There are many types of beer, and it is impossible to know them all. From crisp golden lagers that are perfect for quenching your thirst to dark ales that pair like a dream with holiday food, there’s something for every taste and mood.
Beers are mainly classified into lagers and ales. These are further divided into subcategories such as lagers, wheat beers, dark lagers, dark lagers, and pale lagers. Depending on its ingredients, fermentation process, brewing and storage, each type of this refreshing drink gets its distinct taste and aroma. But how do you tell the difference between the many types of beer?
Here is a breakdown of the different types of styles and types of beer
The name of the widely consumed beer comes from the German word lagern, which means ‘store’. In medieval times, beer kegs were stored in caves to maintain the temperature during fermentation – as yeast requires a cooler temperature – and this process was known as lagering.
Lagers go through a bottom fermentation process, in which the yeast settles at the base of the cask and does its magic. The bottom-fermenting yeast, called Saccharomyces pastorianus, works at cooler temperatures between 7 and 13 degrees Celsius. Compared to ales, the yeast used in lagers has a lower alcohol tolerance and the fermentation process is longer.
Due to the cooler temperature, the yeast does not produce many by-products, which means there are fewer lager styles than ales. When it comes to taste, lagers are crisp and smooth.
The Pale Lager is one of the most fermented beers in the world. They are relatively crispy, have a subtle flavor profile that can be enjoyed with almost any type of food, and range from pale yellow to golden. The world famous Heineken has one of the most famous lagers.
Pilsner was first made in the Czech Republic in the 19th century. They are more flavorful and are known for their hoppy and crispy profiles. Pilsners produced in Germany have a pale golden color, while those produced in the Czech Republic are darker and more bitter.
Amber and red lager
Barley, when roasted until it reaches a brownish color, is known as malted barley. When added to lager, this concoction yields an amber or red lager. It is light and clean like other pale lagers. However, roasted malt can add a toasty flavor as well as caramel or toffee tastes, which are commonly found in dark beers.
Dark lagers have the best qualities of light and dark beers. They have varying flavor profiles of dark beers and are as light as their pale counterparts. Chocolate, coffee, and molasses are a few flavors you get in dark beers.
The sweetness of this malt lager mingles with a hint of bitterness. Helles beer is often golden and has floral notes. On the spectrum of lager tastes, Helles is closer to pale ales and goes best with salads or light meals as these are more full-bodied. Their alcohol by volume (ABV) is between 4.8% and 5.6%.
The beers are made using top-fermenting yeast, which means the yeast builds up at the top as the beer is made.
Fermented at warmer temperatures, the process is also faster compared to lagers. The yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, used to produce beers has a higher alcohol tolerance compared to that used in making lagers.
The process of brewing beer is relatively easier, as it takes less time and can be done at room temperature. These are some of the reasons that give beers a wider spectrum of flavors compared to lagers.
This American beer looks and tastes not far from a pale lager. They are crunchy and refreshing, making them the perfect companion to almost any food.
American amber ale, American lager, English lager, and lager are some examples of lager beers. Most of these medium-bodied beers are low in alcohol and may have hints of spice or citrus that make them perfect for pairing with foods such as burgers.
Amber and red beer
At the Great American Beer Festival, European red beers are listed with American Amber Ales because red and amber beers have the same hop, butter, and flavor tastes. These beers are also made from roasted malts, which give it sweet, toffee or toffee-like flavors.
India Pale Ale (IPA)
These extra-strong beers were first made in England in the 19th century for people traveling by ocean to India. Bitter in taste, they are known for their characteristic herbaceous, fruity and lemony flavors. IPAs go well with spicy Indian cuisine.
Brown Ales leave a nutty or sweet aftertaste. Dark brown southern is a great holiday drink, pairing well with desserts and smoked meat.
As the name suggests, these beers contain wheat as an additional ingredient. It is this ingredient that gives the drink its distinctive foam, a softer texture and a sweetness not found in any other beer.
Belgian style beer
Belgium is one of the leading countries that excel in brewing beer, and the world is only just beginning to appreciate its beers. A high alcohol content and low bitterness combined with a range of flavors including fruity, spicy and sweet are what distinguish Belgian-style ales. Sour beers, savory fruit beers, and some lagers also fall into this category.
Stouts and Porters
These are usually categorized as beers because of the method used to make them, but they are often listed as a different variant of beer. Intensely dark beers owe their texture, color and taste to ingredients such as chocolate, coffee beans and other dark roasted malts. Porters, however, have a more chocolaty side to them unlike stouts, which have a strong coffee flavor profile.
The exact flavor of a stout beer depends on its place of origin. Those produced in Ireland and England have a hint of bitterness and are recognized worldwide for their taste. They get their sweetness from the unfermented sugars they contain. In fact, the Beer Judge Certification Program explains a stout beer as “a smooth, full-bodied, lightly roasted beer that may suggest coffee and cream or a sweet espresso.”
The stout beer that comes from the United States is stronger and more bitter in taste. This is due to the use of roasted ingredients with high malt flavors that have creamy coffee or dark chocolate notes.
Another type of beer that is not usually categorized as ale or lager due to its fermentation process. In addition to yeast, bacteria are added during the brewing process.
Lactobacillus and Pediococcus bacteria give beer its sour and sour tastes. Sometimes fruits rich in citric acids, such as cherries and raspberries, are also added during the fermentation process to enhance flavors.
Sour beers have recently started gaining popularity around the world, but they were first made in Belgium. These beers can have an ABV ranging from 3% to 5%. However, some beers have an ABV of less than 2% while in others the alcohol content can be as high as 8-9%.
Different styles of beer
Most styles of beer can be divided into three categories of color, bitterness, and gravity.
As mentioned above, beers can be light golden, dark brown, red, and more. Depending on the tone of the drink, a true beer connoisseur can tell the difference between a medium-bodied beer and a full-bodied or light beer.
While the color of beer depends on the ingredients used during fermentation and brewing, it also indicates the flavor of the drink, which includes toasty, fruity, sour, and citrus undertones.
The bitterness of a beer is measured by International Bitterness Units (IBU). The hop bitterness in every beer results from the alpha acids extracted from key ingredients during the boiling process and how these ingredients work together to suppress it. An IPA can have IBUs in the 100s, while a light lager’s IBU does not exceed 10.
The gravity of beer indicates the density of the drink, which can be dense or watery. It is determined by the amount of soluble sugars dissolved in the beer.
(Main image credit: Tatiana Rodriguez/Unsplash; Feature image credit: Meritt Thomas/Unsplash)