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What are the Different Types of Beer?

By J.Gunsch
Updated May 17, 2024
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People have been drinking beer for centuries, and it has had plenty of time to evolve into many different types. All of the various flavors, body and colors of the many styles generally fall under two classifications, either lager or ale. Together, these two classes collectively make up thousands of varieties of beer.

The two categories of beer differ in the type of yeast used to brew them and the temperature at which they are brewed. Beer that is classified as lager uses special yeast that ferments best at cooler temperatures. That classified as ale uses another type of yeast that ferments best at warmer temperatures. Both lagers and ales contain hops, malted barley, yeast and water.

There are basically four types of beer that fall under the lager category: American style pale lager, pilsner, light lager and dark lager. Pale lager usually contains more carbonation than the other types of beer. It tends to be light in color as well as in body. The most popular brands in the United States, such as Coors and Budweiser, are examples of a pale lager.

Pilsner is another type of lager that is pale in color. However, pilsners tend to have more distinct flavors and are often more bitter than American style pale lager. In the U.S., light lager contains less hops and barleys, which reduces the caloric content. Light beer also has a slightly lower alcohol concentration than regular beers. In Europe, a light lager is a beer that is light in color rather than calories. Dark lagers are made with roasted barley and hops, and therefore have richer flavor, a very dark color and a full-bodied taste.

The main types of beer that are referred to as ales include brown ale, porter and stout. Brown ale is usually red or copper colored rather than brown. It has a milder flavor than the other types of ale.

Porters are darker and more full bodied. They usually have a more noticeable barley flavor that is reminiscent of chocolate, along with a mild hop flavor. Stouts are the darkest type of beer, almost black in color. They are thick and taste strongly of the barley and hops that they are made from.

Although there are generally only two types of beer, several thousand unique varieties are created through different combinations of ingredients and added flavors. Fruit, vegetables, spices and so on are added to both lagers and ales to create beverages with flavors like cherry wheat and pumpkin spice, for example. The variety in these creative brews is enough to whet any palate.

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Discussion Comments
By anon180497 — On May 26, 2011

You haven't had real beer without having tasted Belgian beer brewed by monks in monasteries. Beware, some are 32 or even 36 proof.

By jsw23 — On Jul 07, 2010

The IPA is a personal favorite type of beer. IPA is the abbreviation for India Pale Ale, a subcategory of the pale ales mentioned in the article. These beers are generally light amber to copper in color and provide a very hoppy, bitter flavor.

IPAs tend to be medium to medium high alcohol by volume, though there are several high gravity beers available in this style.

It originated in Britain and received its name from the pale malts that were used in the original brewing process. Some popular IPA brands to try are Sweetwater IPA, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Victory HopDevil, and Terrapin Hopsecutioner.

By malena — On Jan 24, 2008

Another big distinction in the different types of beer is the micro beer - macro beer (?) distinction. I don't know what the latter is called, perhaps mass-produced beer is the more proper term. But the micro brew is, of course, made in a micro brewery -- the micro going to the the limited amount of beer that is produced by the brewery. I find micro beers to generally have more complex tastes...the only thing is they generally don't come in light versions for those of us that can't give up our beer but worry about Calories. But, micro beers, generally, sure do taste good!

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