Beer Style Primer

August 16, 2018

Last month we asked: “what’s your go-to summertime brew?” Based on your responses, lagers and wheat beers are best to beat the heat. Our poll limited you to only six options, but there are dozens upon dozens of beer styles to choose from.

Beer style is defined by many factors, including appearance, flavour, ingredients, production method, origin and more. Different regions use different criteria, so there is no universally agreed-upon beer-style list, but here are some you should know:

  • Lagers vs. ales – All beers are one or the other – the determining factor is the type of yeast used during the fermentation process. Lagers are made with yeast that ferments at the bottom of the beer mixture while ales are made with yeast that ferments at the top. 
  • Stouts (ale) feature a rich, creamy head and are flavoured and coloured by barley. Stouts often use a portion of unmalted roasted barley to develop a dark, slightly astringent, coffee-like character. Guinness is the world’s most recognizable stout beer.
  • Amber (ale or lager) refers to the colour of the beer, which gets its depth of colour from how long the malt is roasted. Ambers are very versatile beers and can be described as having full-bodied malt aromas with hints of caramel.
  • Blondes (ale), as the name suggests, are very pale in colour. These beers tend to be clear, crisp and dry, with low-to-medium bitterness and aroma from hops and some sweetness from malt.
  • India Pale Ales (IPAs) get their characteristics from hops and herbal, citrus or fruity flavours. They can be bitter and contain high alcohol levels, though the final product depends on the variety of hops used. Some IPAs can taste like pure citrus, while others are strong and bitter. 
  • Wheat beers (ale) rely on wheat for the malt ingredient, which produces a light colour and alcohol level that makes it a perfect drink for summer, served with a wedge of lemon or orange. 
  • Pilsners (lager) are the most popular beer style in the world. Golden, clear lagers were first brewed in the Pilzen area in Czechia. Today’s big brand beers such as Corona, Heineken, Coors and Budweiser, to name a few, all have Pilsner roots.
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