Types of Beer: A Complete Guide (2022)

by Karl S Updated on March 12, 2022

If you like driving around and trying out new breweries, you know that basic knowledge about types of beer is SUPER important.

Not to mention that there are different beer styles out there, which could be so overwhelming for new beer enthusiasts.

Don’t worry! This article will help you get in-depth knowledge about different types of beer and more! Read more to find out.

Two Main Types of Beers: Lager and Ale

To get things started, there are only two main types of beer – lager and ale – and the others that you know came from these two.

One of the most significant factors in beer styles is the fermentation process, while some beers simply can’t be fit into a specific category.

Some beers can be classified as hybrids, containing both lager beers and ale characteristics.

A lager is made with one strain of yeast, while ale is made with another.

Another key difference between the two is the former is fermented at cold temperatures (35˚F – 50˚F) while the latter is at warmer temperatures (60˚F – 70˚F). [R]

Examples of lager beers are bocks, pale American lagers, and darker pilsners, while IPAs and stouts are different kinds of ale.

Before Diving In: Some Technical Terms Explained

If you are new to the scenery of beers, there might be some acronyms/terms that you’ll be unfamiliar with. These are important and will help you choose the right beer for you.

ABV

If you have asked about alcohol content before, you’re familiar with ABV. This acronym means alcohol by volume, which is basically the alcohol content in your beverage.

The usual ABV for beers is 3%-13%, with most types of beer in the range of 4% to 7%. Wine has around 8%-14% ABV, while liquor has 15%-50% ABV.

Did you know that the amount of alcohol beer contains affects its taste? That means a beer with a higher ABV will taste more bitter.

ABV is used in the brewing process so brewers can balance the sweetness and bitterness according to the types of beer.

IBU

This acronym stands for international bitterness unit. It’s a measurement of the number of bitter flavor compounds in a beer. To explain it simply, it tells you how bitter a beer is.

The range starts from 0 to above 100. 0 means that the beer has no bitterness, while those with above 100, well, you already know. It’s pretty crazy, right?

BUT, one cool thing about beers with a high IBU is that sometimes, you won’t even be able to taste that bitterness. For example, if the brewers add high amounts of malt, it will mask the high IBU in the beer.

Not to mention that we all know how bitter flavors taste, so what’s bitter for one might not be so bitter for another.

That doesn’t mean IBU is useless, though! It can still give you a general idea of how bitter a flavor of a beer is.

Top Fermenting Beers

When you say beer is top-fermenting, it means that the yeast used in the fermentation process settles at the top of the liquid.

The yeast has a higher alcohol tolerance and will ferment at warmer temperatures.

Some examples of top-fermenting beers are IPAs, stouts, and wheat beers.

Bottom Fermenting Beers

Lager yeast is much more fragile than ale yeast, which means that the yeast strain would settle at the bottom of the vessel after fermentation.

Unlike top-fermenting beers, the yeast in bottom-fermenting beers ferment more slowly and at cooler temperatures. It also has a lower tolerance to alcohol.

Some examples of bottom-fermenting beers are Pilsners, Bocks, and Oktoberfests.

Spontaneous Fermentation Beers

This fermentation process occurs when brewers pour the wort (unfermented beer) into a vessel and then leave the vessel alone. The beer then picks up natural fauna in the air.

This means that the beer is exposed to wild bacteria and yeast.

Originating from Belgium, this type of fermentation has managed to be known worldwide for creating sour and funky-tasting beers.

Some beers from this brewing process are:

Types of Beer According to Beer Styles (A-Z)

Did you know that there are more than 100 styles of beer? And the number continuously increases since more types are being created.

You might be thinking, “I thought there are only two types of beer?” You’re absolutely right, but these beers vary in terms of their brewing styles.

Obviously, we won’t be able to list all 100 types, but we’ll introduce you to the high-level styles. Without further ado, these are the different types of beer!

