A Guide to Beer Types
Favorite beer types are as personal as favorite foods – Everyone has their own opinions and own reasons for choosing a certain style.
Pale ales, pilsners, lagers… There are so many to choose from, and each has its own unique characteristics and flavors.
But if you look at the draught menu at your favorite restaurant and your head spins trying to figure out which one won’t taste terrible to you, we can help.
Check out this guide to beer types to help you select the type for you:
2 Basic Types of Beer
To begin, there are two basic types of beer: lagers and ales.
The difference between ales and lagers lies mostly in the type of yeast used to brew each type.
Lager yeast, Saccharomyces Pastorianus, is more comfortable in cold temperatures. Common lagers on the market include Heineken and Budweiser.
The yeast used in ales, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, prefers warmer temperatures.
Hops are typically used in brewing ales, giving the beer a bitter taste that counterbalances the sweet malts that are used in the brewing process.
3 Types of Ales
Brown ales came to prominence in the 18th century, and was used to describe the various types of porters and stouts produced at the time.
Around a century later, the drum malt roller was developed, which allowed far more types of beer to be brewed. This drum malt roller utilized black malt, and any beer that didn’t use the roller and black malt became known as a “brown ale.”
Pale ale was developed around 300 years ago, and was distinguished by other ales of the time by its more bitter taste.
India Pale Ale
India pale ale is a subtype of pale ale, so it is also more bitter than brown ales.
It gets its name from its popularity among officials of the East India Trading Company.
3 Types of Lagers
Developed in the mid-19th century by German brewers who applied pale ale brewing techniques to the lagering methods in use at the time, pale lagers are the most popular type of beer in the world by sales.
These beers sometimes are called “pilsners,” but they differ from true pilsners in that they tend to be more dry and have a more pronounced hoppy aroma.
Pilsners were developed around the same time as pale lagers, only in the city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic.
This beer type is more highly carbonated and has a more full, hoppier aroma than pale lagers.
Dark lagers are visually often mistaken for stouts or porters, but the comparison ends there.
These beers are lighter in body with hops coming to the front and leaving what’s described as a pleasantly bitter taste.
Other Beer Types
German Bock is a type of lager that is stronger and more smooth than other lagers. It has a more intense flavor that is the result of a longer brewing process.
The distinct roasted flavor of porters sets them apart from stouts, for which they’re often confused.
Porters also have a higher alcohol content than do stouts.
Stouts are believed to have started as a subtype of porters, being more full-bodied than their predecessor. Over the years, stouts have developed into their own type, even if there is a bit of confusion at where the line between porters and stouts is drawn.
During World War II, Belgian brewers were looking for alternatives to German beers such as pilsners and developed the Belgian ales.
These beers are often less bitter than other pale ales, and have sweet malty overtones and rich, thick heads. They also are more spicy than other pale ales.
These beers are typically light, making them perfect for spring and summer enjoyment. They may exhibit fruity characteristics and are typically cloudy with thick heads.
In Germany, there are laws stating exactly how much wheat must go into a beer that calls itself “wheat beer.”
Wild & Sour Ales
These two types of beer have grown out of the American craft brewing movement and are brewed with the Brettanomyces yeast strain.
All sour ales are considered wild, but to be considered a “sour ale” bacteria such as Lactobacillus or Pediococcus is used.
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