Styles of Beer

With a history of at least a few millennia, it’s no wonder there are so many styles and subtleties to beer. The good news is that you’re living in the golden age of beer, and we’re here to help. Explore, discover, become a brew master in your own right.

Ales

This category of beer uses yeast that ferments at the "top" of the fermentation vessel, and typically at higher temperatures than lager yeast (60°-75°F), which, as a result, makes for a quicker fermentation period (7-8 days, or even less). Ale yeast are known to produce by-products called esters, which are "flowery" and "fruity" aromas ranging, but not limited to apple, pear, pineapple, grass, hay, plum, and prune.

Lagers

Lagers are the most popular beer style in the world. The name comes from the German word "lagern" which means, "to store". Lagers are brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast that work slowly at around 34 degrees F, and are often further stored at cool temperature to mature. Lager yeast produce fewer by-product characters than ale yeast which allows for other flavors to pull through, such as hops. The result is lighter-bodied, highly carbonated beers appreciated for their clean, crisp feel on the palette.

Belgian Pale
ABV 4-6%

Description

These pale ales are gold to copper in color and can have low caramel or toasted malt flavor. The style is characterized by low but noticeable hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. Spicy and fruity fragrance with moderate body. These beers were inspired by British pale ales. Pairings: Tempura Fired Fish and Chips, Taleggio, Savory Bread pudding

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Belgian Dubbel
ABV 6.25-8.5%

Description

Belgian-style dubbels range from brown to very dark in color. They have a malty sweetness and can have chocolate-like caramel aroma and flavor. Hop aroma is low, but bitterness is medium-low to medium. Yeast-generated fruity esters (especially banana) can be apparent. Often bottle-conditioned, a slight yeast haze and flavor may be evident. ‘Dubbel’ meaning “double,” this beer is still not so big in intensity as to surpass the Belgian-style quadrupel that is often considered its sibling. Pairing: Appel smoked sausage, washed rind cheese, milk chocolate.

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Belgian Lambic

Description

Naturally and spontaneously fermented beers with high to very high levels of esters, plus bacterial and yeast-derived sourness that sometimes includes acetic flavors. Lambics are not blended, while the gueuze style blends old and new lambics which are re-fermented in the bottle. Historically, they are dry and completely attenuated, exhibiting no residual sweetness either from malt, sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sweet versions may be created through the addition of sugars or artificial sweeteners. Many examples of this style are made to resemble the the gueuze lambic beers of the Brussels area, where it originated. Very low hop aroma, flavor or bitterness; can include floral lavender notes. Very high fruit aromas. Pairings: Shellfish; mascarpone with fruit; rich chocolate cake

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Belgian Tripel
ABV 7-10%

Description

Complex, sometimes mild spicy flavor characterizes this style. Yeast-driven complexity is common. Tripels are often on the higher end of the ABV spectrum, yet are approachable to many different palates. These beers are commonly bottle-conditioned and finish dry. Tripels are similar to Belgian-style golden strong ales, but are generally darker and have a more noticeable malt sweetness. High alcohol content, 7-10% ABV. Pairings: Roasted Turkey, Triple Crème, Carmelized Banana Crème Bruée

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Belgian Quadrupel

Description

These beers are amber to dark brown in color. Caramel, dark sugar and malty sweet flavors dominate, with medium-low to medium-high hop bitterness. Quads have a relatively light body but are higher in alcohol. Sometimes referred to as Belgian strong dark. Complex, fruity flavors such as raisins, dates, grapes or plums, sometimes with a wine-like character. Pairings: Roasted Duck, Aged Gouda, Bread Pudding .

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Belgian Saison

Description

Beers in this category are pale to deep light brown in color. Often bottle-conditioned, with some yeast character and high carbonation. Belgian-style saison may have fruity, horsey, goaty and/or leather-like aromas and flavors, with lower hop aroma but higher hop taste. Specialty ingredients, including spices, may contribute a unique and signature character. Commonly called ‘farmhouse ales’ and originating as summertime beers in Belgium, these are not just warm-weather treats. U.S. craft brewers brew them year-round and have taken to adding a variety of additional ingredients. Medium to higher alcohol, 4.5-8.5% ABV. Pairings: Seafood (mussels), brie, lemon-ginger sorbet.

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Belgian Wit

Description

“Wit” means white. Belgian-style wits are brewed using unmalted wheat, sometimes oats and malted barley. Witbiers are spiced with coriander and orange peel, but register lower in bitterness. A style that dates back hundreds of years, it fell into relative obscurity until it was revived in the 1960s. This style is currently enjoying a renaissance, especially in the American market. Pairing: Mussels and fries; mascarpone, panna cotta.

