Alcohol types

Types of beer and how to tell them apart

CLARKSBURG, W.Va (WBOY) — In honor of National Beer Lovers Day, 12 News is taking a look at a handful of different beer styles to find out what makes each so distinct. When someone says they like lagers or they don’t like IPAs, you may get a general idea of ​​how those beers taste, but you might not know the exact characteristics that define those beers. .

There are dozens and dozens of different styles of beer, and even though it’s just “beer” in the end, how they’re made can vary wildly with different ingredients, fermentation rates, and at different temperatures. But before we get into the differences between the beers, let’s talk about how they are the same.

All beers share the same four basic ingredients: Grain, the water, hopand Yeast.

To make beer, grain is mixed with hot water to germinate the grains. These first sprouts will break down the sugars in the grain and turn the grain-water mixture into mash potatoes. When the grains are removed, the mash turns into must. Hops are then added, which acts as a bittering agent to counteract the sweetness of the sugars, as well as to impart taste and smells or “aromatics” to the beer. Originally, hops were added to act as a preservative and sterilizer that would help beer last during long sea voyages. When you think of an IPA, the smell or taste of hops is probably the first thing that comes to mind.

Once the hops have been added, the mixture is ready to be fermented, a process that can take from several days to several weeks. In fermentation, yeast is added which transforms the sugar into alcohol and CO2. After fermentation, the beer is moved to a tank for carbonation and removal of any remaining solids from previous stages.

So, with the basics covered, let’s see how some of the most common types of beer use these four ingredients to become unique styles.


Lager, more specifically lager, is one of the most widely consumed varieties of beer. Lagers traditionally use barley or wheat and are characterized by their light color and crisp “clean” taste. They usually have a chewy taste and a clear body or mouthfeel.

The lager yeast ferments at the bottom of the tank and is brewed at lower temperatures for approximately 4 weeks, giving it its crisp, clean characteristics.

A pilsner is a type of lager characterized by Saaz hops, a variety of hops that have been used by brewers for over 700 years. A pilsner differs from a lager in that it is usually a bit more hoppy.

Common examples: Budweiser, Coors Light, Corona and Michelob Ultra

Beer/Amber beer

Ales are the other most commonly brewed style of beer and one of the oldest styles in the world. Compared to lager beers, beer has a darker brown Where almost red color is more complex and tastyand has a a little more bitterness or International Bitterness Units (IBU). The beer is brewed with yeast which sits on top of the tank and is fermented for several days and at a warmer temperature than lager.

Amber beers are a type of beer that is characterized by its golden or dark red appearance imparted by the use of roasted beans. He has a malt taste, a bit like nuts or toast. It usually has a light caramel smell with a low to medium touch of hops mixed in.

Common examples: Fat Tire, Kona Big Wave, victory summer love

Pale Ale/India Pale Ale (IPA)

Lagers are still part of the beer family, but enhance the flavor of hops and malt. It has a golden appearance similar to other beers and ranges between 20 and 50 IBU. Lagers come in a variety of styles, from American (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale), to English, to Indian (Hazy Little Thing).

India Pale Ales or IPAs are known for their exaggerated hop flavor, bitterness and alcohol content. However, they are also known to have very fruity, flowery, and citrus aromas.

You’ve also probably heard the terms “hazy” or “imperial” attached to IPAs. Hazy refers to the literal haziness of beer, being more opaque and less transparent than other beers. Imperial or Double means the hops and alcohol content are maxed out and are usually around 7-11% ABV, and over 60 IBU.

Common examples: Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing, 60-Minute Dogfish Head IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, Founders Brewing Co. All Day IPA

Two pints of Guinness, a variety of stout (Wikimedia Commons – uploaded by Harald Bischoff)


Stouts are another type of beer and are easily identified as being a very dark brown, almost black. They are thick, creamyrichly scented and very malty. Stouts often smells of chocolate, caramel or coffee.

Another distinct quality of stouts is the head after a draft. Every beer has a “head”, which refers to the foam at the top of a beer glass when poured, but stouts have a particularly thick, frothy head if poured a certain way. Guinness is probably the most famous stout in the world and is known to have a particular way of pouring it to get the best drinking experience.

However, there are many other types of stout besides Guinness, such as oatmeal stouts, milk stouts, and there is even an oyster stout.

