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. Whether your establishment already offers a dozen beers on tap or you’re thinking about adding a new beer service, brush up on your knowledge with our guide to the different types of beer. Learn everything about the beers you serve, from proper serving temperature and glassware to the best food and cheese pairings so you can please even the most knowledgeable connoisseur.

Lager: Bottom Fermenting

The yeast used in lager production is more fragile than what’s used to make ale, and 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.

Pale Lagers and Pilsners

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

American Lager American Lager

Light in flavor, color, and alcohol content, and often produced in large quantities.
Budweiser, Coors, Pabst Blue Ribbon
American cuisine, spicy food
Thermometer 
      30-40 F
Pint Pint Glass, Pilsner Glass

German Helles German Helles

Maltier than a traditional Pilsner and features a bright gold color.
Victory Helles Lager, Stoudt's Gold Lager
German cuisine, pork, brie
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Pilsner Pilsner Glass

German Pilsner German Pilsner

Pale gold in color with a medium hop flavor and a slight note of maltiness.
Tröegs Sunshine Pils, Bavaria, Sierra Nevada's Nooner Pilsner
German cuisine, poultry, fish, spicy cheese
Thermometer 
         40-45 F
Pilsner Pilsner Glass, Mug

Czech or Bohemian Pilsner Czech or Bohemian Pilsner

Straw colored beer with a noticably bitter hop flavor. Can sometimes have a floral aroma.
Lagunita's PILS, Dogfish Head's Piercing Pils
Spicy food, Asian cuisine, sharp cheddar cheese
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Pilsner Pilsner Glass, Mug

Dark Lager

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

Amber American Lager Amber American Lager

Amber lagers feature prevalent malt flavors with varying levels of hoppiness. This beer features a darker color, caramel aroma, and smooth taste.
Yuengling Lager, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Tröegs Nugget Nectar
American cuisine, poultry and beef, cheddar
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Pint Pint Glass, Mug

Oktoberfest Oktoberfest

Named for the Oktoberfest celebration in Munich, this is a full-bodied beer with a rich, toasted flavor and a dark copper color.
Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen, Victory Brewing Company's Festbier
German cuisine, meat and vegetables, spicy cheese
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Pint Pint Glass, Mug

German Schwarzbier German Schwarzbier

Dark in color, but surprisingly lighter in flavor. Schwarzbiers have less of a malt flavor than would be expected, but still boast a slight sweetness with hints of coffee or chocolate.
Shiner Bohemian Black Lager, Guinness Black Lager
German cuisine, spicy food, muenster cheese
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Flute Flute Glass

Vienna Lager Vienna Lager

Reddish in color with a sweet malty flavor. Vienna lagers boast a subtle hop flavor and a crisp drinkability.
Dos Equis Amber Lager, Great Lakes Eliot Ness, Blue Point Toasted Lager
German cuisine, Mexican cuisine, pork, spicy cheese
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Pint Pint Glass, Mug

German Bock

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

Traditional Bock Traditional Bock

A malty, sweet beer with a toasty flavor and a dark copper color.
Samuel Adams Winter Lager, Great Lakes Rockefeller Bock
German cuisine, meat and vegetables, chocolate, Camembert cheese
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Tulip Tulip Glass

Doppelbock Doppelbock

Doppelbocks are stronger than the traditional style and boast a higher alcohol content and a fuller body.
Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock, Samuel Adams Double Bock, Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock
Heavy foods like red meat, pork, or ham, and sharp cheeses
Termometer 
      40-45 F
Tulip Tulip Glass

Weizenbock Weizenbock

Weizenbocks are wheat bocks and can take on fruity, malty flavors.
Victory Brewing Company's Moonglow, Southern Tier Brewing Company's Goat Boy
German cuisine, meat and poultry, chocolate
Termometer 
      40-45 F
Tulip Tulip Glass