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Hefeweizen

Description

Hefeweizens are straw to amber in color and made with at least 50 percent malted wheat. The aroma and flavor of a weissbier comes largely from the yeast and is decidedly fruity (banana) and phenolic (clove). ‘Weizen’ means “wheat” and ‘hefe’ means “yeast.” There are multiple variations to this style. Filtered versions are known as ‘kristal weizen’ and darker versions are referred to as ‘dunkels,’ with a stronger, bock-like version called ‘weizenbock. This is commonly a very highly carbonated style with a long-lasting collar of foam. Pairings: Seafood, chevre, key lime pie.

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Dunkelweizen

Description

Luscious but moderate in body, the dunkelweizen is distinguished by copper brown color, its sweet maltiness and chocolate-like character, it can also have banana and clove (and occasionally vanilla or bubblegum) esters from weizen ale yeast. Pairings: Roasted Chicken, Gouda, Banana Cream Pie.

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Belgian Wit

Description

“Wit” means white. Belgian-style wits are brewed using unmalted wheat, sometimes oats and malted barley. Witbiers are spiced with coriander and orange peel, but register lower in bitterness. A style that dates back hundreds of years, it fell into relative obscurity until it was revived in the 1960s. This style is currently enjoying a renaissance, especially in the American market. Pairing: Mussels and fries; mascarpone, panna cotta.

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Weizenbock
ABV 7.9-9.5%

Description

A wheat version of a German-style bock, or a bigger and beefier dunkelweizen. Malt and weizen ale yeast are the star ingredients (as a result may be cloudy in appearance). With flavors of bready malt and dark fruits like plum, raisin, and grape, weizenbocks are low on bitterness and high on carbonation. Balanced clove-like phenols and fruity, banana-like esters produce a well-rounded aroma. Higher in alcohol. And delicious. Pairings: chicken and dumplings; manchego; banana bread.

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India Pale Ale (English)

Description

Steeped in lore (and extra hops), the IPA is a stronger version of a pale ale. Characterized by stiff English-style hop character (earthy, floral) and increased alcohol content. English yeast lends a fruity flavor and aroma. Different from its American counterparts, this style strikes a balance between malt and hops for a more rounded flavor. There is also a lot of mythology surrounding the creation of this style, which is still debated today. Pairings: Fettuccine Alfredo, Aged Cheddar, Ginger Spice Cake.

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Inda Pale Ale (American)

Description

Characterized by floral, fruity, citrus-like, piney or resinous American-variety hop character, this style is all about hop flavor, aroma and bitterness. This has been the most-entered category at the Great American Beer Festival for more than a decade, and is the top-selling craft beer style in supermarkets and liquor stores across the U.S. Pairings: Spicy Tuna Roll, Blue Cheese.

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India Pale Ale (Imperial)

Description

High hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. Hop character is fresh and lively from utilization of any variety of hops. Alcohol content is medium-high to high and notably evident with a medium-high to full body. The intention of this style is to exhibit the fresh and bright character of hops. Higher alcohol, 7.5-10.5% ABV Pairings: Bone-in Pork Chops, Salmon, Rich Cheeses, Carrot Cake.

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ESB (Extra Special Bitter)
ABV 4.5-5.5%

Description

Known for its balance malt and hop bitterness, Extra Special Bitter ales (also known as "English Pale Ales") impart an earthy, herbal English-variety hop character. Medium to high hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. The yeast strains used in these beers lend a fruitiness to their aromatics and flavor. The residual malt and defining sweetness of this richly flavored, full-bodied bitter is medium to medium-high. Pairings: Roasted Chicken, Fish and Chips, Maple Bread Pudding.

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Amber Ale
ABV 4.4-6.1%

Description

Think malt: most amber ales are medium-high to high in maltiness. They are characterized by American-variety hops, which produce medium hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. American ambers are usually darker in color, have more caramel flavor and less hop aromatics, and may have more body. This style was first made popular by brewers from the Pacific Northwest. Barbecue, medium cheddar, banana pound cake.

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Pale Ale
ABV 4.4-5.4%

Description

Refreshingly fruity, floral and citrus-like American-variety hop character, with medium to medium-high hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. American-style pale ales have medium body and low to medium maltiness that may include low caramel malt character. Pairings: roasted or grilled meats; mild or medium cheddar; apple pie.

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Blonde
ABV 4.1-5.1%

Description

One of the most approachable styles, a golden or blonde ale is an easy-drinking beer that is visually appealing and has no particularly dominating malt or hop characteristics. Rounded and smooth, it is an American classic known for its simplicity. Sometimes referred to as ‘golden ale.’ These beers can have honey, spices and fruit added, and may be fermented with lager or ale yeast. Pairings: Spaghetti and meatballs; pepperjack cheese; sugar cookies.

