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Become A Pro At Beer Styles & Types With This Guide

By Somdutta Mazumder

Updated - Nov. 20, 2020 13 min read

They say beer is an acquired taste, and I spent a good portion of my drinking journey wondering how anybody can ever voluntarily enjoy its dark, bitter flavours. Until of course, the prophecy came true and I finally acquired the famous taste of beer. So much so, it became my set choice of poison, whether heading out to the bar or drinking to unwind at home. But after ordering and trying practically every brand of beer pints, I thought it was time to delve deeper into the exciting but complex world of beer styles. 


Especially considering this decision coincided with me moving to Bangalore city, there really wasn't a better playground I could have asked for. The classic pub Porter, hoppy Stouts and pitches of Pilsner, one by one all were ticked off. So, call me a beer-o-holic if you will, but I think I've gained a considerable repository of knowledge on all things beer. That also includes the difference between craft beer and regular beer, beer brewing flavours, and the different types of beer out there. So, how about putting the knowledge to good use, and curating an easy-to-follow beer styles guide for you? Well, your wish is my command! 


Craft Beer VS Commercial Beer

The primary point of distinction between craft beer and your run-of-the-mill commercial beer, is the scale of production. While the latter is mass-produced with the use of cheaper ingredients like rice or corn for an affordable final product, craft beer is typically produced in smaller batches at micro-breweries with cherry-picked ingredients and real malts for a high-quality drink. 


Unlike mass-produced beer by macro-breweries, craft beer is often left unfiltered and unpasteurized, and without the addition of preservatives or chemicals. What this ultimately leads to, is a more complex, tasty flavour profile in the case of craft beer, as compared to mass-produced beers which are more often than not typically monotone in flavour with a pale, watery yellow appearance. 


So, to sum up, the ascending rise in the popularity of craft beer can be attributed to its typically superior taste and quality, a wide variety of types, choices and flavours, and better dining experience when paired with the right food. Not to mention, the thrill of trying what the microbreweries around you have to offer, stemming from a love for beer and experimentation. 


The Basic Beer Types 

At the most basic level, all beers can be categorised into two primary types: 1. Lager and 2. Ale. This bifurcation is done on the basis of the type of yeast used during the fermentation process.


  • Ales are made with top-fermenting yeast that operates at warmer temperatures, and settles at the top of the beer. The scientific name for ale yeast is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. 


  • On the other hand, Lagers are made with bottom-fermenting yeast named Saccharomyces Pastorianus, that works better in colder temperatures. The fermenting process in the case of Lagers is longer, the strain of yeast is more fragile, and the yeast settles at the bottom of the vessel after fermentation.


  • In terms of the flavour profile, Ales tend to be more fruity and sweeter, while Lagers typically boast of a cleaner, crisper taste with a smooth finish. 


Every beer starts out as a basic Lager or an Ale, and then evolves into a specific style based on added ingredients like hops or malts, and flavours like caramel, citrus or fruity. 


  • There also exists a third, relatively rare category of beer brewed with spontaneous fermentation. This one makes use of a spontaneous yeast strain in the environment to produce sour and wild beers. 



So, How Many Beer Types Are There Exactly? 

To put it simply, many. There are over 100+ distinct beer styles one can get their hands on, a majority (more than 70) of which are Ales, followed by more than 25 types of Lagers and lastly a few hybrid styles. This applies to both mass-produced beers, as well as craft beer. Although the latter gives you a more authentic taste of the beer style you've picked, because bottled beers are mostly toned down versions made for easy drinking. 


Also Read: Checkout These 23 Best Beer Brands In India Under The Budget Of ₹200


A Beer Bucket List - Beer Types You Must Try 

As you can imagine, it'd be quite a challenge for anybody to list down all beer types that exist, not just because of the sheer variety but also considering there are multiple ways to classify beer. So, what we'd like to do instead, is curate an inventory of the most popular and recommended beer types every fan needs to try. And now, without further ado, we present a list of the most popular beer types! 


Popular Types Of Ale Beer (Top-Fermented) 


1. Brown Ale

Boasting of a rich deep copper colour, Brown Ales carry relatively low bitterness and a medium to full body. The Brown Ale category ranges from the traditional British browns that are typically sweet and low in alcohol content, to the Americanised versions with low to medium hoppiness and medium to high bitterness. 


Image Courtesy - Absolute Beer


2. Pale Ale

Predominantly brewed with pale malt, Pale Ales come in lighter golden to golden-amber colours. Pale Ales tend to be hop-forward with malty flavours, and a decent balance between bitterness and sweetness. 


