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The Different Types of Beer Explained

Many people would argue that beer is one of God’s gifts to mankind. Throughout the years, many breweries have experimented with their production and created some truly unique and smooth flavors. 

Today, we will be walking you through the different types of beer that are currently on the market. We have chosen some of our favorite beers to share with you! 

Beer is a popular drink, especially in the United States. Figures show that in 2017, there were over 7000 breweries in the US. Think of all that beer!

Now, whether you’re a lager lover or a pale ale pundit, you will love our recommendations below. If you are thinking about trying something new, maybe use our list to find your next go-to beer.

What are the different styles of beer?

Whatever way you decide to create your beer, you will get a slightly different result. There are so many varieties of beer out there, some of which you have probably never heard of. 

But, don’t sweat it! As today, we are going to take a look at every type of beer you could think of and then some! 

Just to kick things off, below is a list of all of the beers we will be looking at today. Do you recognize any? Are any new finds shouting out to you? 

  • Pale Lager and Pilsner
  • Brown Ale
  • Porter
  • Wheat Beer
  • Dark Lager
  • Pale Ale
  • Stout
  • Wild and Sour Ale
  • German Bock 
  • Indian Pale Ale
  • Belgium Style Ale
  • Specialty Beer

Beer is a wonderful thing. It can bond together a group of people who have never met before. Think of the last time you hit a bar alone and got talking to the guy drinking that IPA you had never tried before. Didn’t you love getting to hear about a new beer to try?

Before we get into our compiled list of beers, here is some information on how you can differentiate beer types. It all comes down to the fermentation process.

How do you categorize beer?

The main way to categorize your beer is by looking at the type of yeast used during its fermentation process.

There are three different types of yeast used in fermentation and each of these can determine whether your beer is an ale, lager, or sour ale.

The Differences in the Beer Fermentation Process 

Let’s take a look at the three main ways of beer fermentation and what types of beer that they produce. 

Top Fermentation

Starting off, we have top fermentation. This type of fermentation creates an ale. When the yeast is added to the beer it settles up at the top of the mixture. 

This process allows the beer to have a higher tolerance to alcohol. It also ferments at a warmer temperature than in bottom fermentation.

Below are some of the types of beer created through the top fermentation process:

  • India Pale Ale (IPA)
  • Stout
  • Brown Ale
  • Pale Ale
  • Wheat Beer
  • Porter
  • Belgian Style Beer

Bottom Fermentation 

The next type of fermentation process is bottom fermentation. This type of fermentation process creates lagers and pilsners. This is due to the yeast settling at the bottom of the liquid. 

Bottom fermentation occurs at cooler temperatures and ferments a lot more slowly than in top fermentation. These usually result in lower alcohol content in the finished product.

Below are some of the types of beer produced through the bottom fermentation process:

  • Dark Lagers
  • Pale Lagers and Pilsners
  • German Style Bocks

Spontaneous Fermentation

Last, but not least, we have spontaneous fermentation. These are becoming more and more popular, especially as sales of craft beers continue to spike. This type of fermentation happens when the beer is exposed to wild yeast and bacteria. 

This type of fermentation originated in Belgium and is now a popular practice in many breweries over the world. Spontaneous fermentation creates sour and wild ales.

Below are some of the types of beer that spontaneous fermentation creates:

  • Belgian Gueuze
  • Belgian Fruit Lambic
  • American Sour
  • Flanders Red Ale

The Types of Beer

Below, we have compiled a list of some of the most popular beer types in the world. In this list, we have included information on the ABV, IBU, examples, serving temperature, and what cuisine they are best paired with.

The Types of Beer

Types of Pale Lager and Pilsner

American Lager

ABV: 3.2-4.0% IBU: 5-15

Examples: Budweiser, Coors, Pabst Blue Ribbon

Serving Temperature: 30-40 F

Pairs With: Spicy food, American cuisine


German Pilsner

ABV: 4.6-5.3% IBU: 25-40

Examples: Tröegs Sunshine Pils, Sierra Nevada’s Nooner Pilsner

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Pairs With: German cuisine, poultry, fish, spicy cheese


Types of Brown Ale

Refreshing Brown Ale Beer Ready to Drink

American Brown Ale

ABV: 4.2-6.3% IBU: 25-45

Examples: Brooklyn Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: American cuisine, heavy foods like beef stew, red meat


English Brown Ale

ABV: 4.0-5.5% IBU: 15-25

Examples: Newcastle Brown Ale, City Star Brewing’s Bandit Brown

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Pairs With: American cuisine, heavy foods, red meat, poultry, gouda cheese


Types of Porter

glasses of dark porter beer

American Imperial Porter

ABV: 7.0-12.0% IBU: 35-50

Examples: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Porter, Stone Smoked Porter

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Pairs With: American cuisine, barbecue, meat, and asiago cheese