Maibock Maibock

Maibocks are more pale and hoppy than traditional bocks, although the malt flavor is still present.
Capital Maibock, Hofbräu Maibock, Smuttynose Maibock
Italian and German cuisines, fish and shellfish, asiago and swiss cheese
Termometer 
      45-50 F
Goblet Goblet

Ale: Top Fermenting

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. American Brown Ale

Brown Ale

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

American Brown Ale American Brown Ale

A dark beer without the bitterness of porters and stouts. Boasts a dark caramel color and a medium to full-bodied profile.
Brooklyn Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown
American cuisine, heavy foods like beef stew, red meat
Termometer 
      45-50 F
Mug Pint Glass, Mug

English Brown Ale English Brown Ale

English brown ales feature a nutty malt flavor with a caramel aroma.
Newcastle Brown Ale, City Star Brewing's Bandit Brown
American cuisine, heavy foods, red meat, poultry, gouda cheese
Termometer 
      40-45 F
Mug Pint Glass, Mug

Pale Ale

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

English Brown Ale American Amber Ale

Malty, medium-bodied beer with a caramel flavor and amber color.
Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale, Stone Brewing Company's Levitation Ale
American cuisine, meat, fish, bleu cheese
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Mug Pint Glass, Mug

American Pale Ale American Pale Ale

A medium-bodied beer with a noticeable hop flavor and a light copper color.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Pale Ale, Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale
Fish and seafood, poultry, cheddar cheese
Termometer 
      40-45 F
Mug Pint Glass, Mug

Blonde Ale Blonde Ale

Blonde ales balance the flavors of malt and hops nicely, and they often have a fruity aroma.
Victory Brewing Company's Summer Love, Flying Fish Brewing Company's Farmhouse Summer Ale
Italian cuisine, spicy food, fish, pepper jack cheese
Termometer 
      35-40 F
Mug Pint Glass, Mug

English Bitter English Bitter

These beers are named for the bitter flavor that the hops present. They have fruity flavors and lower alcohol content.
Sharp's Brewery's Doom Bar Bitter, Surly Brewing Company's Bitter Brewer
Fried food, fish, feta cheese
Termometer 
      45-50 F
Mug Pint Glass, Mug

English Pale Ale English Pale Ale

Also known as "extra special bitters," these beers have a strong hop flavor that is balanced by sweet malt.
Black Sheep Ale, Flying Fish Extra Pale Ale
American and English cuisines, meat, and English cheeses
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Mug Pint Glass, Mug

India Pale Ale (IPA)

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

American IPA American IPA

American IPAs have more hops, big herbal or citrus flavors, and high bitterness compared to pale ale.
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Lagunitas IPA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Torpedo Extra IPA
American and Indian cuisines, meat, poultry, fish, and gorgonzola cheese
Termometer 
      40-45 F
Pint Pint Glass, Mug

Imperial or Double IPA Imperial or Double IPA

American IPAs, but with a stronger flavor, hop bitterness, and a higher alcohol content.
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, Russian River Brewing Company's Pliny the Elder, Lagunitas Brewing Company's Maximus
American cuisine, meat, fish, and sharp cheddar
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Tulip Tulip Glass

English IPA English IPA

Similar to the American style, but with a weaker hop flavor and lower alcohol content.
Goose Island India Pale Ale, Shipyard IPA, Samuel Smith’s India Ale
American and Indian cuisines, fish, and parmesan cheese
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Pint Pint Glass, Mug

Porter

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

American Imperial Porter American Imperial Porter

Dark in color, but lacking in burnt malt taste. There is a malty sweetness that is present, and can be complemented by chocolate and coffee flavors.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Porter, Stone Smoked Porter
American cuisine, barbecue, meat, and asiago cheese
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Pint Pint Glass, Mug

English Brown Porter English Brown Porter

Similar to the American style, but usually with a lower alcohol content and less malt sweetness.
Shipyard Longfellow Winter Ale, Arcadia Brewing Company's Arcadia London Porter
American and English cuisines, meat, chocolate, and fontina cheese
Thermometer 
      50-55 F
Mug Pint Glass, Mug

