Common Beer Types Explained
In beer types there are basically only two: Ale and Lager. The difference is defined by
yeast and fermenting temperature. Even the few hybrid styles which employ traditional
brewing methods of both can be clearly distinguished as ale or lager based on the yeast
used to ferment them. Although both are beer, the two are as different as red and white
Ales are complex, flavorful beers. Many are served closer to room temperature and
contain rich aroma and flavor. Their complexity makes pairing a more selective, but
highly rewarding task. Ale uses yeast that floats to the top of the fermentation tank.
Ales are brewed at warmer temperatures. (Usually between 60 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Types of Ales (some of the more common types)
- Barley Wine
Despite its name, a Barleywine (or Barley Wine) is very much a beer – a very
strong and often intense beer! In fact, it's one of the strongest of the beer
styles. Lively and fruity, sometimes sweet, sometimes bittersweet, but always
- Brown Ale
A strong malty center with flavors like caramel, chocolate, and coffee are common.
Brown ales from northeastern England tend to be strong and malty, often nutty,
while ales from southern England are usually darker, sweeter and lower in alcohol.
North American brown ales are usually drier with a slight citrus accent.
- Dark Ale (classified as Stouts and Porters
A dark beer made using roasted malt or roasted barley,
hops, water and yeast. Stouts were traditionally the generic term for the strongest
or stoutest porters produced by a brewery.
Descended from brown beer, a well–hopped beer made from brown malt. The name
came about as a result of its popularity with street and river porters.
- Mild Ale
“Mild” originally described any beer that was young, fresh or un–aged.
It did not refer to a specific style.
- Pale Ale
The term “pale ale” first appeared around 1703 for beers made from
malts dried with coke, resulting in a lighter color than other beers at that time.
Different brewing practices and hop levels have resulted in a range of taste and
strength within the pale ale family.
- Wheat Beer
Wheat beer is the oldest style still in existence today, with its mixture of barley
and wheat grains, low to nonexistent hops presence, cloudy appearance, and often
prominent yeast flavor.
- Pale Ale
Specially–aged dark, malty ale generally above 5% alcohol by volume (abv).
Winter warmer is a traditional malty–sweet English Strong Ale typically
brewed in the winter months. Usually quite dark, but not as dark as a stout, with
a big malt presence.
Lagers are clean, refreshing beers with typically light aroma and flavor. They are
invariably served cold and can pair easily with a wide variety of food.
- Lagers use yeast that sinks to the bottom of the fermentation tank.
- Lagers are brewed at colder temperatures. (Usually between 45 degrees to 55 degrees fahrenheit.)
Types of Lagers (some of the more common types)
Traditional bock is a sweet, strong, lightly hopped lager. It should be clear, with
color from light copper to brown, and a plentiful and persistent off–white head.
- Dunkel (doon-kel)
Dark and very malty with a gentle hop accent for very little bitterness.
- Marzen (maer-tsen)
Marzen (German for ’March’) is an extra–strong and well–hopped
beer that keeps for a long time.
- Pale Lager
A very pale to golden beer with body and a degree of noble hop bitterness.
Named after the brewery where it was originally brewed, Pilsners have a very light
color from pale to golden yellow, and a distinct hop aroma and flavor.
- Schwartzbier (shvarts-beer)
Schwarzbier (’black beer’ in German) is a medium–bodied, malt–accented
dark brew, very opaque and deep–sepia in color, with a chewy texture and a
firm, creamy, long–lasting head. It’s a soft, elegant brew that is
rich, mild, and surprisingly balanced.
An amber red, lager–style beer originally produced in Vienna, Austria. The
color comes from kilned malt. Vienna beers have a malty, lightly hopped flavor.
- Kellerbier (kell-uh-beer)
Literally “cellar beer”, an unfiltered lager, usually strongly flavored
with aromatic hops, and typically deep amber in color with a reddish hue. Authentic
Kellerbiers are dry and have very little effervescence, with both hop and malt
notes in balance. It is usually drunk out of earthenware rather than glass mugs.