The Many Styles of Beer

Learn about a wide-variety of beer styles, ranging from Ambers to Wheats, using this quick guide on flavor and where you can find each variety.

| July 2019

Gettyimages/Lauri Patterson

Amber: This beer style typically encompasses four popular types of ale and lager: altbier, kolsch, Marzen (Oktoberfest), and Vienna lager. Amber to copper in color, this beer has clean character, bright clarity, and moderate to no head retention. The flavor is crisp and mildly hopped with a nice malt balance. The altbier is an ale that ferments at cooler temperatures, like a lager. The kolsch is a lager that ferments at higher temperatures, like an ale. Marzen, a lager, was historically made to age, with a higher ABV and moderate bitterness from the addition of extra hops, a preservative. Vienna lager is similar in flavor; in Germany, both are traditionally imbibed at the end of harvest season as part of the famous Oktoberfest. Recommended beers in this style: Otter Creek Copper Ale, Long Trail Brewing Co. Ale, Goose Island Summertime, Left Hand Brewing Company Oktoberfest, Blue Point Toasted Lager, Negra Modelo, and Brooklyn Lager.

Blonde Ale: These ales were created as “gateway” craft beers. Similar in style to a German kolsch, blonde ales were the earliest craft beers, and offer up crisp, mild, well-balanced, and malty flavors. Blonde ale is a smooth, “drinkable” beer with clean fermentation free of haze and yeast notes with no overpowering flavors. Recommended beers in this style: Pete’s Wicked Ale and Goose Island Blonde Ale.

Brown Ale: Both the American and English varieties of brown ale tend to be malty with a toffee or caramel finish and occasional coffee or chocolate notes. The key differences between the American and English varieties are that the American version has a more pronounced hop profile that adds bitterness, and it has more carbonation. A brown ale should have good clarity and average head retention. Recommended beers in this style: Brooklyn Brown Ale, Bell’s Best Brown, Theakston Traditional, and Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale.

Cream Ale: This “American special” ale is fermented at the “wrong” temperature. Cream ale, which came out of Canada following Prohibition, is fermented longer and cooler, like a lager; it has a sweetness reminiscent of the flavor of corn (or corn sugar), low bitterness, and ample carbonation. Cream ales are straw to gold in color with good clarity and a slight white head. Recommended beers in this style: Laughing Dog Cream Ale and Genesee Cream Ale.

Dark Lager: This category includes Munich dunkel and schwarzbier. The Munich malt it’s brewed with offers up a rich flavor with a bready quality, and the beer has a low, but present, hop bitterness. Dark lagers still have excellent clarity and strong head retention. Recommended beers in this style: Penn Dark Lager, Lowenbrau Dunkel, Shiner Bock, Samuel Adams Black Lager, and Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel.



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