Beer is hot right now! Not only are craft beers still exploding with new styles and unique flavors, but old standards like Corona, Heineken, and Labatt are up as well. Whether you are interested in craft beers or just like trying new things, when you walk into any beer department, it can be quite overwhelming. I’m going to break down the different styles of beer and give you a few recommendations for each. Hopefully, that will help you find the beer that’s right for you!
All beers are separated into two categories: Ale and Lager. Yeasts are what makes them different. Ales are top fermenting and create more floral and fruity aromas than bottom-fermenting lagers. That’s not to say that lagers can’t be rich and flavorful like their darkest beer, the Doppelbock.
Pilsner – Traditionally from The Czech Republic or Germany, Pilsners are light bodied and refreshing with light spice and floral notes.
Pairings: Salads, fried chicken, pizza
My Picks: Pilsner Urquell, Short’s Pontius Pilsner, Bitburger Premium Pils
Oktoberfest/Marzen – Lighter than expected, Marzens and Oktoberfest beers are often medium bodied with toasty, bready aromas and easy drinkability. Light bitterness leads to a refreshing finish.
Pairings: Sausage, pork, roasted vegetables
Dunkel – Toasted malty qualities are found with light bitterness. Dunkels are medium bodied, with a rich complexity.
Pairings: Sausage, stew, roasted poultry
My Picks: Negra Modelo, Hofbrau Dunkel, Frankenmuth Brown Hound
Bock – Stronger than your typical lager, Bocks are full bodied and have a hearty dose of malt. Bitter hops are added for complexity and to round out the flavors of the sweet malts.
Pairings: Barbeque, Mexican cuisine, grilled meats and peppers
My Picks: Shiner Bock, Samuel Adams Winter Bock
Doppelbock – Bolder, darker, and more assertive than Bock beers, Doppelbocks are very rich with roasted coffee and chocolate characteristics. They are often associated with the goat since it was known to be brewed under the Capricorn sign for sustenance to last through the winter.
Pairings: Stews, game meats, hamburgers, brownies
My Picks: Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Paulaner Salvator, Bell’s Consecrator Doppelbock
Hefeweizen/Wheat – Cloudy and brightly colored, wheat beers are fragrant, with banana, citrus, clove, and spice. It’s often served with an orange slice, but I recommend trying it without. You might like it better!
Pairings: Fish and chips, salmon, chicken-based Asian dishes
My Picks: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse, Lagunitas Lil’ Sumpin’ Sumpin’
Amber/Red – Medium to full bodied, amber ales exhibit toasty, roasted qualities with red fruit overtones.
Pairings: Hamburgers and traditional American fare, Italian cuisine, hearty fishes
My Picks: Bell’s Amber Ale, New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale, Frankenmuth Old Detroit Amber Ale
Pale Ale – Floral and balanced, pale ales are the Goldilocks of beers. The hops are prevalent, but the malt keeps them in check. These beers offer up a way to get to know your different hop characteristics, without an overload of bitterness or alcohol, though some can be as high as 7%.
Pairings: Shellfish, smoked meats, fried foods
My Picks: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Green Bush Closure Pale Ale, Oddside Citra Pale Ale
India Pale Ale – This is where substantial growth is being made in the beer community. IPAs are floral, citrusy, herbaceous, and bitter. Bold and intense, malt
takes a backseat to the hops but properly utilized can bring much needed balance to these hoppy beers.
Pairings: Kettle corn (You’ll thank me!), tenderloin, Indian cuisine
My Picks: Flying Monkeys Smash Bomb IPA, Founder’s All Day IPA, North Peak Diabolical IPA
Stout – With low carbonation and a creamy, rich mouth-feel, stouts are densely flavored. Though almost black in color, Irish and English stouts have a light to medium body for easy drinking. Many American-style stouts are medium to full bodied and richer. Roasted barley and malts make for chocolaty, roasted, and coffee flavors.
Pairings: Stew, spicy foods, rich chocolate desserts
My Picks: Lion Stout, Founders Breakfast Stout, Murphy’s Irish Stout
Porter – If you are looking for a bold, intense beer to warm you up during the winter months, this is the one for you. Dark brown to black in color, English porters were started as a combination of blending old ales and new brown ales with a mild ale to create a unique flavor. Brewers today have fun aging the beers in unique ways and adding rich flavors to the brews.
Pairings:Desserts, cream dishes, steak
My Picks: Founders Porter, Atwater Vanilla Java Porter, Stone Smoked Porter
There are so many more styles of beers, but I hope this helps break down the basics. Try my picks and let me know what you think @NinosWineExpert