#1 Amber

Features:

  • ABV: 4.4%-6.1%
  • IBU: 18-45
  • Color: gold to copper to reddish-brown
  • Food Pairing: sausages, grilled veggies, and pulled pork

Our Overall Thoughts:

An amber beer can either be a lager or an ale, but both beer styles are named after their color.

We love this type of beer because of its toasted malt flavor with a touch of caramel. It also has medium-high hop bitterness.

Some variations of the American Amber Ale have hints of citrus or pine taste, which perfectly balances out the sweetness of the malt.

#2 American Lager

Features:

  • ABV: 3.2-4%
  • IBU: 5-15
  • Color: yellow
  • Food Pairing: American cuisine, spicy food

Our Overall Thoughts

You’ve probably heard of the tagline “American’s naked beer style,” right? Well, that’s the American lager beer for you.

This lager is light in flavor and alcohol content. When you first try this beer, you will taste crisp malt-forward flavors.

Examples of the American lager would be Budweiser, Coors, Miller, and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

#3 American Pale Ale

Features:

  • ABV: 4.4%-5.4%
  • IBU: 30-50
  • Color: deep gold to light brown to copper
  • Food Pairing: burgers, pizza, Buffalo chicken dip

Our Overall Thoughts

Out of all the pale ales, this one is medium-bodied and has a noticeable American hop bitterness.

What makes American pale ales unique is the balance between malt and hops.

Examples of this type of beer style are Sierra Nevada Brewing company’s Pale Ale and Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale.

#4 Bock

Features:

  • ABV: 6.3% – 9.5%
  • IBU: 15-38
  • Color: dark brown
  • Food Pairing: burgers, sausages, jerk chicken

Our Overall Thoughts

Bock is a type of lager beer that translates to “goat” in German. It’s a dark brown beer with an evident taste of malt.

Just a little history. Bock originated from Einbeck, Germany, and has been traditionally sweet and strong ever since.

Some examples of bock include Shiner Bock, Karbach Crawford Bock, and Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock.

What’s unique about this beer style is it has its own versions. One of them is called maibock, which has a lighter color and more hops.

Another type of bock is called doppelbock which has a malty flavor and a higher alcohol content. Weizenbock is a wheat version of a bock that can come off strong as a doppelbock.

#5 Blonde Ale

Features:

  • ABV: 4.1% – 5.1%
  • IBU: 15-25
  • Color: golden yellow
  • Food Pairing: Italian cuisine, spicy food, fish, pepper jack cheese

Our Overall Thoughts

If you want a beer that has a fruity aroma, then the blonde ale is perfect for you. With a perfect blend of malt and hops, this beer tastes like a solid beer you drink on the beach.

Not to mention that it has less alcohol content than the average ale, so you won’t have to worry about getting dizzy.

With its fruity flavor, you’d be reminded of a hot summer day when you’re drinking lemonade. It truly is a refreshing beer.

Some examples of the blonde ale are Victory Brewing company’s Summer Love, Flying Fish Brewing Company’s Farmhouse Summer Ale.

#6 Dunkel

Features:

  • ABV: 4.8% – 5.3%
  • IBU: 16-25
  • Color: amber to dark reddish-brown
  • Food Pairing: sausages, spicy Cajun food, chicken wings, grilled meats

Our Overall Thoughts

The Dunkel beer has a strong malt flavor but it won’t burn going down. Contrary to what you would think, it has a smooth mouthfeel.

Originating from Munich, Germany, the word dunkel literally means dark, and it has balanced flavors of chocolate, bread crust, and caramel.

The alcohol content is also mild to noticeable, with hop bitterness staying low.

Some examples of the Dunkel beer are Yee-Haw Dunkel and Left Hand Brewing co. Brewer’s Test Kitchen: Dunkel.

#7 English Pale Ale

Features:

  • ABV: 4.5% – 5.5%
  • IBU: 20-40
  • Color: golden brown
  • Food Pairing: American and English cuisines meat, English cheese, roasted chicken, maple bread pudding

Our Overall Thoughts

This pale ale is one of the golden-brown ales because of its color. Just a fun fact, this ale is also called “extra special bitters” or English-Style Pale Ale (ESB).

