BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BEER TYPES

Dive into the vast and vibrant world of beers with Drydrinker.

This guide is crafted to demystify the diverse universe of beer styles, from the time-honored lagers and ales to the intriguing world of stouts and porters, and everything in between. Beers have been a part of human history for centuries, celebrated for their rich flavors and the unique stories they tell. Whether you are taking your first steps into the world of beers or seeking to deepen your appreciation, our guide provides an engaging and accessible pathway. It helps you navigate the diverse range of beer types available on the market, empowering you to make informed choices about the styles you'd like to explore and try.

Beer types: Same styles, alcoholic or non-alcoholic

In the world of beer, the variety of types available doesn't vary whether they're alcoholic or non-alcoholic. This guide covers beer styles that are universally relevant, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of beer's diverse flavours and characteristics for everyone.

Explore the types of beer

  • IPA

    IPA is a hop-forward beer known for its strong, often aromatic flavours, balancing bitterness with a diverse range of hop character.

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  • Lager

    Lager is a type of beer that's fermented and conditioned at low temperatures, known for its crisp, clean taste and refreshing finish.

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  • Stout

    Stout is a dark, rich beer known for its deep, roasted flavours, often with hints of chocolate, coffee, and caramel.

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  • Porter

    Porter is a dark, medium-bodied beer characterised by its rich malt flavours, often showcasing notes of chocolate, caramel, and coffee.

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  • Pilsner

    Pilsner is a type of pale lager known for its crisp, refreshing taste, with a fine balance of subtle malt and distinct hop bitterness.

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  • Dark Ale

    Dark Ale is a rich and flavourful beer with a diverse range of styles, characterised by its deep maltiness and varying degrees of sweetness, bitterness, and roasted flavours.

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  • Blonde Ale

    Blonde Ale is a light, easy-drinking beer, known for its balanced malt sweetness and subtle hop flavour, making it a universally appealing and approachable style.

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  • Wheat Beer

    Wheat Beer, known for its high wheat content, offers a distinctive, refreshing taste with a soft, often fruity and slightly spicy character.

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  • Functional Beer

    Functional Beer is a unique category of brews infused with additional ingredients, such as vitamins, probiotics, or CBD, to provide health benefits beyond traditional beer.

    Learn more 

A note on beer tasting

Read our guide

IPA (INDIA PALE ALE)

IPA is a hop-forward beer known for its strong, often aromatic flavours, balancing bitterness with a diverse range of hop character.

Tasting notes

Pronounced hop bitterness

Citrus and floral notes

Often a hint of pine or earthiness

Food pairing:

Spicy foods, barbecued meats, strong cheeses like Stilton, and caramel desserts.

Clarity:

Ranges from clear to a bit hazy, depending on the specific type of IPA.

Colour:

Typically golden to a deep amber

Beer glass style:

Usually served in a tulip glass or an IPA glass designed to highlight its aroma and maintain a frothy head.

Description:

IPAs are a versatile and celebrated style of craft beer, originating from 18th-century Britain. Renowned for their robust hop profile, IPAs can vary from moderately strong and slightly bitter to extremely hoppy and aromatic, reflecting the diverse variety of hops used in brewing. Subtypes include English IPA, American IPA, and New England IPA, each with distinct characteristics – English IPAs are more balanced, emphasising earthy hops; American IPAs are noted for their bold, fruity hops; and New England IPAs are famous for their hazy appearance and juicier, less bitter flavour. This style is a testament to the complexity and creativity in hop utilisation by brewers.

Lager

Lager is a type of beer that's fermented and conditioned at low temperatures, known for its crisp, clean taste and refreshing finish.

Tasting notes

Crisp and clean

Subtle malt sweetness

Dry, light hop finish

Food pairing:

Lighter lagers pair well with seafood, chicken, salads, and light Asian dishes, while darker lagers complement grilled meats, spicy food, and heartier dishes.

Clarity:

Usually bright and clear, although some craft variations can be slightly hazy.

Colour:

Can vary from pale straw to deep amber

Beer glass style:

Typically served in a pilsner glass, which is tall and slender to showcase its clarity and carbonation.

Description:

Lagers represent one of the most popular beer styles globally, distinguished by their method of cold fermentation and longer conditioning periods, which result in a clean and refined profile. This category encompasses a wide range of subtypes, from light and refreshing Pilsners and Helles, to darker and more flavourful Dunkels and Märzens. Lagers are often appreciated for their subtlety and balance, offering a less intense taste experience than ales. This style's versatility and approachability make it a favourite choice for both casual drinkers and beer aficionados alike, suited for a variety of occasions and pairings.

Stout

Stout is a dark, rich beer known for its deep, roasted flavours, often with hints of chocolate, coffee, and caramel.

