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Beer! Ale vs Lager vs Stout vs Pilsner vs...

Plan to crack open a cold one for the 4th?  You're not alone.

Confused about the different styles of beer?  Again, you're not alone.  Here's a quick-and-dirty guide that will make for a good conversation starter this weekend.

There are only two categories of beer - Ale and Lager. From there are endless variations.  Let's explore some of the more popular styles within each category:


Made with bottom-fermenting yeasts at cold temperatures.

Pale Lagers are what many Americans think of as "beer", i.e. Miller and Bud. Also called "American Adjunct Lager".  If this is the only beer you drink, it's time to branch out!

Pilsner has a hoppier taste than pale lagers, and is traditionally from the Czech Republic.

Bock is less popular than Pale Lagers or Pils, but deserves more attention. Bocks often have a complex malty flavor with less hoppiness.  Amber to dark color, with a rich taste.


Made with top-fermenting yeasts at warm temperatures.  Ales are what most Brits think of as "beer".

Wheat Beer is my favorite, along with Belgian White.  Both styles are made with wheat and are often seasoned by orange and spices.

IPA (India Pale Ale) is a very hoppy and dry beer with medium color.  My husband loves IPAs, although they're a bit too hoppy for me.

Porter is a very dark, full bodied brew.  They have a very strong malty flavor, with hints of chocolate, caramel, and coffee.

Stout is a subcategory of Porter.  Stouts have more alcohol content than Porters, and also have a slightly dryer and more bitter characteristic.


Check out my beer pairing party for food pairing ideas.  You can also learn more at these links:
Family tree of beer styles

Beer taxonomy chart
Beer calorie stats

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Reader Comments (4)

And from these styles many others come about. Belgium beers are starting to become the latest craze with stronger hops and fruitier flavors than the typical British Ale. If you like a flavorful beer and want to impress friends, ask if the restaurant has a saison for you to try.

July 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan

Their are a few other types of british (or should that be english ales) i think you left out. They are: barley-wines, ESB, bitter, pale, blond and "maybe" ruby red ones. Also xmass one's some brewed with/without spices and higher ABV.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradam

Correct, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Thanks for reading!

November 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterJen @ SecondCitySoiree

Great write! I like Guinness, my fave so far is Young's Double Chocolate.
Also like Shiner Bock.

November 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

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