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Bock (German)
ABV 6.3-7.5%

Description

Traditional bocks are all-malt brews and are high in malt sweetness. Malt character will balance sweetness and toasted or nut-like malt, with a soft mouth-feel and low-hop taste. Very dark brown color. ‘Bock’ translates as “goat!” Pairing: Grilled rib-eye; aged swiss; chocolate.

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Doppelbock
ABV 6.5-8.0%

Description

"Doppel" means “double,” and this style is a bigger and stronger version of the lower-gravity German-style bock beers. Originally made by monks in Munich, this style is very food-friendly and rich in flavors reminiscent of toasted bread. Color is copper to dark brown. Malty sweetness is dominant but not be cloying. Malt character is more reminiscent of fresh and lightly toasted Munich-style malt, more so than caramel or toffee malt. Doppelbocks are full-bodied, and alcoholic strength is on the higher end. Pairings: Pork or ham; strong cheeses; German chocolate cake.

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Maibock

Description

Another nam for "Maibock" is "heller bock" (meaning “pale bock”), this style is paler in color and more hop-centric than traditional bock beers. A lightly toasted and/or bready malt character is often apparent. Pairings: Ham; swiss cheese; white chocolate cheesecake.

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Weizenbock
ABV 7.9-9.5%

Description

A wheat version of a German-style bock, or a bigger and beefier dunkelweizen. Malt and weizen ale yeast are the star ingredients (as a result may be cloudy in appearance). With flavors of bready malt and dark fruits like plum, raisin, and grape, weizenbocks are low on bitterness and high on carbonation. Balanced clove-like phenols and fruity, banana-like esters produce a well-rounded aroma. Higher in alcohol. And delicious. Pairings: chicken and dumplings; manchego; banana bread.

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English Brown Porter
ABV 4.5-6.0%

Description

Brown porters have no roasted barley or strong burnt/black malt character. Low to medium malt sweetness, caramel and chocolate is acceptable. Hop bitterness is medium. Softer, sweeter and more caramel-like than a robust porter, with less alcohol and body. Porters are the precursor style to stouts. Pairings: roasted or grilled meats; gruyere; chocolate peanut butter cookies.

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Baltic Porter
ABV 7.6-9.1%

Description

A smooth, cold-fermented and cold-lagered beer brewed with lager yeast. Because of its alcoholic strength, it may include very low to low complex alcohol flavors and/or lager fruitiness such as berries, grapes and plums (but not banana). This style has the malt flavors of a brown porter and the roast of a schwarzbier, but is bigger in alcohol and body. Pairings: primer rib; aged gouda; deconstructed s'mores/

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Smoke Porter
ABV 5.1-8.9%

Description

The secret to the "smokiness" in the aroma and flavor is wood-smoked malt. Traditionally, brewers cite the specific wood used to smoke the malt, and different woods will lend different flavors to the finished product. Smoke flavors dissipate over time. Pairings: grilled sausage; red dragon cheddar; s'mores.

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American Stout
ABV 3.8-6.0%

Description

A coffee- and chocolate-forward experience, but with a hop aroma and flavor, often from a citrus-forward variety. American stouts are bold, with a distinctive dry-roasted bitterness in the finish. Pairings: Grilled lamb; sharp cheddar; coffee cake.

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Oatmeal Stout
ABV 3.8-6.0%

Description

Oatmeal adds a smooth, rich body to rich malty feel and coffee-like roasted barley aroma. Oatmeal stouts are dark brown to black in color. Malt character is caramel-like and chocolate-like, and should be smooth and not bitter. This low- to medium-alcohol style is packed with darker malt flavors and a rich and oily body from oatmeal. Yum. Pairings: Chicken in mole sauce; aged cheddar; sweet potato cheesecake.

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Irish Stout
ABV 3.8-5.0%

Description

Irish "Dry" Style stouts are black and feature a dry-roasted character through the use of dry barley. Bitter, strong, with a roasty coffee flavor. Pairings: oysters; ham; Irish cheddar; chocolate desserts.

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American Amber / Red Lager
ABV 4.0-6.0%

Description

A sort of catch-all category, Amber or Red lagers boast a bit more malt backbone and overall character than their lighter sister styles. Bitterness is generally low. A popular style in the US.
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Steam Beer (aka "California Common")

Description

The California Common, or Steam Beer, is a unique 100% American style lager. It's usually brewed with a special strain of lager yeast that works better at warmer temperatures. This method dates back to the late 1800's in California when refrigeration was a great luxury. The brewers back then had to improvise to cool the beer down, so shallow fermenters were used. So in a way the lager yeast was trained to ferment quicker at warmer temperatures. Today's examples are light amber to tawny in color, medium bodied with a malty character. Mildly fruity with an assertive hop bitterness.

