Ales have been around for ages! They are famed for their distinct taste. There are many types of ales: from the light and fresh pale ales, to the heavy and full-bodied stouts. Let's explore these different categories and what they bring to the table!

Origins and characteristics of ale

Ale is a beer from England. It has a fruity, robust, and bitter flavor. Traditionally, it was made from malted barley and English ale yeast. Today, other grains like wheat, rye, and oats are used. Hops and other spices give ales their unique taste. They range in color from light gold to dark brown and have alcohol content of 2-11%. Popular types of ales are pale ales, India pale ales, stouts, and porters.

All ales have higher fermentation temperatures than lagers. This is what gives them their distinct taste and aroma.

Types of ales

Ales are a type of beer brewed with a warm fermentation process. Yeast ferments at the top of the vessel, giving ales their unique characteristics and flavor profiles.

Popular types of ales include:

  • Pale Ale – Light color, hoppy flavor, and fruity aroma.
  • India Pale Ale (IPA) – Hoppy, bitter, higher alcohol content.
  • Brown Ale – Deep brown color, malty flavor, and a hint of sweetness.
  • Belgian Ale – Complex flavors and aromas due to unique yeast strains.
  • Wheat Ale – High proportion of wheat, light and refreshing taste.

Ales are beloved by beer enthusiasts worldwide for their various appeals.

Classic examples of ales

Ales? Oh yeah! A favorite among beer enthusiasts. They come in many flavors, aromas and colors. Here are some classic types of ales:

  • Pale Ale – golden to copper color, floral hop aroma and medium-high hop bitterness. Crisp finish. Perfect for any occasion.
  • India Pale Ale (IPA) – high hop bitterness, floral aromas and citrus/pine flavors. Medium-high alcohol content and bold flavor.
  • Brown Ale – medium-bodied, nutty, caramel-like taste with a slight sweetness. Lower in bitterness and smooth finish.
  • Belgian Ale – wide range of sub-styles like Dubbel, Trippel and Quadrupel. Complex flavor profiles, high alcohol content and spicy, fruity esters.
  • Amber Ale – reddish-amber color and balanced malt and hop profile. Caramel, toffee-like flavor with slight bitterness.

Pro Tip: When buying Ales, check the freshness date. It can affect the taste of the beer.


Lagers are the most popular beer globally. They are usually crisp and balanced. Lagers are brewed slower, at lower temperatures. This stops wild yeast from growing. Therefore, the beer has a mellow flavor. Here's a peek at various lagers available:

Origins and characteristics of lagers

Lagers are a beer originating in Europe in the 16th century. They are known for their crisp, clean taste and light body. Plus, they have low bitterness. Here's some key characteristics of lagers:

  • Fermentation: Bottom-fermenting yeast is used at cooler temps, around 45-55°F. This creates a smooth flavor.
  • Aging: Lagers are stored cold for weeks or months. This lets their flavors develop and the beer clarifies.
  • Ingredients: Lighter malts and sometimes rice or corn are used. This produces a light body and crisp flavor.
  • Styles: There are many styles like pilsners, bocks, and Oktoberfest beers. Each has its own unique traits.

No matter your preference, there's a lager to fit everyone's taste!

Types of lagers

Lagers – the most popular beer type – have a cool fermentation process, producing a clean and crisp taste. Here are some of the top types you should try:

  1. Pilsners: These are the most famous lagers with an assertive hop flavor, dry finish, and golden color.
  2. Marzen/Oktoberfest: Full-bodied and copper-colored, with a malty taste. Brewed in spring and enjoyed during September's Oktoberfest.
  3. Bock: Robust flavor, dark color, and high alcohol content – perfect for winter or spring.
  4. American Lagers: Lighter flavor, often brewed with rice or corn, and a pale, clear color. Great for outdoor events, tailgating, and summer barbecues.
  5. Dunkel: Malty, dark lagers with a smooth taste and chocolatey notes. Popular in Germany and Austria.

Pro tip: Serve your lagers slightly chilled, between 38°F and 55°F, for the best flavor.

Classic examples of lagers

Lagers: a type of beer that's fermented and conditioned at low temps, giving a crisp and refreshing taste.

