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Different Types of Beer

Different Types of Beer

With over 3,000 craft breweries in the United States, it’s safe to say that craft beer is bigger than ever. Knowing about the different types of beer can help your employees and bartenders make recommendations and suggestions about the best food and beer pairings. Additionally, knowing about the different types of beer can help you choose the right glass for each beer and potentially upsell customers to boost profits.

How is Beer Categorized?

All beers are either lagers or ales, and that's determined by the type of yeast used during the fermentation process. Lagers are made with yeast that ferments at the bottom of the beer mixture, and ales are made with yeast that ferments at the top. There are also spontaneously fermenting yeasts, which make wild or sour ales.

Once you’ve figured out if your beer is a lager or an ale, there is further differentiation determined by the flavor, color, and aroma of the beer. These determine what style family a given beer falls into. Within that style family, there are varieties, which have even more distinct characteristics.

For example, an American Lager and a German Helles are both lagers that belong to the "pale lagers and pilsners" style family. They are two different varieties of beer, however, and while they are similar, they are also distinctly different. Think of the different varieties like brothers; they have definite similarities, but ultimately, they are each their own person.

Read on to learn more about the three different ways beer ferments:

What is Top Fermentation?

The yeast that is used in ale production ferments throughout the beer and settles at the top of the liquid. It has a higher tolerance to alcohol and ferments at warmer temperatures when compared to the yeast that’s used to make lager.

Top Fermenting Styles of Beer

Here are some examples of top fermenting beers:

Brown Ale

Pale Ale

India Pale Ale (IPA)



Belgian Style Beer

Wheat Beer

What is Bottom Fermentation?

The yeast used in lager production is more fragile than what’s used to make ale, and it settles at the bottom of the liquid vessel after fermentation. It needs to ferment more slowly and at cooler temperatures than the yeast that’s used in ale production, and it has a lower tolerance to alcohol.

Bottom Fermenting Styles of Beer

Here are a few examples of bottom fermenting beers:

Pale Lagers and Pilsners

Dark Lagers

German-Style Bocks

What is Spontaneous Fermentation?

Lambics and sour beers are made with a process called spontaneous fermentation. This type of fermentation occurs when beer is exposed to wild bacteria and yeast. These beers originated in Belgium, but brewers all over the world have found ways to manipulate this process to create sour, funky-tasting beers of their own.

Spontaneous Fermenting Styles of Beer

Here are a few examples of spontaneous fermenting beers:

American Sour

Belgian Fruit Lambic

Flanders Red Ale

Belgian Gueuze

Different Styles and Varieties of Beer

Check out the tables below to learn about the different styles and varieties of beer.

Types of Pale Lagers and Pilsners

Pale lager and pilsners are golden-colored beers that are lighter in flavor and lower in alcohol content. This style of beer became popular in what is now modern Czech Republic and Germany.

American Lager

American lager is light in flavor, color, and alcohol content, and is often produced in large quantities.

ABV: 3.2-4.0% IBU: 5-15

Examples: Budweiser, Coors, Pabst Blue Ribbon

Pairs With: American cuisine, spicy food

Serving Temperature: 30-40 F

German Helles

German helles is maltier than a traditional pilsner and features a bright gold color.

ABV: 4.8-5.6% IBU:18-25