A Guide to Different Beer Styles – What You Need to Know

Beer Styles

While we often stick with Pale Ales, Ambers, Lagers or Stouts as our go-to beers, there is a world of beer styles out there. It’s time to explore them and expand your palate!

Spontaneous Fermented Ales include a diverse set of contemporary styles that rely on specialty malts, spice(s), fruit or other additives to influence the hue, aroma and flavor outcomes of the finished beer.

Pale Ales

Pale ales are a light, refreshing beer style that is easy to drink and pair with food. They are also low in alcohol and feature a balanced blend of ingredients that make them a popular choice among beer drinkers.

Pale Ales are a style of beer that dates back to the early 1700s in England. In that time, brewers used kilns to roast barley and add smoky flavors to their beers. However, this was difficult to control and often led to dark roasted and scorched malts.

Then, a cleaner-burning form of coal called coke began replacing coal in the brewing process, and brewers found that they could produce a more clear, pale ale with this new technique. This changed the way that people brewed beer and opened up a whole new world of possibilities for brewers.

Today, a good pale ale is a beer that every competent brewer can make, and they’re a style that stands the test of time. They’re easy to brew, but require a lot of skill and good judgment on the part of the brewer.

They’re a beer that demonstrates balance, and the most excellent examples showcase a deft hand in the judicious use of hops. They’re also often characterized by an abundance of medium crystal malts (color ratings between 30 and 60 degrees Lovibond) and late hops that impart a light sweetness, toasty or bready flavors and aromas, and a slight raisiny character to the beer.

Pale ales are a favorite alcoholic beverage worldwide, and they have a wide variety of flavor and alcohol content to offer. From hazy to citrusy, bitter to sweet, and everything in between, there’s something for everyone.

Amber Ales

Amber ales are a staple of many craft brewers. In fact, it’s one of the first styles that you might think about when you hear the word “craft beer.” They were once a popular choice for drinkers who wanted to avoid pissy, mass-produced lagers. But with the rise of hoppier pale ales and Red IPAs, amber ales have lost their status as the go-to style for beer drinkers.

Fortunately, there are still a few excellent amber ales out there. A great example is New Belgium’s Fat Tire. It is the prototypical American amber ale and helped launch New Belgium into a national powerhouse.

This beer has a light caramel aroma and a smooth malt body with a hint of herbal hoppiness. It is a solid choice for those looking for an amber ale that’s easy to drink.

If you’re a beginner home-brewer, this is a good style to try. It can be quite challenging to get right but with the right ingredients, you can make a delicious amber ale that you will enjoy drinking.

The key is to keep the malt and hop flavors in balance. This can be tricky to achieve but with careful brewing, you will be able to hone your recipe and create an amber ale that will taste great to you year after year.

Amber ales should have a medium to strong malt character, bordering on sweet at the front with moderate caramel flavors transforming into a fuller maltiness further on in the glass. They should also have a medium to high hop flavor and aroma, showcasing the American varieties that make up this style.

A good amber ale should be a medium to full-bodied beer with a long, clean finish that’s dry and crisp without any noticeable diacetyl. It should also have a moderate alcohol presence that doesn’t overpower the beer.


Lagers are one of the most popular types of beer around the world, and they come in a variety of styles. These beers are brewed using a cool fermentation process that is followed by maturation in cold storage.

While the majority of lagers are pale, there are several darker brews to explore. These include dunkel (German for dark), tmave, and Schwarzbier, which all vary in color from amber to dark chestnut and have a complex flavor that features roasted malt and bitter chocolate and licorice notes.

Compared to ales, lagers have a low alcohol content and are more often than not fermented at cooler temperatures, which results in a less sweet, more crisp taste. They also use bottom-fermenting yeasts, which sink to the bottom of the brewing tank and work at lower temperatures than top-fermenting strains.

When choosing a lager, you should look for flavors that match your tastes. Some beers will have citrus, sour, herbal, or spicy characteristics that you may not be able to get in an ale.

There are several types of lagers to try, including American lagers, pilsners, and Bocks. Pilsners are crisp and refreshing with a light to moderate taste and a low ABV, while Bocks are richer and maltier.

In addition, lagers have become increasingly popular in the United States over the past few decades. Known for their thirst-quenching qualities, lagers are popular in restaurants, bars, hotels, and supermarkets.

When serving a lager, you should always remember to pour it slowly at a 45-degree angle into a glass. This will allow the aromas, flavor, and carbonation to show off. You should also serve a lager in a clean glass to ensure the best tasting experience.


Stouts are dark, roasted ales with rich flavors and strong coffee notes. They can be brewed from several types of barley and vary in their flavor and alcohol content. They also have a variety of sub-styles, including dry stout, oatmeal stout, milk stout, and imperial stout.

Stouts generally have more body and lower carbonation levels than porters. They also tend to be stronger and higher in international bittering unit (IBU) ratings.

There are many different stout styles, each with its own unique characteristics and regional interpretation. For example, you might find a Russian Imperial Stout made from dark steamed malt that’s flavored with fruit and spices or an American imperial stout with deep red or black fruit and chocolate notes.

Like porters, stouts are a top-fermented style that uses a yeast strain known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. They are then brewed in 40-55degF environments for a few weeks to months, depending on the brewery and their recipe.

The most common types of stouts are dry stouts, which have a strong roasted flavor and a deep, dark color. They can be more or less bitter and can range in alcohol content from 4-12% ABV.

In contrast, dry porters have a light roasted flavor and are usually lower in alcohol content than stouts. These styles typically have low hop aroma and flavor, though some brewers use hops to enhance the coffee or chocolate flavors of their beers.

One important tip when drinking stouts is to keep the beer warm, as cold beers can mute the flavors and intricacies of the brewing process. This is especially true if you’re drinking one of the more bolder styles such as imperial stouts or barrel-aged stouts.

Sour Beers

Sour beers are a diverse category that has recently reclaimed its place in the craft beer world. Sour beers are brewed with a variety of yeasts, bacteria and fruits that give them their distinctive sour flavors.

Sour beer is a style of ale that has an intense amount of acidity due to lactic-acid producing bacteria. It’s one of the oldest styles of beer, dating back to antiquity.

The most popular sour beers include Berliner Weisse and Gose. These light and tart wheat beers are known for their lemony sour flavors. They are also great for pairing with shellfish and ceviche.

Breweries often use a wild yeast species called Brettanomyces in their sour ales. Other bacteria strains are used as well, including Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, which produce lactic acid.

During fermentation, these bacteria consume the available wort and produce acids as a byproduct. The most common acids used in sour beers are lactic acid and acetic acid.

Sours are typically aged in a coolship, but some styles can be made using spontaneous fermentation methods as well. These beers are a lot more complex and require a lot more time and patience to brew.

Quick sours can be produced in a variety of ways, but most often they’re made by adding acidulated malt to the wort during the brewing process or introducing lactobacillus into the boil. They’re a lot less nuanced than their aged counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good.

Sour beers can also have a more fruity character due to incorporating different types of fruit during the fermentation process. This can range from simple fruit like raspberries or cherries to more complex varieties of sour fruits. These beers are often blended with other styles to increase complexity and depth of flavor.

By Patty
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