Popular lagers with unique flavors and aromas:

  • Pilsner: Pale, crispy, with a slight bitter aftertaste. Light and refreshing. Most widespread lager style.
  • Bocks: Malty, full-bodied. Sweet and nutty flavor. Darker color, higher alcohol content.
  • Marzen: Medium-bodied, toasty and slightly sweet. Amber in color, traditionally brewed for Oktoberfest.
  • Dunkel: Dark lager, sweet and nutty. Full-bodied flavor from roasted malt.
  • Vienna Lager: Medium-bodied and toasty-malty. Reddish-amber color, crisp finish.

Explore the diverse beer world with these classic lagers!

Wheat Beers

Wheat beers are a type all their own! Made with wheat malt, barley and other grains, they have a light, refreshing taste. From sweet to tart, they range from light yellow to dark brown. Becoming more and more popular among craft beer lovers, let's learn what makes wheat beers unique.

Origins and characteristics of wheat beers

Wheat beer is a style of beer that started in Germany. It has a high wheat content. It is usually hazy and has a light, tasty flavor.

The three most popular wheat beers are Hefeweizen, Witbier, and American Wheat.

  • Hefeweizen is from Germany. It is brewed with at least 50% wheat and has a banana and clove flavor.
  • Witbier is from Belgium. It is made with a mix of wheat and barley plus coriander and orange peel. It is cloudy and has a zesty, citrusy taste.
  • American Wheat is from the USA. It is more hop-forward and often dry-hopped with American hops.

Wheat beer is great anytime, but especially in the summer.

Types of wheat beers

Wheat beers are a classic type of beer, born in Germany and popular around the world. They are made with wheat and malted barley and can be light or dark, clear or cloudy. The flavor can be sweet or sour. Here are five kinds of wheat beers:

  1. Hefeweizen – It's light, fruity and cloudy. Banana and clove flavors come from the yeast.
  2. Kölsch – Light, pale and crisp. It has a mild fruit hop flavor.
  3. Dunkelweizen – Darker, richer, full-bodied. Smells like dark bread with a spicy and fruity aroma.
  4. Witbier – Light ale from Belgium. Unmalted wheat and hazy, with coriander and orange peel spices.
  5. American Wheat Beer – A crisp citrus taste with American hops and wheat. Stronger fruity aroma than a German Hefeweizen and a clean finish.

Classic examples of wheat beers

Wheat beers are great for those who like a crisp taste. Here are four classic types you can savor:

  1. German Hefeweizen; Cloudy, banana and clove-flavored, well-carbonated, low in bitterness and with a refreshing finish.
  2. Belgian Witbier; Brewed with coriander and orange peel, pale and cloudy, moderate ABV and low bitterness.
  3. American Wheat Beer; Clean, crisp, bready flavor, slightly higher hop bitterness. Perfect for summer days and great with grilled meats.
  4. Berliner Weisse; Tart and sour from Germany, low alcohol, effervescence, fruity finish. Perfect for brunch and great with cheeses and salads.

Sour Beers

Sour Beers: an intriguing beer style that has been around for centuries! Different bacteria and yeasts are used in the brewing process, which add a tartness and acidity to the beverage. There are various types of Sour Beers, e.g. Berliner Weisse, Lambic, and Gose. Each type has its own individual flavor and characteristics. In this article, we'll explore the backgrounds and flavor profiles of these Sour Beers!

Origins and characteristics of sour beers

Sour beers have been around for centuries. Recently, they gained popularity in the craft beer industry. Wild yeasts and bacteria, or manipulating the brewing process, give them a tart and acidic flavor profile.

Characteristics include:

  • tartness ranging from subtle to mouth-puckering
  • complex, unique flavors (fruit, oak, funk)
  • lower alcohol content
  • light, effervescent mouthfeel

Popular sour beer types are Gose, Berliner Weisse, Lambic, and Flanders Red Ale. For newbies, try a raspberry or cherry sour for an approachable taste. Pro Tip: Balance out the tartness with bold, flavorful foods like cheese, charcuterie, and spicy dishes.

Types of sour beers

Sour beers are a popular style of beer known for their tart and acidic flavors. There are different types each with its own unique taste.

  • Berliner Weisse: Low alcohol (around 3.5%) beer with sourness from lactobacillus bacteria.
  • Gose: Originates from Germany, brewed with salt and coriander. Has a sour, salty, sweet taste.
  • Flanders Red Ale: From Belgium, red-colored and acidic. Aged in oak barrels up to two years, with fruity flavor.
  • Lambic: Wild yeast and bacteria give it a sour taste. Aged for at least one year, sometimes flavored with fruit.
  • Wild Ale: Wild yeast strains give it a sour, tart, or funky taste.

