Listed from lightest to darkest (generally weakest to strongest in terms of alcohol content), we’ve broke down many of the styles of beers and ales available presently. Though we offer suggestions of when to enjoy certain styles and what type of food to consume with each style, do not consider these recommendations to be ‘written in stone.’ We just want the drinker to be happy while they down some fine brews.
PILSENER (a.k.a. pilsner) – Generally the lightest, palest, least alcoholic lager style, offering a tingling tamped-down hop fizz and soft tones of grain with possible corn and rice adjuncts for a light-to-moderate-bodied finish. Preferred during hot afternoons following physical activity or as a complement to fruits, nuts, snacks, and barbecue.
LAGER – Dry malted, hop-induced, amber-hued beer style with moderate-bodied sweetness and probable bitter grain influence. Preferred during spring or autumn afternoons after work or as a complement to pasta, chicken, pork, and fish.
GOLDEN ALE – Dry, light-bodied ale with sweet grain influence and possible floral accents. Preferred during early summer evenings or as a complement to fish and chicken.
BLONDE ALE – Similar to golden ales, though more often spiced with muted fruit accents and retaining fuller dry-hopped backbone. Preferred during hot summer daze or as a complement to fish, chicken, and chili.
PALE ALE – Dry-hopped, malt-sweetened, moderate-bodied ale with possible spice seasoning. Preferred during summer evenings or as a complement to seafood, lamb, beef, and chicken liver.
RED ALE – Dry-spiced, malt-sweetened, medium-bodied ale with possible sinewy yeast texture. Preferred during summer evenings or as a complement to pizza, salty foods, nuts, Caesar salad, and Buffalo wings.
INDIA PALE ALE – Copper-hued, dry-bodied, bitter ale usually given wood burnt seasoning or pale fruit influence. Preferred during autumn afternoons or as a complement to meat, cheese, fruit, and nuts.
BROWN ALE – Slightly spicy, moderate-to-full-bodied ale with sweet malted grain persistence and mocha influence. Preferred during early spring evening or a s a complement to meat and fish.
WHEAT BEER – Cloudy amber-hued beer with frothy head, sweet wheat prominence, sinewy yeast texture, and perfume-like aroma. German versions, known as weisse or weizenbier, offer clove and coriander seasoning. Preferred during Indian summer or as a complement to cheese, charcoal-grilled barbecue meat, and vegetables.
MALT LIQUOR – Loose category consuming spritzy 7-Up knockoffs such as the despicable Zima and Tequiza, cheap sticky Colt 45 and its ilk (marketed towards street corner homeys), or some mislabeled overseas imports with heavy alcohol content. Wisely avoid all malt liquors unless imported variety.
BARLEYWINE – Full-bodied, robust ale with bitter hops, sweet caramel malting, red wine influence, and high alcohol content. Preferred during autumn evenings or as a complement to cheese or as an aperitif.
BOCK – Full-bodied, bronze-hued German-styled lager with heavy malt concentration and grain-based pungency. Preferred during late autumn evenings or as a complement to meat and vegetables.
LAMBIC – Wild yeast fermented, vintage-aged, Belgian-styled wheat brews with acidic wine sourness, cider-like sharpness, and dry cherry, raspberry, plum, or cranberry tartness best consumed alone or with cheese, fruits, or seafood.
ABBAYE / TRAPPIST ALES – Strong, cloudy, sunset orange Belgian-derived ales usually crafted at monasteries are high priced and highly praised. Vintage-aged candied sugar rum-like fruit-spiced digestif best consumed alone. Only five Trappist monasteries still brew: Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. High-priced
BLACK & TAN – A blend of lager or ale with stout rarely captured to perfection in the bottle and preferred during stormy autumn evenings or as a complement to seafood or meat. On tap, the best known Black & Tan combination is Bass Ale with Guinness Stout. Pour the Bass first, then slowly add Guinness to create two distinct layers. Guinness dominates, but Bass takes away any sharp bitterness for a more seductive sweet charm that’s absolutely superb. Softer palates may want to try a Black & White by combining the lighter Harp Lager with Guinness Stout. Blend Smithwick’s Irish Ale with Guinness for a BlackSmith. Experimental thirsts should consider a Black & Red, combining Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout with cherry-doused Lindeman’s Kriek.
PORTER – Mocha, roasted barley, and nut influence this deep brown ale. Preferred during misty winter or spring evenings or as a complement to meat, duck, or pork.
