American Style: American style beers are traditionally a more hoppy variety of that particular beer, often referenced against the original European style.
IBU - International Bitterness Units: This is a system to
Imperial: Imperial is traditionally used for a stronger alcohol content of any beer style. The adjective ‘imperial’ comes from the practice of increasing alcohol contents in beer before shipping overseas (in the 1700s, when everything was shipped via boat).
Bock styles vary from light to dark beers although they are traditionally a darker variety. Bock beers are traditionally characterized by a strong malt flavor and light hops. Many have slightly higher alcohol contents (6% - 12%). Bock varieties include maibock or helles bock, doppelbock, and eisbock.
Bocks to try include:
- Shiner Bock (Shiner, TX)
- Celebrator Doppelbock (Germany)
- Aass Bock (Norway)
- Blondibock (Mammoth Lakes, CA)
- Pioneer Oderbolz Bock (Black River Falls, WI)
- Goats Peak Bock (Holyoke, MA)
- Anchor Bock (San Francisco, CA)
There are many categories of European lagers, many of which fall under the classification of German lagers. However, in the U.S., we rarely see these beers outside of Oktoberfest. The broad category of European Lagers are typically malty with hints of caramel. These beers are traditionally more smooth than the crisp American style.
European lagers to try include:
- Cigar City Ligero Black Lager (Tampa, FL)
- Hot Rocks (San Marcos, CA)
- Leinenkugel's Creamy Dark (Chippewa Falls, WI)
- Harp Dark Lager (Ireland)
- Bullfrog Frog-ger (Williamsport, PA)
There are pale and dark lagers and real and cheap lagers. Your standard Lite Beers are cheap lagers and use adjuncts including corn and rice instead of wheat to lower costs. Real pale and dark American lagers balance malt and hop flavors to provide a clean tasting beer with a crisp finish.
American lagers to try include:
- Franconia Lager (McKinney, TX)
- Brooklyn Silver Anniversary Lager (Brooklyn, NY)
- Omission Lager (Portland, OR)
- Rapscallion Lager (Sturbridge, MA)
- New Belgium Shift (Fort Collins, CO)
Pilsners are traditionally light, aromatic, crisp, and refreshing. While pilsners have a similar body to common cheap lagers, they often have a stronger bitter (hop) flavor. The Czech Republic is best known for their pilsners.
Pilsners to try include:
- Unplugged Bohemian Lager (New Glarus, WI)
- Rogue Morimoto Imperial Pilsner (Newport, OR)
- Pilsner Urquell (Czech Republic)
- Polestar Pilsner (Longmont, CO)
- Live Oak Pilz (Austin, TX)
- Prima Pils (Downingtown, PA)
- Reality Czech (Fulton, CA)
There are many theories surrounding the start of porters and stouts. In brief, these beers were developed as a blend of ales. Eventually porters and stouts diverged with stouts trending towards the use of roasted barley, a drier and more bitter flavor, and darker color. Porters are often lighter colored with a sweeter (as opposed to bitter) flavor. Stouts and porters vary greatly from dry to sweet and from high to low in alcohol content (Guiness is only 4% ABV). Stout styles include: dry, sweet, export, oatmeal, and Russian imperial. Porter styles include: London, American, and Baltic.
Porters to try include: Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter (Portland, OR), Stone Smoked Porter (San Diego, CA), Founders Brewing Company Porter (Grand Rapids, MI), Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (Cleveland, OH), Smuttynose Brewery Robust Porter (Portsmouth, NH)
Stouts to try include:
- Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout (UK)
- Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (UK)
- Founders Breakfast Stout (Grand Rapids, MI)
- The Abyss [Stout] (Portland, OR)
- Surly Darkness [Stout] (Brooklyn Center, MN)
There are hundreds of styles of ales; most common are pale ales and IPAs (as discussed above), blonde ale, amber ale, Scottish ale, red ale, and brown ale. While the range of ales can vary all over the board, sweeping generalizations can help categorize these beers. For those new to beers, the lighter it is, the “easier” the drinkability which often means that lighter ales have more fruit and wheat flavors, darker ales have more nut or malty flavors. From lightest to darkest: Blonde ale, amber ale, red ale, brown ale, Scottish ale.
Ales to try include:
Pale ales are golden to copper in color with low to medium maltiness and a combination of fruit and hop flavors. American and English style pale ales are the most common. IPAs typically are all-around a more aggressive beer with a bit of extra body, hops, and a bit more carbonation. IPAs were first developed with more hops than traditional ales for better preservation during overseas travel.
Pale ales and IPAs to try include:
- Three Floyds Alpha King (Munster, IN)
- Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale (Lyons, CO)
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (Chico, CA)
- Stone Pale Ale (Escondido, CA)
- Alesmith X (San Diego, CA)
- Flower Power IPA (Ithaca, NY)
- Eastern Standard IPA (Peekskill, NY)
- All Day IPA (Grand Rapids, MI)
- Big Eye IPA (San Diego, CA)
- Hop Crisis (San Francisco, CA)
Lambic and sour beers are wheat beers that have a tart and sour taste and are occasionally described as vinegary (but are some of my favorites). Lambics are commonly associated with fruits, while sour beers are traditionally a variety of a more standard beer style (most notably Flemish Red Ale). This beer type originally developed in Brussels and was derived from wild yeast entering the fermentation barrels.
Lambics & Sour beers to try include:
- Lindemans Framboise (Belgium)
- Kriek de Ranke (Belgium)
- The Dutchess (Belgium)
- Lost Abbey Cable Car (San Marcos, CA)
- Russian River Supplication (Santa Rosa, CA)
- Hill Farmstead Juicy (Greensboro, VT),
- Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton (Elmsford, NY)
- Jester King Atrial Rubicite (Austin, TX)
As evident with the name, wheat beers are brewed with a large proportion of wheat and malted barley. Wheat beers are typically defined by mild fruit flavors (often citrus) and spicy aromas (coriander or cloves). The most common introduction into wheat beers is Blue Moon (Coors Brewing Company).
Hefeweizen and Belgian Whites to try include:
- Allagash White (Portland, ME)
- St. Bernardus Wit (Belgium)
- Hitachino Nest White Ale (Japan)
- Brooklyn Brewery’s Blanche de Brooklyn (Brooklyn, NY)
- Dogfish Head’s Namaste (Delaware)
- Fort George Brewery Quick Wit (Astoria, OR)
- Ommegang White (Cooperstown, NY)
- Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale (Petaluma, CA)
- Three Floyds Brewing Gumballhead (Munster, IN)
- Bell’s Oberon Ale (Kalamazoo, MI)
Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast (the yeast is located near the top of the fermenting tank). Top-fermenting yeasts prefer a warmer environments and are able to tolerate higher alcohol concentrations than bottom-fermenting yeast. Ales are often characterized by fruit and spice flavors
Lagers are brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast (the yeast is located near the bottom of the fermenting tank). Bottom-fermenting yeasts require a lower-temperature environment than top-fermenting yeasts. Lagers are often characterized by a "clean" taste and focus on the grain and hop flavors of the brew.
The subtleties and complexities of beer are incredible. As with many things, the more you learn, the less you realize you know. Understanding your personal taste for beer is important. This page is an attempt to simplify the major beer types and provide some basic distinctions for the majority of us who don’t entirely know what’s out there. But let's start with the basics: Ales vs. Lagers.
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