Robust Porter Robust Porter

Stronger and more bitter than a brown porter with a rich dark color and a subtle caramel flavor
Smuttynose Robust Porter, Thomas Hooker Imperial Porter
American and English cuisines, heavy foods like stew and beef, and colby cheese
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Mug Pint Glass, Mug

Stout

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

American Stout American Stout

Malt flavors work to create strong chocolate and coffee notes, but without overpowering the taste and aroma of the hops.
Highland Black Mocha Stout, Bell's Kalamazoo Stout, Dogfish Head Brewery's Chicory Stout
Heavy foods, meat, oysters, chocolate, and brie cheese
Termometer 
      45-50 F
Snifter
Snifter, Tulip Glass

American Imperial Stout American Imperial Stout

A strong stout with a malty flavor and a deep black color.
Dogfish Head Brewery's Worldwide Stout, Stoudts Fat Dog Imperial Stout, Bell's Java Stout
Heavy foods, poultry, aged cheddar
Termometer 
      45-50 F
Snifter Snifter, Tulip Glass

Oatmeal Stout Oatmeal Stout

Oatmeal adds smoothness to the mouthfeel and sweetness to the taste of these stouts.
Young's Oatmeal Stout, Rogue Ales' Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, Tröegs Java Head Stout
Meat, shellfish, chocolate, camembert cheese
Thermometer 
      50-55 F
Pint Pint Glass

Milk Stout Milk Stout

Lactose sugar adds a sweet caramel or chocolate flavor to these stouts.
Young's Double Chocolate Stout, Lancaster Brewing Company's Milk Stout, Samuel Adams Cream Stout
Mexican cuisine, beef, chocolate, ice cream, and cheddar or goat cheese
Termometer 
      50-55 F
Pint Pint Glass

Irish Dry Stout Irish Dry Stout

These beers are black in color with a bitterness that comes from roasted barley.
Guinness Draught, Murphy's Irish Stout, Beamish Irish Stout
Heavy food like beef and stew, barbecue, burgers
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Pint Pint Glass

Belgian Style

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

Belgian Pale Ale Belgian Pale Ale

Contains a toasted malt flavor without overpowering the taste of the hops.
Leffe Blonde, Weyerbacher Brewing Company's Verboten, Samuel Adams Belgian Session
American cuisine, fried food, fish, salad, and tangy cheeses
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Tulip Snifter, Tulip Glass

Belgian Dubbel Belgian Dubbel

Rich and malty with a spicy fruity note.
Chimay Premiere, Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale, Flying Fish Abbey Dubbel
American cuisine, barbecue, meat, and Limburger cheese
Thermometer 
      50-55 F
Snifter Snifter, Tulip Glass

Belgian Tripel Belgian Tripel

A lighter-bodied beer with a slight hoppy bitterness and a high alcohol content.
Victory Brewing Company's Golden Monkey, Weyerbacher Brewing Company's Merry Monks
Pasta dishes, meat, poultry, gouda cheese
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Snifter Snifter, Tulip Glass

Belgian Quadrupel Belgian Quadrupel

These dark brown, full-bodied beers exhibit flavors like brown sugar and fruit, and have a very high alcohol content.
Weyerbacher Brewing Company's QUAD, Brewery Ommegang Three Philosophers
Smoked meat, goose, brie cheese
Termometer 
      50-55 F
Snifter Snifter, Tulip Glass

Belgian Strong Dark Ale Belgian Strong Dark Ale

These ales feature a very high alcohol content with complex fruity flavors.
Tröegs Mad Elf, Bell's Brewery's Hell Hath No Fury Ale, Dogfish Head Brewery's Raison D'Être
American cuisine, barbecue, blue cheese
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Snifter Snifter, Tulip Glass