Common examples: Guinness, Murphy’s Irish Stout, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout


Porters are very similar to stouts, but are not as extreme in the qualities associated with a stout. Holders still have the Chocolate, caramel and coffee notes and are moderately bitter, but are generally lighter and not as alcoholic like stouts.

Another key difference between the two is that porters are usually brewed with malted barley, while stouts are usually brewed with roasted unmalted barley. However, these are general rules, and as with every other style of beer so far, it’s guaranteed that there will be at least one beer that goes against the common trends of its style.

Common Examples: Stone Smoked Porter, Porter of Founder, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Porter Yuengling


Similar to stouts or IPAs, sours are the kind of beer you love or hate. They are pretty much the opposite of porters and stouts and are recognized for their acid and Tart to taste. They usually have a sour smell and fruity and often use berries or fruit somewhere along the brewing process. They come in a range of colors, from rosy pink to amber or blonde.

Sours differ greatly from other beers when it comes to how they are made. The most common ways to sour beer are two strains of bacteria called lactobacillus and pediococcus, two common bacteria in the production of foods like yogurt that convert sugars into lactic acid. The yeast used in making sour, Brettanomycesis a wild strain of yeast that further adds acidity to beer.

While some lagers are made in a few months, sours can take years to make, making them more expensive to produce than other styles of beer.

Common Examples: Sierra Nevada Wild Little Thing, Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale, Sour Victory Monkey


Lambics, Goses and Gueuzes are part of the sour family but are different enough and well enough known to deserve mention here.

Lambics are made using a method called spontaneous fermentation, which means that the bacteria that interact with the yeast get detached from the fruit used or the air that the beer is exposed to when it ferments. No spontaneous fermentation will be exactly the same, even if they come from the same brewer. There are even some breweries in Belgium that will leave the cobwebs and dust alone, to protect the beer from fruit flies and preserve its historic flavor.

Lambics are fermented and aged in barrels, a process that can take years to produce a finished product, and are traditionally served non-carbonated. Younger lambics can be quite tart and fruitywith older lambics, being more balanced between acid and malty.

Geuze (pronounced “gooz”) is another type of spontaneously fermented beer and is a blend of young and aged lambics to create a more complex end product. Unlike lambics, gueuzes are highly carbonatedand the taste tangy and funky with approximately no hop flavor.

A Gose (pronounced “gose-uh”) is a wheat sour whose most notable quality is its distinct but not overpowering salinity and clues of coriander. They also differ from lambics and gueuzes in that they do not use spontaneous fermentation, but still use lactobacillus like the other sisters. They are Tart and slightly bitter with a dry finishbut should always be refreshing.


A Kölsch is a light, pale beer that may look like a regular lager, but strikes a balance between Malta, fruity and hoppywith a slight bitterness. They are light to medium bodiedwith a soft, clean finish.

Kölsch is a traditional top-fermented beer from Cologne (Köln), Germany. When this style was first developed in the 1800s, bottom-fermented beer was actually outlawed due to its growing popularity, a popularity that threatened already established brewers in Cologne who only produced bottom-fermented beer. high.

Another unique feature of the Kölsch style is that it is traditionally served in a particular glass called a stange, a tall, thin glass designed to show off the beer’s clarity, carbonation and delicate head.

Common examples: Reissdorf Kölsch, Crazy tree lift, Morgantown Brewing Company Golden Boy Kolsch


The majority of beer served at Munich Oktoberfest is of this style, hence its name, but has been adopted by many other beer festivals. It’s usually moderately malty with a light jump to her. He is medium bodied with a smooth and a bit creamy texture.

Festbier is designed to be easy to drink, and the exact beer that is served at Munich Oktoberfest is decided by a city committee.


Witbier is a Belgian-style, pale, hazy wheat beer that is slightly spicy. He has a bread malt with light aromas of Honey Where vanilla. It can range from a straw color to a dark yellow, and not very hoppy with an IBU range of 8-20 IBU. They can also have zesty or orange notes, resulting in a slightly bitter beer.

Now that you’re armed you’ll have some basic beer knowledge, get out into the world and try some of the locally made beers in your area. And if you don’t know your local breweries, 12 News will bring you a new regular column called Brews News that will feature all the latest beer news from West Virginia breweries, with the first edition coming out in the coming weeks.