Unlike the other pale ales, English pale ales have a strong hop flavor balanced with a malty sweetness.

It’s a medium-bodied beer with some caramel flavors

Some examples of English Pale Ale are Black Sheep Ale and Flying Fish Extra Pale Ales.

#8 German Helles

Features:

  • ABV: 4.8% – 5.6%
  • IBU: 18-25
  • Color: light to golden yellow
  • Food Pairing: samosas, colby, baklava, pork, brie cheese

Our Overall Thoughts

Like the American pale lager, the German Helles is another type of pale lagers. To give you a background on pale lagers, these are golden-colored beers with low alcohol content and low hoppy bitterness.

A German Helles also has a more noticeable malt flavor, with some hints of roasted barley.

In terms of yeast strains, it has lager yeast. The alcohol is not detectable to mild.

In terms of appearance, one thing that sets Helles apart from other beer styles are the medium and fast-rising bubbles that it has, as its carbonation level is medium to high.

Some Helles they sell in the market are Dry Dock Brewing Co. Helles, Victory Brewing Co. Helles Lager, and The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. Hell Yes.

#9 Hefeweizen

Features:

  • ABV: 4.9% – 5.6%
  • IBU: 10-15
  • Color: straw to amber
  • Food Pairing: seafood, chevre, key lime pie

Our Overall Thoughts

If you want a beer that is NOT bitter, with mild alcohol content, then the German-style Hefeweizen is for you.

This beer has a cloudy appearance as it contains high amounts of wheat and yeast. If you want a beer style that has some notes of banana, then this beer will surely please your taste buds.

A darker variety of Hefeweizen is called the dunkelweizen, a specially roasted grain along with banana and clove.

Some examples of Hefeweizen are Dreamweaver Wheat from Troegs Brewing Co., Big Horn Hefeweizen from CB, and Potts Restaurant & Brewery.

#10 Indian Pale Ale (IPA)

Features:

  • ABV: 5.1% – 10.6%
  • IBU: 50-70
  • Color: light gold to coppery brown
  • Food Pairing: spicy sausages, french fries, fish tacos, rich cheeses

Our Overall Thoughts

One thing you need to remember about India Pale Ales is that they generally have high alcohol content. They’re also known for their fruity flavors and hazy appearance.

We love an India pale ale because it has piney and floral flavors, even though it has a strong hop bitterness.

Did you know that there are three types of IPA? There is the American IPA, Imperial or Double IPA, and English IPA.

Although it has citrus flavors, the American IPA has a higher bitterness than an ordinary pale ale, with an IBU of 50-70 and ABV of 6.3% – 7.5%.

The Imperial or Double IPA has a higher ABV at 7.0% – 14.0%, which is one of the highest among all the beer styles. It has a strong flavor and hop bitterness at IBU 65-100.

Lastly, the English IPA has a generally lower ABV at 5.0%-7.0%. It’s similar to the American style, although it doesn’t taste as bitter as it has an IBU of 35-63.

Some examples of an India Pale Ale are Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA, and Goose Island IPA.

#11 Kolsch

Features:

  • ABV: 4.4% – 5.2%
  • IBU: 20-30
  • Color: light gold
  • Food Pairing: grilled chicken, sushi, nutty cheeses

Our Overall Thoughts

If you are looking for a unique beer, hybrid ones are just around the corner. Kolsch is one of them.

In terms of mouthfeel, this light beer leaves a slightly dry and crisp finish. Have we mentioned that Kolsch has a soft sweetness to it?

You may also taste a hint of apple or light pear. Among the types of beer, Kolsch is a favorite for those who don’t like sour beers.

With an IBU of 20-30, you won’t detect the alcohol content. It’s perfect to be drunk during hot summer days when you’re reaching for a cold drink.

