Know your beer?!
The major difference between types of beer comes down to the type of yeast used to ferment it. A beer can qualify as either a lager or an ale, depending on the fermenting process. Ales are created through top fermentation, a process in which yeast ferments at warmer temperatures and settles at the top of the beer. Yeast used to make lager tends to settle at the bottom of the beer, and the fermenting process is longer and takes place under cooler temperatures. The yeast in ales has a higher tolerance for alcohol than the yeast used in lagers.
Beers start out as an ale or a lager, and their specific styles and flavors continue to evolve from there. Under the broad ale category, there are numerous types of beer, including pale ales, India pale ales (IPA), porters, stouts, and wheat and Belgian styles. Lagers encompass a range of styles, including the pale Pilsners and German Helles and the darker American lagers. Here’s how to break down beer styles...
Lagers are a typical entry point into beer for new drinkers. Made with bottom fermenting yeast that has a lower tolerance to alcohol, lagers can taste light and a little malty. Lagers are a great launching pad for newcomers to beer.
India Pale Ales (IPAs), which encompass numerous styles of beer, get their characteristics largely 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. Prominent IPA styles include West Coast IPA, British IPA and New England Style IPA. IPAs are usually a beer drinker’s first introduction to the world of craft beer. He suggests trying out a variety of IPA types before eventually settling on a couple of favorites.
Pale ales are usually hoppy but carry a lower alcohol content than IPAs. Most types of pale ale, which can include American amber ale, American pale ale, blonde ale and English pale ale, are malty, medium-bodied and easy to drink.
Pilsners, which originate from the Czech Republic, fall under the lager category. German pilsners give off a pale gold color and crisp flavour, while Czech pilsners are a little darker with higher bitterness.
A dark beer, the flavor of stouts depend on where they come from. Sweet stouts largely originate from Ireland and England and are known for their low bitterness. As we all know, one of the top stouts in the world is from our own emerald isle. Stouts produced in the U.S. combine the typical dark body and creamy notes with the hoppy bitter flavors characterized by American beers. American stouts are strong, highly roasted, bitter and hoppy, with high malt flavors that give them the taste of coffee or dark chocolate.
Traditional porters, which can trace their roots to the United Kingdom, are dark in color like stouts due to common ingredients like chocolate or other dark-roasted malts. Porters tend to taste less like coffee than stouts, with more of a chocolatey feel.
Sour beer has shot up in popularity over the last few years, becoming an enticing beverage to people looking to branch out their beer palates or to those wanting to try something new. Highly tart, sour beers can take on many forms like YellowBelly Castaway and Omnipollo Pleroma. With the addition of fruits like cherry, raspberry or peach, sour beers marry sweet and sour to make beer flavors completely unlike the lagers and IPAs of yore.
We hope this gives you a little insight into the different beers and choices you can make to suit your own palette.
Shauna @ CanCartel