STOUT – There are generally two types of stouts, dry and milk. Dry stouts have a roasted bitterness, mocha-nut influence, and nitrogen charge (to counteract acidic CO2 bite) while milk stouts have a less alcoholic sweet creamy chocolate center and noticeable lactic sugar presence. Subclasses include robust malt-roasted fruit-burnt Russian-styled Imperial Stout, sugared chocolate-y English-styled Sweet Stout, and nutty-bottomed Oatmeal Stout. Fulsome, bold, and full-bodied, stouts are usually the most expensive and distinct brews on the market. Preferred on cold autumn or winter nights or as a complement to meat, fish, and pork, or as a heavy dessert.
SPECIALTY BEER STYLES
ALTBIER – Hop-assertive warm-fermented copper-hued German lager-ale blend.
AMBER ALE – Sweet grain-roasted hop-toasted light-to-medium-bodied ale.
BERLINER WEISSE – Citric-soured German wheat beer enhanced by raspberry/ woodruff syrup.
BIERE DE GARDE – Fruity malted cask-aged French-styled strong ale.
BRAGGOT – Old-fashioned herbal-spiced honey-dipped wine-like English ale.
CHIPOTLE ALE – Dried out jalapeno pepper-spiced ale.
COPPER ALE – Loosely hybridizes red ale fruitiness with brown ale nuttiness.
CREAM ALE – Mild yeast-strewn well-hopped golden American lager-ale blend.
DOPPELBOCK – Hearty alcohol-fueled heavily grained highly malted bock.
DORTMUNDER – Germanized lager with moderate hops, fruit esters, caramel nip.
DUNKELWEIZEN – Sweet malt roasted dark German wheat beer or ale.
EISBOCK – Smooth cold-brewed malt candied dessert bock extracting ice crystals.
EXTRA SPECIAL BITTER – Boldly hopped English-styled ale with fruit esters.
FARO – Caramel or molasses sweetened lambic with fruited spicing.
FRAMBOISE – Dry raspberry-flavored Belgian lambic with piquant astringency.
FLANDERS – Sour-fruited medium-bodied woody-hopped Belgian-styled ale.
GOSE – Sourly salted lactic ale with coriander-spiced barley-wheat malting.
GRUIT – Herbal spiced ale with heather, juniper, ginger, or caraway ‘hopping.’
GUEUZE – Acidic bone dry sour-fruited white wine-y Belgian lambic aperitif.
HEFEWEIZEN – German wheat beer with suspended yeast; lemony banana-clove.
HELLES – Mild-bodied German pale lager with summer fruiting and alcohol bite.
IMPERIAL STOUT – Bold 17th century Czar-appeasing fruity mocha dry stout.
KOLSCH – Light golden subtly lagered pale malted German ale mildly embittered.
KRIEK – Dry Belgian lambic with syrupy cherries added to tart gueuze-like parch.
KRISTAL WEIZEN – Filtered version of German wheat beer w/ fruit-spiced spritz.
MAIBOCK – Light-bodied German pale bock autumn-brewed to celebrate spring.
MARZEN – Dark German-Austrian Oktoberfest w/ sweet yeast brewed in March.
MEAD – Unfermented raw-honeyed dry / sweet fruity-herbal acidic wine-beer mix.
OATMEAL STOUT – Sweet milk stout with malted oats and cocoa-chocolate malts.
OLD ALE – Coppery cold-conditioned altbier with dry-hopped finish.
RAUCHBIER – Well-aged wood-smoked barley-based German-styled lager.
SAHTI – Old-styled Finnish farmhouse ale with resinous juniper influence.
SAISON – Effervescent sour-spiced Belgian summer ale (a.k.a. Farmhouse ale).
SCHWARZBIER – Creamy malt roasted German ‘black beer’ w/ pilsner subtlety.
SCOTCH ALE – Caramelized Scottish strong ale with slight viscous nature.
SCOTTISH ALE – Full-bodied malt-heavy hop-moderated ale w/ Scottish roots.
VIENNA LAGER – Sweet Vienna malt-imbued lager with toasted barley-oats.
WEISS – Blanched moderate-bodied German wheat ale with lemony fruiting.
WEIZENBOCK – Top fermented wheat-malted German bock.
WHITE ALE – Belgian ‘witbier’ with curacao orange and coriander illusions.
WINTER ALE – Strong slowly-sipped dark-spiced Christmas time winter warmer.