English Brown Porter

ABV: 4.5-6.0% IBU: 20-30

Examples: Shipyard Longfellow Winter Ale, Arcadia London Porter

Serving Temperature: 50-55 F

Pairs With: American and English cuisines, meat, chocolate, and fontina cheese


Types of Wheat Beer 

tall glass of traditional wheat beer

American Pale Wheat

ABV: 3.5-5.6% IBU: 10-35

Examples: Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat, Shipyard Summer Ale

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: Mexican cuisine, spicy food, poultry, and mozzarella cheese


Berliner Weisse

ABV: 2.8-3.4% IBU: 3-6

Examples: Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche, Freetail Brewing Company’s Yo Soy Un Berliner

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: German Cuisine, ham, salad, and soft cheeses


Types of Dark Lager

Amber American Lager

ABV: 4.8-5.4% IBU: 18-30

Examples: Yuengling Lager, Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: American cuisine, poultry and beef, cheddar


Oktoberfest 

ABV: 5.1-6.0% IBU: 18-25

Examples: Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen, Victory Brewing Company Festbier

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: German cuisine, meat and vegetables, spicy cheese


Types of Pale Ale

pouring a pale ale into a tall glass on the bar

American Amber Ale

ABV: 4.4-6.1% IBU: 25-45

Examples: Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale, Stone Brewing Company’s Levitation Ale

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Pairs With: American cuisine, meat, fish, bleu cheese


English Bitter

ABV: 3.0-4.2% IBU: 20-35

Examples: Sharp’s Brewery’s Doom Bar Bitter, Surly Brewing Company’s Bitter Brewer

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: Fried food, fish, feta cheese


Types of Stout

stoudt beer

American Stout

ABV: 5.7-8.9% IBU: 35-60

Examples: Highland Black Mocha Stout, Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: Heavy foods, meat, oysters, chocolate, and brie cheese


Irish Dry Stout

ABV: 3.8-5.0% IBU: 30-40

Examples: Guinness Draught, Murphy’s Irish Stout, Beamish Irish Stout

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: Heavy food like beef and stew, barbecue, burgers


Types of Wild and Sour Ale

sour beer in a clear beer glass

American Sour

ABV: Varies IBU: Varies

Examples: Samuel Adams American Kriek, Weyerbacher Riserva

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: Fruit and strong cheese


Flanders Red Ale

ABV: 4.8-6.6% IBU: 5-18

Examples: New Belgium Lips of Faith La Folie, The Lost Abbey’s Red Poppy Ale

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: Meat, blue cheese, and cheddar cheese


Types of German Bock 

Traditional Bock 

ABV: 6.3-7.5% IBU: 20-30

Examples: Samuel Adams Winter Lager, Great Lakes Rockefeller Bock

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Pairs With: German cuisine, meat and vegetables, chocolate, Camembert cheese


Maibock

ABV: 6.0-8.0% IBV: 20-38

Examples: Capital Maibock, Hofbräu Maibock, Smuttynose Maibock

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: Italian and German cuisines, fish and shellfish, asiago and swiss cheese


Types of India Pale Ale

IPA Craft Beer with Hops

American IPA

ABV: 6.3-7.5% IBU: 50-70

Examples: Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Pairs With: American and Indian cuisines, meat, poultry, fish, and gorgonzola cheese


English IPA

ABV: 5.0-7.0% IBU: 35-63

Examples: Goose Island India Pale Ale, Shipyard IPA, Samuel Smith’s India Ale

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Pairs With: American and Indian cuisines, fish, and parmesan cheese


Types of Belgian Style Ale

Belgian Pale Ale

ABV: 4.0-6.0% IBU: 20-30

Examples: Weyerbacher Brewing Company’s Verboten, Samuel Adams Belgian Session

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: American cuisine, fried food, fish, salad, and tangy cheeses


Belgian Saison

ABV: 4.4-6.8% IBU: 20-38

Examples: Samuel Adams Rustic Saison, Dogfish Head Brewery’s Noble Rot, Victory Brewing Company’s Helios

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Pairs With: Indian and Asian cuisine, poultry, seafood, and parmesan cheese


Types of Specialty Beer

American Black Ale

ABV: 6.0-7.5% IBU: 50-75

Examples: Lagunitas NightTime, Founders Dark Penance, Victory Yakima Glory

Serving Temperature: 50-55 F

Pairs With: Aged cheeses, seafood, and chocolate


Chocolate Beer

ABV: 2.5-12.0% IBU: 15-40

Examples: Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, Shenandoah Chocolate Donut Beer, Boneyard Beer Company Backbone Chocolate Espresso Stout

Serving Temperature: 50-55 F

Pairs With: Varies

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Written by Ryan F.

Ryan is a Philadelphia local who enjoys checking out Philly's restaurant scene every chance he can. He grew up in South Jersey and now lives in Philadelphia's Point Breeze neighborhood. Ryan also enjoys traveling and checking out local eateries in every city he visits.