Image Courtesy - Just Beer


3. India Pale Ale

IPAs are known for their complex flavour profiles comprising of bitter, floral, earthy, citrusy, piney and fruity tastes. Compared to a regular Pale Ale, IPAs come with a stronger and hoppier taste, with a typically higher ABV. There's considerable variety within the India Pale Ale category of beers, such as American IPA (happiest of 'em all, moderate to high bitterness, ABV between 5.5 to 7.5%) Belgian IPA (recent hybrid, dry bitterness, ABV between 6%-12%) New England IPA (tropical fruit centric, heavily dry-hopped minus the bitterness, hazy appearance, ABV between 6 to 7.5%) and Imperial Or Double IPA (think American IPA taken to the next level, extremely hoppy, powerful flavours, high-alcohol content ABV between 7 to 12%). 

There are other varieties too, like the Brut IPA, Black IPA, Rye IPA etc. 


Image Courtesy - KegWorks


7. Blonde Ale 

One of the most easily-drinkable beer styles, Blonde Ales have low to moderate bitterness and hoppiness, and light malty sweetness. It's super-smooth to sip on, and the flavours are well-rounded with a hint of crispness. 


Image Courtesy - Absolute Beer


8. Farmhouse Ale 

Centred around the ancient European tradition of farmers brewing their own beer from their own grain, Farmhouse ales are the perfect summer beers with an earthy, funky flavour. There exists a vast variety within this category differing across European regions, with unique ingredients and brewing process employed by different brewers. 


Image Courtesy - Craft Beer


9. Belgian Ale 

Under this, you have your Belgian Pale Ales, and Belgian Dark Ales. Belgian beers have got to be one of the most delicious and popularly adored beer categories out there, owing to the citrusy, fruit-forward fresh taste, the presence of bright spices and little to no hop. Both Belgian Pale Ales and Dark Ales have a prominent malty presence and a fuller body. 


Image Courtesy - Pinterest


10. Cream Ale 

This one is a style of American Ale, that's light in colour, mild in taste, and has a light body. Although categorised as an Ale, this one actually drinks like a Lager, and in certain cases, brewers make use of Lager yeast to produce Cream Ale. 


Image Courtesy - Mr. Beer


Also Read: Milkshake Beer, Mango Beer & More - It's Time To Try Those Unconventional Beers


12. Stout 

With a near-black appearance and dark taste, Stout beers carry a strong, deeply-roasted and bitter flavour profile with high malt and hoppiness. The taste is akin to that of dark chocolate or black coffee because of the presence of strong caramelised and toasted notes. Stout beers are also used for more than just drinking, they're added to preparations like beef stews and chicken wings. 


Image Courtesy - Beverage Daily 


13. Porter 

A classic pub drink that originated in 18th century London, the Porter style of Ale makes use of brown malt and thus has a dark appearance. In terms of taste, it boasts of warm caramel flavours, charred malty bitterness, and pleasant sweet notes. There's a lot of similarity between Porter and Stout beer, but the distinction lies in the kind of malt used to brew each. 


Image Courtesy - VinePair


14. Wheat Beer

As the name suggests, this top-fermented beer is produced with a relatively larger quantity of wheat that malted barley. While there are many variations within the category, Wheat Beers, in general, tend to be summery, fresh, light, and perfect for easy, laid-back drinking.  


Image Courtesy - The Spruce Eats



Popular Types Of Lager Beer (Bottom-Fermented) 


1. Pale Lager 

With an appearance ranging between pale yellow to golden, Pale Lagers are typically dry, clean-tasting and crisp with subtle flavours and a hop character varying from barely there to noble hops. Pale Lager today is the most widely consumed beer style across the world, and a number of your popular commercial beers like Bud Light and Heinekin fall all under the category of Pale Lagers. 


Image Courtesy - Allagash Brewing Company


2. Amber Lager 

This one is a Lager beer with a medium body and a caramel-like malt character. As the name rightfully suggests, these are darker in appearance than Pale Lagers with an amber or copper hue, and usually have a relatively lower ABV of around 5%. Amber beers have a toasty flavour profile with a dominant taste of caramel and toffee. 


Image Courtesy - Craft Beer & Brewing


2. American Lager 

American Lager is a style of Pale Lager that varies from light to straw in colour, and has a clean, crisp taste with high carbonation. Hop and malt character is typically negligible. It's a light beer, usually with an alcohol content of less than 5%. 