Some examples of Kolsch are Altstadt Kolsch, Yee Haw Kolsch, and Rogue Honey Kolsch.

#12 Pilsner

Features:

  • ABV: 4.1% – 5.3%
  • IBU: 25-50
  • Color: straw to pale gold to light amber
  • Food Pairing: ramen, tacos, spicy chili, white cheddar, chicken, salads

Our Overall Thoughts

Pilsner is probably one of the most famous among the different types of beer. With an IBU that can reach up to 50, it has a high hoppy bitterness that sweeter malts can temper.

Do you want to know a trivia about this beer? American craft breweries deem this one of the most challenging beers to create. It originated from Plzen, Czech Republic.

It has a soft body with a short finish, with low fruity taste and aroma levels, unless the drinker has a trained taste or plate.

Like other lagers, it also has a crisp finish with a refreshing mouthfeel. Beer drinkers wound find this beer a pleasant refuge from the scorching heat during the summer months.

Examples of pilsners are Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Pivo Pils, Snake River Brewing Co.’s Paintbrush Pilsner, and Victory Brewing Co.’s Prima Pils.

#13 Porter

Features:

  • ABV: 4.4% – 6%
  • IBU: 20-30
  • Color: dark brown
  • Food Pairing: brownies, ribs, smoked gouda, enchiladas

Our Overall Thoughts

Did you know that there are actually five variations of Porter, namely:

With dark brown colors resembling cola, these dark beers originated from street and river porters in England, who are known to drink these dark ales.

If you want some medium hop bitterness, give the American Imperial Porter a try. The English style also has a medium hop bitterness AND roasted malt flavor.

Some examples of this dark beer are Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Imperial Porter, Twisted Pine Brewing Co.’s Northstar Imperial Porter, and Breckenridge Vanilla Porter.

#14 Sour

Features:

  • ABV: wide range
  • IBU: wide range
  • Color: wide range
  • Food Pairing: tangy cheeses, cured meat

Our Overall Thoughts

One thing about sour beers is that you can’t just put them in one category. Their alcohol content varies, as does their ABV and IBU.

However, there will always be one consistent thing about a sour beer: it will always taste acidic and tart.

If you think your favorite beer style would have sour flavors, then this one is definitely for you. If not, don’t worry about trying out some, as some can also have fruity flavors.

One example of a sour beer is the American Sour. One of the factors to this production is the use of wild yeast, and the sour taste is derived from the culture of a barrel-aged beer.

Some versions of sour beers or sour ales also feature caramel malt and chocolate-like aromas found usually in Belgian beers.

Some examples of sour beers are Queen of Tarts from Karl Strauss Brewing co., Le Petit Prince from Jester King Brewery, and Ching Ching from Bend Brewing Co.

#15 Stout

Features:

  • ABV: 3.2% – 12%
  • IBU: 15-80
  • Color: dark brown to black
  • Food Pairing: pad Thai, ice cream, meat

Our Overall Thoughts

Who knew that you can also pair some stout beers with ice cream? Yup, we were pretty surprised too!

If you want a malty beer with a noticeable taste of chocolate and caramel, then a Stout is the one for you (DISCLAIMER: They have a high hop bitterness, so be prepared for that too.).

Currently five versions of Stout. These are:

If you want a roasted malt flavor to your craft beer, then the Oatmeal Stout is for you. It also has a noticeable taste of roasted barley and coffee-like aromas. It has some mild alcohol content.

If you want some smooth sweetness to your craft beers, milk stouts are perfect for you. It has lactose sugar which generally lowers the IBU, and is a good pair for cheddar or goat cheese and beef.

Some examples of Stout are Deschutes Obsidian Stout, Guinness Draught, and Vault Breakfast Stout.

#16 Tripel

Features:

  • ABV: 7.1-10.1%
  • IBU: 20-45
  • Color: pale to pale gold
  • Food Pairing: pasta, meat, poultry

Our Overall Thoughts

You’d know the ABV and IBU of Belgian beers through its name. This Belgian tripel is one of the lighter-bodied ones, with only a slight hop bitterness.

