When understanding types of beer, the first step is to divide into two basic categories which depend on the yeast used: ales use yeast that ferments on top, while lagers ferment with yeast from the bottom of the barrel. Beyond this, there are many types of beers so we’ll just cover a few of the more common ones, and what characterizes each type.
Among Lagers, there are three types that beer drinkers love: Pilsners, Dark Lagers and German-Style Bocks
After fermentation, the yeast used to brew different lagers is somewhat more delicate, needs cooler temps to ferment and is relatively slow to ferment. After fermentation, this type of yeast will settle to the bottom of the vessel. Lager yeast has a lower tolerance to alcohol.
To produce different flavors and colors, the fermentation is only the first step, as the ingredients such as hops, barley and wheat play a big part in how the beer will taste.
Ales are typically classified as brown ale or pale ale, and the distinction is in the color and flavor. Among ales, stouts, Beglian-style beer, wheat beer, porter, and India Pale Ale are all included. Ales are top-fermented beers with a relatively higher alcohol level. After fermentation, the yeast settles on top. This fermenting process tolerates a higher temperature and happens relatively quickly.
In addition to lagers and ales, a third type of fermentation is spontaneous and produces sour beer and lambics. This style relies on having the ingredients come into contact with wild bacteria and natural yeasts, and began in Belgium. This type of fermentation produces distinct flavors, but beer producers in every country have imitated Belgian methods.
Wheat beers come predominantly from Germany, Belgium and the U.S., and generally have a zesty, light flavor.
Stouts have a distinctive look and flavor and are heavier than other types of beer. Originating in Ireland, the most famous is Guinness Stout, a nearly black beer brewed from barley. Other stouts use oatmeal and employ different levels of hops and malt to attain a rich, substantial flavor that seems almost like a full meal. Porters, for all intents and purposes, are a type of stout.
This variety is bitter, flowery or piney, and have a heavy hops component. Although they are somewhat bitter, their overall character is light and refreshing. IPAs, a branch of pale ales, are the most popular beer in the U.S. at the time, and have been at the forefront of the micro-brewing movement in the last 20 years.
In addition to these basics, all sorts of variations on beer have sprung up among micro and home brewers. Today, beer drinkers can find chocolate beer, coffee beer, smoke beer and gluten-free beer.
Among lagers, Pilsner is a distinct subtype known to be more flavorful than the average Budweiser or generic lager. European Pilsners originated Germany and Czechoslovakia, and have a crisp and dry taste with emphasis on more complex flavors than American lagers.
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