Tasting notes

Rich coffee-like flavours

Dark chocolate undertones

Creamy caramel hints

Food pairing:

Ideal with oysters, barbecued meats, rich stews, chocolate desserts, and strong cheeses like aged cheddar.

Clarity:

Typically opaque, although some lighter stouts may be more translucent.

Colour:

Deep, dark brown to pitch black

Beer glass style:

Often served in a snifter or tulip glass to concentrate its rich aromas, or in a pint glass.

Description:

Stouts are a celebrated beer style, particularly beloved in the UK for their depth and complexity. Originating from porters, stouts evolved to exhibit a fuller body and richer flavours. They range from the creamy sweetness of Milk Stouts to the intense and robust Imperial Stouts. Dry Irish Stouts, known for their drinkability and balanced bitterness, are another popular subtype. The hallmark of a stout is its roasted character, often yielding coffee and chocolate notes, which comes from the use of roasted barley. This beer style is as diverse as it is historic, providing a warming and satisfying experience especially appreciated in the cooler months.

Porter

Porter is a dark, medium-bodied beer characterised by its rich malt flavours, often showcasing notes of chocolate, caramel, and coffee.

Tasting notes

Roasted malt character

Chocolate and toffee notes

Coffee-like bitterness

Food pairing:

Complements smoked and barbecued meats, seafood like salmon, rich desserts like chocolate cake, and strong, creamy cheeses.

Clarity:

Generally clear, but can range from slightly hazy to very dark.

Colour:

Dark brown to near black

Beer glass style:

Typically served in a pint glass or a mug, which allows for appreciation of its colour and aroma.

Description:

Porters, with their roots in 18th-century London, offer a rich tapestry of flavours while maintaining a lighter body than their stout cousins. They strike a beautiful balance between the bitterness from the roasted malts and the sweetness from the caramel and chocolate notes. Traditional English Porters are known for their smoothness and mild hop profile, while modern craft variations may experiment with added ingredients like vanilla or coconut for additional complexity. This style is deeply entrenched in beer history, providing a satisfying and versatile choice for those who enjoy a beer with depth and character, yet without the heaviness of a stout.

Pilsner

Pilsner is a type of pale lager known for its crisp, refreshing taste, with a fine balance of subtle malt and distinct hop bitterness.

Tasting notes

Bright, floral hop aroma

Balanced malt sweetness

Crisp, refreshing finish

Food pairing:

Pairs well with light dishes like salads, light seafood, chicken, and mildly spiced cuisine; also complements salty snacks like pretzels.

Clarity:

Bright and clear

Colour:

Pale gold to light gold

Beer glass style:

Typically served in a tall, slender pilsner glass which showcases its clarity and effervescence.

Description:

Pilsners, originating from the Czech town of Pilsen in the 19th century, have become one of the world's most popular beer styles. Characterised by a light, golden colour and crystal-clear appearance, they are revered for their delicate balance of malt sweetness and hop bitterness. The use of noble hops, such as Saaz, imparts a distinctive floral or herbal aroma, setting it apart from other lagers. Pilsners are highly approachable and refreshing, making them a favourite for any occasion, especially during warmer weather. Their crispness and clean finish have influenced brewing styles worldwide, solidifying their status as a staple in the beer world.

Dark Ale

Dark Ale is a rich and flavourful beer with a diverse range of styles, characterised by its deep maltiness and varying degrees of sweetness, bitterness, and roasted flavours.

Tasting notes

Deep malt, caramel notes

Nutty undertones

Dark fruit hints

Food pairing:

Compliments hearty dishes such as roasted or grilled meats, stews, and aged cheeses, as well as sweet desserts like fruit pies and dark chocolate.

Clarity:

Ranges from clear to moderately hazy.

Colour:

Dark brown to almost black

Beer glass style:

Served in a variety of glasses depending on the specific style, but often in a pint glass or a snifter to capture the aroma.

Description:

Dark Ales, encompassing a range of styles from mild browns to robust porters and stouts, are beloved for their depth and complexity. These ales are defined by their malt-forward profiles, presenting layers of flavours from sweet caramel and toffee to rich chocolate and coffee, often accompanied by a subtle hop bitterness. The inclusion of roasted malts imparts a characteristic darkness and depth of flavour. English Brown Ales, Belgian Darks, and American Brown Ales are some of the subtypes within this category, each offering unique interpretations of this versatile style. Dark Ales are perfect for those seeking a beer with rich flavours and a more pronounced malt character.

Blonde Ale

Blonde Ale is a light, easy-drinking beer, known for its balanced malt sweetness and subtle hop flavour, making it a universally appealing and approachable style.