Be warned, though, as it has a high alcohol content. It can also be classified as a spice beer as the unique characteristics of the process give it a distinct taste.

However, some variations also have noticeable sweet flavors. They may also appear hazy sometimes because they are usually bottle-conditioned.

Examples of this craft beer are Allagash Tripel from Allagash Brewing Co., Tripel from Green Flash Brewing Co., and PDA from Black Bottle Brewery.

#17 Wheat

Features:

  • ABV: 2.8% – 5.6%
  • IBU: 10-35
  • Color: straw to light amber
  • Food Pairing: burritos, salads, fruit desserts

Our Overall Thoughts

Did you know that craft breweries use a different type of yeast to produce wheat beers? That’s right! That is also why they are unique in their flavor and aroma.

Wheat beer can also be a Belgian beer, especially when the yeast used in a wheat beer is mixed with coriander and orange peel. You can call this a Belgian Witbier.

In general, wheat beer has a light body and often resembles fruit beers when it comes to their feel. They also typically have a low to medium hop bitterness.

These craft beers are often served unfiltered, so they may have a cloudy appearance. You may ask, “How can I differentiate this beer from the German Weizen?” Well, let us tell you how.

The German Weizen has banana or clove flavors, which is noticeable in their craft beer.

Due to its relatively low alcohol content, the American wheat beer is considered a refreshment during the hot summer months.

Some wheat beer brands you can try out are Telluride Brewing Co.’s Whacked Out Wheat, Bell’s Brewery Inc.’s Oberon, Altitude Chophouse, and Brewery’s Tumblewheat.

How Do I Know the Right Craft Beer for Me?

Well, as you have seen in this list, there are SO MANY different types of beer, and it seems impossible to choose just one and stick with it.

But, there are a few guidelines you also have to consider, especially if you are a starting beer enthusiast.

Be Aware of the Allergens

Certain beers contain possible allergens, such as barley and wheat, for those with gluten intolerance.

A certain type of stout called Milk Stout also has some added lactose, so consider that too when trying out beers.

Of course, different types of beer have other ingredients too. Our advice is to read the list of ingredients first. This way, you’re sure that you’re not accidentally triggering your allergy.

Consider Your Alcohol Tolerance

Let’s admit it, we all thought that craft beer doesn’t have that much alcohol content. But, as you can see from this list, some even reach up to 14% ABV.

Pale lagers, for example, have low to mid-level alcohol, but they can still pack quite the punch when you drink them consecutively.

If you think you have low tolerance, it would be best to start trying those with a low ABV, such as session beers.

These beers are simply any type of beer – which means it can be an American Amber Ale or even a pale lager – brewed with a lesser ABV for summertime drinking sessions.

Go slow at first, and then when you think you can handle more, that’s when you can go all-out in trying other types of craft beers.

Ask For Guidance

Did you know that there are a lot of beer enthusiasts all over America? So much so that they even invented beer clubs.

That means there are SO MANY people willing to guide you on your journey to becoming a beer enthusiast.

Ask bartenders from your local pub or bar, as they also know about brewing beer. Of course, they also have suggestions on what beers you should try first.

Personal Preferences

If you’re going to try out something new, it would be better to try out something that you think you would like first.

In this way, you won’t be overwhelmed with the foreign taste of some beers, especially if you have a sensitive palate.

Do you like sour flavors? The sours might be the one for you. Do you like the taste of malt and prefer stronger beers? Then a lager with their bottom-fermenting yeast will suit your taste.

Rate Your Beers

Once you have already tried out a new beer, don’t forget to list them down and put your comments. What did you like about it? What did you not like about it?

Asking these questions will help you find the right beer for you, even in the multitude of beers out there.

Some Final Words

We hope you learned something from our list of different types of beer!

Remember, drinking and trying out beer is not a competition. Take your time to find out what you like, even if others don’t like the same beer styles.

Enjoy your beer!