Image Courtesy - Absolute Beer


3. Vienna Lager

Darker in colour than American and Pale Lager, but a light beer nonetheless, Vienna Lagers are easily-drinkable with a flavour profile of toasted malt sweetness. The hop bitterness is well-balanced with the sweetness of the malt, and there's typically a presence of subtle spicy aroma and taste. 


Image Courtesy - Absolute Beer


Also Read: 5 Real Simple Beer Cocktails You Should Make At Home


4. Pilsner 

Another highly popular type of Lager beer, Pilsners are a refreshing, thirst-quenching suit of beers. Lighter in both appearance and taste, these summery beers are perfect for those who love drinking beer but aren't too fond of the typical taste. 


Image Courtesy - Craft Beer


5. Dortmunder

This one is a form of Pale Lager that originated in Dortmund, Germany, in 1873. Drawing heavy influence from the Pilsner style, Dortmunder comes with a soft texture and a refined flavour combination of light honey, corn and sweet malt. It has a creamy mouthfeel making it extremely pleasant to idly sip on. 


Image Courtesy - Los Angeles Times


6. Oktoberfest

This is the official beer for Oktoberfest, the largest people's carnival in the world that combines a beer fest with a travelling funfair, held in Munich, Germany. This one is a beer rich in malt, and similar to the clean, hop bitterness of Vienna Lager. They have a typically low alcohol content with an ABV ranging between 5.5 to 6%. 


Image Courtesy - Craft Beer & Brewing


7. Bock 

Stronger than a typical Lager beer, Bock beers are made by being kept in cold storage for longer than usual, resulting in a smoothening of the intense flavours. These boast of a powerful malt character, moderate carbonation and a rich, toasty taste with hints of caramel flavours. 


Image Courtesy - Pinterest


8. Munich Dunkel 

Mostly made with Munich Malt, these beers are a style of dark lagers with a taste similar to toasted breadcrumbs. The flavours are deep and complex, with notes of caramel. 


Image Courtesy - Absolute Beer


Also Read: magicpin Presents Chug-Logistics - The Real Battle Of Beers


9. Japanese Rice Lager 

Rice Lagers tend to be really light, clean and dry, similar in flavour profile to American Pale Lagers. The taste is crisp and sweet, balanced by a trace of subtle hop bitterness. This beer is perfect for being paired with delicious Japanese preparations lile Sushi and Spicy Shellfish. 


Image Courtesy - PorchDrinking


Popular Hybrid/ Spontaneous Beer Types


1. American Sour 

Made with wild yeast strains and bacteria, American Sour beers are tart in taste with moderately high acidity. Depending on the fruits and additional ingredients, the appearance of American Sours can range very light to pitch black. This is mostly a craft beer variety, characterised by lemony, salty and earthy flavours. 


Image Courtesy - VinePair


2. Lambic

Primarily brewed in regions of Belgium and Brussels, Lambic beer has a very distinct flavour profile of tartness, dryness and cidery. Due to the process of yeast and bacteria fermentation, Lambir beers are actually very healthy for your gut and can serve the purpose of a probiotic drink!  


Image Courtesy - The Beer Connoisseur


3. Kolsch 

Light, drinkable, and slightly fruity, Kolsch beers fall under the most popular beers originating from Germany. The taste is crisp and sparkling, and Kolsch beers typically have very low to no bitterness. German variety hops are present in this beer style, and they work wonderfully to enhance the flavours and balance the malt. 


Image Courtesy - Food & Wine Magazine


4. California Common

Also known as Steam beer, the California Common is known for its unique hybrid production process. It is brewed with Lager yeast fermented at Ale fermentation temperatures. The beer is moderately light and pleasantly hoppy, with a toasted caramel-like malt character. 


Image Courtesy - Absolute Beer


As we mentioned earlier, there are countless more varieties of beers, and brewers continue to invent a new recipe every other day. But it's fair to say that we've rounded up the most try-worthy ones successfully. Which brings us to the next, important question.....


Where Do I Find These Unique Beers?! 

Well, at an excellent microbrewery near you, of course! Need a nudge in the right direction? Here are the top ones in your city. 


Best Microbreweries In Delhi NCR 



Best Microbreweries In Mumbai & Pune 




Best Microbreweries In Bangalore 



Best Microbreweries In Hyderabad 


So, there you have it! A complete guide to types of beer and beer styles, along with recommendations on where to find them. Now, all that's left is for you to head out, and grab a pint. Or 4! 


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