Different Beer Styles Identified by Category
Beer is the ultimate communal beverage. It is served at casual gatherings, fun parties, and important events. Its versatility can be credited to the fact that there is a huge variety of beer created and served in different parts of the world.
This spawned so many styles that are ultimately unique from each other. Experts around the world have studied and differentiated them. The Daily Drink aims to make a simplified reference sheet by listing them below.
The most basic differentiation used for beers is based on how they are made. There are two processes used for brewing which result in different types of beverages. The two categories of beers are known as ‘lager’ and ‘ales’. The types of beer that fall into each category are called ‘styles’ which are mostly identified by their flavour and texture.
Ales can be considered a cheap beverage based on their usual prices which mostly based on the easy brewing process. There are premium and luxurious brands under this category so the oversimplification is unreliable. Ales use types of yeast that ferment on the top of the brew and are active between 20-22℃. They are ready to drink right after fermentation.
They can be served warm and stored at room temperature, but their shelf life would only last 3 days or so. They can last for weeks under 12℃ and months under 2℃. Ales can be aged for better flavour and stronger effect. Beers below belong to the ale category.
It is made with hops and roasted brown malt which contributes to its iconic dark colour. Beer has been around for centuries but most regions have different brews. Porter is the first style to be adopted and brewed in major corners of the world. Its flavour varies from fruity to dry depending on the malt used.
Stout is a variation of porter which was originally called ‘stout porter’. There is a hint of sweetness blended with the stronger taste of coffee or roasted barley which causes its darker hue.
The blonde ale is named after its light, yellowish clear fluid. It is the result of using light malt and a few traces of hops. Its flavour can be described as crisp and dry with a hint of bitterness.
The colour of brown ale can look like porters and stout but many varieties have a more reddish glow. It is usually made with a mix of different malts. They often taste sweet like caramel and chocolate. Others have citrus added.
Pale ale is often coloured bright and shiny like copper. It has a strong fruity flavour despite its name and colour.
Indian Pale Ale
The Indian Pale Ale is a variety of the original pale ale. It is named as such because of its history as the British had to add extra hops so the beer lasted long enough to survive the trip to India. It has a strong bitter taste with a hint of fruit.
Also known as sour ale, wild ale is known for using lambic microbes for fermentation. It is known as the original way of brewing beer but a majority of drinkers prefer a more sanitized method. Wild ale has a tart flavour from fruits. Given the nature of brewing wild ale, most breweries that make it usually specialize only on it. Colours may vary from thick fruity colours to soft wine-like hues.
Wheat beer is made with wheat that is at least half the amount of barley for brewing. They often have a light, golden glow that’s more orange than a blonde ale but not as red as a pale ale. Wheat beer is mostly sour in all of its different varieties. There is a version of wheat beer that uses lambic microbes which makes it similar to wild ale.
Brewing lagers need a lower temperature in all of its stages. The brewing process is often called ‘lagering’ and it involves using bottom-fermenting yeasts. These types of microbes are only active in temperatures between 7-13℃. Other styles need yeast that are only active within 1-2℃.
Fermentation can take 7-14 days. Afterwards, lagers are placed in tanks which will be stored in a room that is 10℃ or less. This storage time is what identifies lagers from ale as the word ‘lager’ is a German word that means ‘storage’. This stage can take between weeks or months before the alcohol is ready to be shipped or served.
Pilsner is an authentic recipe from the Czech Republic which many brands around the world are trying to emulate. It is described as having a crisp and refreshingly bitter taste of hoppy with a hint of malt. It also tends to be an aromatic drink when served in a glass.
Amber lager is also called ‘Oktoberfest Beer’ as it is usually served for the Volksfest in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. It is known for its amber colour and how it is very easy to drink. Its flavours are toasty and nutty. It is also known to be refreshing, making it perfect for a grand celebration before the end of summer.
Pale lager is well-known as a refreshing drink rather than party alcohol. Its most noticeable flavour is having a mild bitterness of hops but having some floral notes from sweet malt. Some say it smells like fresh bread.
Unlike other dark beers, the dark lager is noticeably light and smooth instead of being bitter. It still has the bitterness of hops but it’s mostly described as having a malty smooth texture and chocolate-caramel taste. It smells like cocoa and toffee or molten sugar.
The bock beer is usually dark and considered to have the strongest flavour out of all dark beers. It has an intense flavour of malt while also having notes of bread crust and sweetness of toffee.
Hybrid beer is also called ‘mixed’. It essentially includes all types of beer that are created in unique ways—most of which involve mixing up the process for both lager and ale. Some use the fermentation process of ale but use lager storing methods and vice versa.
Altbier is made using top-fermenting yeast but it is stored to mature in cold storage just like lagers. The yeast used gives it its sweet—fruity taste and storing it gives it a crispier taste. It is usually dark like a porter but it has a hint of a copper glow.
Kolsch is clear but yellowish. It has a muted, but crispy fruity flavour and a smooth texture for easy drinking. It looks like a toned-down version of the pale ale.
The steam beer uses lager yeast but the fermentation temperature is 13-24℃. This originated in California where the water is naturally cold and its other name is ‘California common’. It is a refreshing drink marketed for the labour-class.
Cream ale is brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast but done so in higher temperatures at around 18℃. Despite having ‘cream’ in the name, it is not made or blended with milk. The yeast used was the same as the ones used for a pale lager. It is a light drink with muted bitterness and malty flavouring. It’s a pale lager but without the maturing process.
There are plenty of alcoholic drinks in the world and each one has a community of enthusiasts for the art of crafting and their taste. However, beer is considered one of the topmost consumed fluids. Aside from consumption, it is also the one that has the most variation. Perhaps wine would have more styles compared to beer, the latter is more accessible to all walks of life.
Beer was created in many places around the world and each region spawns a unique style. This is largely thanks to breweries also having to deal with the limitations of their environment and available resources. Another fact worth appreciating is how there are so many independent breweries.
Many beers shipped in grocery stores are manufactured. Enthusiasts of unique experiences would actively seek out what is called ‘craft beer’. A craft brewery is often recognized as a small business owned by an independent brewmaster. Big companies tend to mass-produce an already existing recipe. Craft breweries are born of passion from brewmasters whose recipe is improved over time.
There can be ten to a hundred breweries in the same city. The Daily Drink can’t promise to be in contact with all the local crafters, though. A few of them tend to be the biggest supplier of a local pub or a store from another city. Many of these breweries chose the location for the conditions of the place while others started their business at home. Many brewmasters love to have a visitor so be sure to ask the local pub for the contact information of their supplier if you’re interested.