Belgian Saison Belgian Saison

Also known as farmhouse ales, these beers have earthy notes and a medium hop flavor.
Samuel Adams Rustic Saison, Dogfish Head Brewery's Noble Rot, Victory Brewing Company's Helios
Indian and Asian cuisine, poultry, seafood, and parmesan cheese
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Snifter Snifter, Tulip Glass

Wheat Beer

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

American Pale Wheat American Pale Wheat

This beer is pale in color, lower in alcohol content, and with a light bready flavor.
Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat, Samuel Adams Coastal Wheat, Shipyard Summer Ale
Mexican cuisine, spicy food, poultry, and mozzarella cheese
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Weizen Weizen Glass, Pint Glass

Belgian Witbier Belgian Witbier

Witbier gets its name from its white color, and has a light, fruity flavor to match.
Hoegaarden White Ale, Dogfish Head Brewery's Namaste, Blue Moon Belgian White, Victory Brewing Company's Whirlwind Witbier
Seafood, poultry, pork, salad, and soft cheeses
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Weizen Weizen Glass, Pint Glass

Berliner Weisse Berliner Weisse

A tart, sour beer with a pale color. Sometimes raspberry syrup is added to dull the sour taste.
Dogfish Head's Festina Peche, Freetail Brewing Company's Yo Soy Un Berliner, Iron Hill Brewery's Berliner Weisse
German Cuisine, ham, salad, and soft cheeses
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Goblet Goblet, Chalice

Dunkelweizen Dunkelweizen

A darker version of a Hefeweizen, these beers have a malty flavor with hints of banana.
Samuel Adams Dunkelweizen, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel
German and Indian cuisines, fish, and goat cheese
Thermometer 
      40-45 F
Weizen Weizen Glass, Pint Glass

Hefeweizen Hefeweizen

A light colored wheat beer with a crisp taste that can sometimes have hints of cloves or apples.
Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen, Pennsylvania Brewing Company's Penn Weizen
German cuisine, seafood, fish, and brick cheeses
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Weizen Weizen Glass, Pint Glass

Lambic and Sour: Spontaneous Fermenting

Spontaneous fermentation occurs when beer is exposed to wild bacteria and yeast. This type of beer 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.

 Spontanous Fermenting

Variety

Characteristics

Examples

Pairs With

Serving Temp.

Glassware

American Sour American Sour

This beer packs a wild punch from certain bacteria that are introduced during the fermentation process.
Samuel Adams American Kriek, Weyerbacher Brewing Company's Riserva, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales' La Roja
Fruit and strong cheese
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Tulip Goblet, Tulip Glass

Belgian Fruit Lambic Belgian Fruit Lambic

Brewed with fruit to make an intense sweet and sour flavor.
Upland Brewing Company's Raspberry Lambic, Dogfish Head Brewery's Festina Lente
Fruit, salad, chocolate, and soft cheese
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Tulip Goblet, Tulip Glass

Belgian Fruit Lambic Flanders Red Ale

These beers evoke a malty, fruity flavor underneath a strong sour flavor brought on by Lactobacillus bacteria during fermentation.
New Belgium Lips of Faith La Folie, The Lost Abbey's Red Poppy Ale
Meat, blue cheese, and cheddar cheese
Thermometer 
      45-50 F
Tulip Goblet, Tulip Glass

Belgian Gueuze Belgian Gueuze

Gueuzes are aged beers that give off a very strong sour flavor.
Brouwerij Boon's Boon Gueuze, The Bruery's Rueuze
Strong cheeses
Thermometer 
      50-55 F
Flute Flute Glass, Snifter, Tulip Glass

Now that you know more about the different types of beer that are out there, hopefully you are inspired to add something unique to your beer list. Use this guide to help you and your servers feel more confident about recommending beers to customers, or maybe even create a menu that is centered on perfect beer pairings. Cheers!

Related resources:

How to Build a Restaurant Wine List

Beer Food Pairings: Bringing Out the Flavors in Your Menu

How to Become a Certified Cicerone®

Top Eight Tips for Running a Successful Bar