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

Examples: Victory Helles Lager, Stoudt's Gold Lager

Pairs With: German cuisine, pork, brie

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

German Pilsner

German pilsner is pale gold in color with a medium hop flavor and a slight note of maltiness.

ABV: 4.6-5.3% IBU: 25-40

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

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

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Czech or Bohemian Pilsner

Czech or bohemian pilsner is a straw-colored beer with a noticeably bitter hop flavor. These beers can sometimes have a floral aroma.

ABV: 4.1-5.1% IBU: 30-45

Examples: Lagunitas PILS, Dogfish Head Piercing Pils

Pairs With: Spicy food, Asian cuisine, sharp cheddar cheese

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Dark lager is malty and smooth, with toasted caramel flavors. These beers tend to have mid-range alcohol content and lower bitterness profiles.

Amber American Lager

Amber lager features prevalent malt flavors with varying levels of hoppiness. This beer is also characterized by a darker color, caramel aroma, and smooth taste.

ABV: 4.8-5.4% IBU: 18-30

Examples: Yuengling Lager, Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Pairs With: American cuisine, poultry and beef, cheddar

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F


Named for the celebration in Munich, Oktoberfest is a full-bodied beer with a rich, toasted flavor and a dark copper color.

ABV: 5.1-6.0% IBU: 18-25

Examples: Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen, Victory Brewing Company Festbier

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

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

German Schwarzbier

Schwarzbier is a dark beer that is surprisingly light in flavor. Schwarzbiers are less malty than would be expected, but still boast a slight sweetness.

ABV: 3.8-4.9% IBU: 22-30

Examples: Shiner Bohemian Black Lager, Guinness Black Lager

Pairs With: German cuisine, spicy food, muenster cheese

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Vienna Lager

Vienna lager is reddish in color with a sweet malty flavor. These beers boast a subtle hop flavor and crisp drinkability.

ABV: 4.5-5.5% IBU: 22-28

Examples: Dos Equis Amber Lager, Great Lakes Eliot Ness, Blue Point Toasted Lager

Pairs With: German cuisine, Mexican cuisine, pork, spicy cheese

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Types of German Bocks

Bocks are heavy on malty flavor, making them sweet and nutty. Bocks have lower alcohol levels, while doppelbocks, weizenbocks, and maibocks move up the alcohol scale.

Traditional Bock

The bock is a malty, sweet beer with a toasty flavor and a dark copper color.

ABV: 6.3-7.5% IBU: 20-30

Examples: Samuel Adams Winter Lager, Great Lakes Rockefeller Bock

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

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F


Doppelbocks are stronger than the traditional style and boast a higher alcohol content and a fuller body.

ABV: 6.6-7.9% IBU: 17-27

Examples: Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock, Samuel Adams Double Bock

Pairs With: Heavy foods like red meat, pork, or ham, and sharp cheeses

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F


Weizenbocks are wheat bocks and can take on fruity, malty flavors.

ABV: 7.0-9.5% IBU: 15-35

Examples: Victory Brewing Company's Moonglow, Southern Tier Brewing Company's Goat Boy

Pairs With: German cuisine, meat and poultry, chocolate

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F


Maibocks are more pale and hoppy than traditional bocks, although the malt flavor is still present.

ABV: 6.0-8.0% IBV: 20-38

Examples: Capital Maibock, Hofbräu Maibock, Smuttynose Maibock

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

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

Types of Brown Ales

Brown ales feature malty overtones and tend to have toasty, caramel flavors. They typically feature mid-range alcohol content and hop bitterness.

American Brown Ale

American brown ale is a dark beer without the bitterness of porters and stouts. This style boasts a dark caramel color and a medium to full-bodied profile.

ABV: 4.2-6.3% IBU: 25-45

Examples: Brooklyn Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown

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

Serving Temperature: 45-50 F

English Brown Ale

English brown ale features a nutty malt flavor with a caramel aroma.

ABV: 4.0-5.5% IBU: 15-25

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

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

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Types of Pale Ales

Pale ales are generally hoppy but lower in alcohol content than IPAs. They are typically light, drinkable beers.

American Amber Ale

American amber ale is a malty, medium-bodied beer with a caramel flavor and amber color.

ABV: 4.4-6.1% IBU: 25-45

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

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

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

American Pale Ale

American pale ale is a medium-bodied beer with a noticable hop flavor and a light copper color.

ABV: 4.4-5.4% IBU: 30-50

Examples: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Pale Ale, Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale

Pairs With: Fish and seafood, poultry, cheddar cheese

Serving Temperature: 40-45 F

Blonde Ale

Blonde ales balance the flavors of malt and hops nicely, and they often have a fruity aroma.

ABV: 4.1-5.1% IBU: 15-25