Tasting notes

Light and easy-drinking

Subtle malt sweetness

Delicate hop fruitiness

Food pairing:

Pairs well with light dishes such as chicken, salads, seafood, and soft cheeses, as well as spicy foods that benefit from its refreshing character.

Clarity:

Usually clear and bright

Colour:

Pale yellow to deep gold

Beer glass style:

Typically served in a pint glass or a mug, which allows for appreciation of its light colour and carbonation.

Description:

Blonde Ales, also known as Golden Ales, are a popular and accessible style cherished for their simplicity and refreshment value. Originating as an approachable alternative to the more robust and bitter beers, they offer a harmonious blend of mild maltiness and subtle hop flavours, often with a slight fruity character. These ales are characterised by their pale, golden colour and a clean, smooth finish, making them an ideal choice for those new to craft beers or looking for a light and enjoyable drink. Their easy-going nature also makes them a versatile choice for a wide range of occasions and pairings, embodying the essence of a classic, sessionable beer.

Wheat Beer

Wheat Beer, known for its high wheat content, offers a distinctive, refreshing taste with a soft, often fruity and slightly spicy character.

Tasting notes

Banana and clove flavours

Soft, bready malt

Light, citrus tang

Food pairing:

Complements a wide range of foods including light salads, seafood, sushi, and soft cheeses; also pairs well with fruit-driven desserts.

Clarity:

Usually hazy or cloudy due to the wheat proteins and yeast

Colour:

Typically pale straw to golden, though darker varieties exist

Beer glass style:

Often served in a weizen glass, which is tall and curved to showcase its cloudy appearance and to accommodate the thick, frothy head.

Description:

Wheat Beers, embracing styles such as Hefeweizen, Witbier, and American Wheat, are celebrated for their refreshing and approachable flavours. Characterised by a higher proportion of wheat to barley, these beers often exhibit a smooth, creamy texture and a lively carbonation. Hefeweizens, from Germany, are known for their pronounced yeast-driven flavours of banana and clove, while Belgian Witbiers include additions of coriander and orange peel for a lightly spiced, citrusy profile. American Wheat Beers are typically cleaner and less yeasty, with a more pronounced hop presence. This style's refreshing qualities and distinctive flavour profile make it a popular choice, especially in warmer weather.

Functional Beer

Functional Beer is a unique category of brews infused with additional ingredients, such as vitamins, probiotics, or CBD, to provide health benefits beyond traditional beer.

Tasting notes

Herbal, fruity or floral

Distinctive health focus

Varies with ingredients

Food pairing:

Dependent on the type of functional ingredients used; can range from light snacks to complementing the added benefits.

Clarity:

Usually clear, although some functional beers may be cloudy if they contain unfiltered ingredients.

Colour:

Typically similar to the base beer style, which can vary.

Beer glass style:

Varies based on the underlying beer style, as functional beers can encompass a wide range of beer types.

Description:

Functional Beer represents an innovative fusion of beer brewing and health-conscious ingredients. This category includes beers enhanced with various functional components, such as vitamins, probiotics, electrolytes, adaptogens, or CBD. These additional elements are chosen for their potential health benefits, contributing to a unique and often purpose-driven drinking experience. Functional beers can take on a wide array of flavours, depending on the added ingredients, making them a diverse and dynamic category. While traditional beer styles remain at the core, the infusion of functional elements adds a new dimension to the beer landscape, offering options that cater to specific wellness goals and personal preferences.

An introduction to beer tasting

So you know what beer types there are now, but how can you fully understand and enjoy the taste? To make the most of your beer experience, follow these essential steps. When savouring a great beer, take a moment to explore its colour, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and finish. This simple guide will help you appreciate the diverse world of beer, setting the stage for a deeper understanding.

  • Appearance

    Observe the beer's colour, clarity, and head. Note whether it's clear or hazy, and the foam's thickness and persistence.

  • Aroma

    Gently swirl the glass and take a deep sniff. Identify aromas, such as hops, malt, fruit, or spices. The aroma sets the stage for the taste.

  • Taste

    Take a sip and let it coat your palate. Pay attention to the initial flavours, whether they're sweet, bitter, or balanced. Note any complex layers that emerge as you drink.

  • Mouthfeel

    Consider the beer's body, from light and crisp to full and creamy. Assess carbonation levels and how it feels on your tongue.

  • Finish

    Reflect on the aftertaste. Does it linger with pleasant bitterness, or is it clean and refreshing?

Find your perfect brew today

Now that you've uncovered the beer styles that pique your interest, it's time to find your perfect match. Explore our curated selection of non-alcoholic and alcohol-free beers at Drydrinker. Whether you're a seasoned beer enthusiast or just beginning your beer journey, we have the perfect brew waiting for you. Let's turn your beer preferences into a delightful reality!

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