Sour beers are great for trying something new! Pro tip: Serve in a tulip glass to enhance aroma and flavor.

Classic examples of sour beers

Sour beers are in fashion these days! Here are some of the best sour beers that you can enjoy:

  • Gose – a classic German beer with coriander and salt. It's sour and refreshing.
  • Flanders Red Ale – Belgian sour ale with acidic and fruity flavour. Wild yeast and bacteria are added during fermentation.
  • Lambic – Belgian beer brewed with wild yeast and aged in wooden barrels. Develops a sour and complex flavour.
  • Berliner Weisse – German beer with lactobacillus bacteria. Tart and refreshing.
  • American Wild Ale – modern take on sour beer. Made with various ingredients & high hop bitterness to balance the tartness.

Specialty Beers

Specialty beers are unique! They combine grains, spices, fruits, and even vegetables. Finding them can be tough, as they are usually brewed in small batches or limited quantities. Brewmasters get to show their skills with these creations. Check out all the cool varieties of specialty beers here!

Origins and characteristics of specialty beers

Specialty beers are one-of-a-kind. Not ale, lager, or stout. They have a wide range of flavors and characteristics. Usually, they come with higher alcohol content. Plus, ingredients like fruits, spices, and herbs.

Some popular specialty beer types:

  • saison
  • sour ale
  • lambic
  • rauchbier
  • barrel-aged

Each has its own unique flavor and brewing process. Saison, for example, has crispness and spiciness. Sour ale is tart and acidic from wild bacteria. Specialty beers have a long history. Different cultures experimented with ingredients and techniques. Today? Thousands of specialty beer brands from around the world.

Types of specialty beers

Specialty beers are super popular! There are many types to indulge in. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Belgian Tripel – Golden color, high alcohol, fruity and spicy with a hint of sweetness.
  • Sours – Tart taste, from light and fruity to complex and earthy.
  • Imperial Stout – Dark, heavy, rich flavor. High alcohol & roasted malt character.
  • Pilsners – Light, crisp and refreshing. Dry, hoppy and slightly bitter finish.
  • Baltic Porter – Black, heavy. Chocolatey, coffee-like character with a smoky hint.

Knowing the beer types lets you enjoy the special flavors and aromas!

Classic examples of specialty beers

Specialty beers offer an unforgettable taste that the traditional brews can't match. Here are some classic examples to try:

  • Belgian Saison: Spicy, fruity, and earthy notes make this beer crisp and unique.
  • Russian Imperial Stout: High alcohol and a chocolatey, malty flavour make this beer warming and flavourful.
  • Lambic: Sour beer from Belgium with a tart and fruity taste. Wild yeasts give it its signature flavour.

Pro tip: To sample more specialty beers, visit local breweries or beer festivals!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an ale?

An ale is a type of beer that is brewed with a warm fermentation process. This process typically results in fruity and complex flavors, and a slightly higher alcohol content than lagers.

2. What is a lager?

A lager is a type of beer that is brewed with a cold fermentation process. This process typically results in a cleaner and crisper taste, and a lower alcohol content than ales.

3. What are some common types of ale?

Common types of ale include pale ale, India pale ale (IPA), stouts, porters, and wheat beers.

4. What are some common types of lager?

Common types of lager include pilsners, bocks, Oktoberfest beers, and Märzen beers.

5. What is the difference between ales and lagers?

The main difference between ales and lagers is the fermentation process used during brewing. Ales are brewed with warm fermentation, while lagers are brewed with cold fermentation. This difference in process results in different flavors, alcohol content, and appearance.

6. What are some guidelines for pairing different beer styles with food?

Some general guidelines for pairing beer styles with food include matching light beers with light dishes and heavier beers with hearty dishes. Additionally, hoppy beers like IPAs pair well with spicy food, while malty beers like stouts pair well with desserts.

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If you're a beer enthusiast or just want to try something new, join The Original Craft Beer Club now and experience award-winning craft beers delivered straight to your doorstep. Don't miss out on this opportunity to taste unique and delicious craft beers from around the country.Subscribe today and get ready to indulge in a world of flavor!