Anchor Brewing Co., a Dakota Beverage brewer, trademarked the term "Steam Beer" and as such all other beers must be legally referred to as "California Common."
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American Pale Lager
ABV 4.0-6.0%

Description

Sometimes referred to as "all-malt," this category of beer refers to lagers brewed without cereal adjuncts (like rice or corn). Though often still yellow and fizzy, these beers will display a broader depth of malt flavor and a more complex bitterness vs. their adjunct counterparts.
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Malt Liquor
ABV 6.0-9.0%

Description

Full, malty flavor, usually with higher alcohol content. Straw to pale amber in color, most use high amounts of adjuncts, such as corn, rice, refined brewers sugar (dextrose) and as a result there are very few "all malt" brewed malt liquors. Hops are barely used, just enough to balance off any cloyingness. They are attenuated very well, meaning a higher ratio of fermentable sugars are present over other beers, but without using as many ingredients and still ending up with a high alcohol content. Some breweries enable the use of special enzymes to further breakdown the malt and adjuncts so they will yield a larger percentage of alcohol. This makes for quite a dry beer, with only a small amount of unfermented sugars and a serious kick.
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Bohemian Pilsner
ABV 4.1-5.1%

Description

Bohemian-style pilseners have a slightly sweet and evident malt character and a toasted, biscuit-like, bready malt character. Hop bitterness is perceived as medium with a low to medium-low level of noble-type hop aroma and flavor. This style originated in 1842, with ‘pilsener’ originally indicating an appellation in the Czech Republic. Classic examples of this style used to be conditioned in wooden tanks and had a less sharp hop bitterness despite the similar IBU ranges to German-style pilsener. Bohemian-style pilsners are darker in color and bigger in final gravity that their German counterparts. Pairings: shellfish; chicken; salads; mild white cheddar; shortbread cookies.
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German Pilsner
ABV 4.6-5.3%

Description

A classic German-style pilsener is straw to pale in color. A malty residual sweetness can be perceived in aroma and flavor. Perception of hop bitterness is medium to high. Noble-type hop aroma and flavor are moderate and quite obvious. Distinctly different from Bohemian-style pilsener, this style is lighter in color and body and has a lower perceived hop bitterness. Pairings: shellfish; chicken; salads; mild white cheddar; shortbread cookies.
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German Helles
ABV 4.8-5.6%

Description

Helles’ means “pale in color,” as these beers are often golden. They pose more advanced pilsner malt flavor and have a touch more sweetness than standard pilsners and are less dry in the finish. A full-bodied lager that puts forward pilsner malt flavors and can be perceived as bready. A slight sweetness permeates with just a hint of hop spiciness. Clean and crisp, this is a refreshing beer with substance. Slightly higher in alcohol. Pairings: samosas; colby cheese; baklava.
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Marzen/Oktoberfest (German)
ABV 5.1-6.0%

Description

A beer rich in malt with a balance of clean, hop bitterness. Bread or biscuit-like malt aroma and flavor is common. This style used to be seasonally available in the spring (‘Marzen’ meaning “March”), with the fest-style versions tapped in October. Mild alcohol, toasty malt flavor. Pairings: kielbasa; jalapeno jack cheese; coconut flan.
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Amber Lager (American)
ABV 4.8-5.8%

Description

A widely available craft beer style that showcases both malt and hops. Amber Lagers are a medium bodied lager with a toasty or caramel-like malt character. Hop bitterness can range from very low to medium-high. Pairings: grilled meats and vegetables; white cheddar; fruit desserts.
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Vienna Lager
ABV 4.5-5.5%

Description

Ranges from copper to reddish brown in color. Vienna lagers have a malty aroma and slight malt sweetness. The malt aroma and flavor should have a notable degree of toasted and/or slightly roasted malt character. Hop bitterness is low to medium-low. Pairings: grilled meats and vegetables; mild cheese; almond biscotti.
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Schwarzbier
ABV 3.8-4.9%

Description

Sometimes called black lagers, they may remind some of German-style dunkels; but schwarzbiers are drier, darker and more roast-oriented.These very dark brown to black beers have a surprisingly pale-colored foam head (not excessively brown) with good cling quality. They have a mild roasted malt character without the associated bitterness. Malt flavor and aroma is at low to medium levels of sweetness. Pairings: mushroom strudel; munster cheese; fruit tart.
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