Beer Types: Decoding Different Selections Of Beers

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Ales, lagers, stouts -- do you really know what goes into your pint of beer?

At least 10 million Canadians drink beer and an estimated 21.9 million hectolitres of booze is produced every year, according to The Canadian Brewing Industry.

And that's a lot of alcohol -- making it our country's most consumed and produced alcoholic beverage.

But what makes an Indian pale ale different from a fruit beer? With all the different beer festivals going on this summer, there are plenty of opportunities to figure it all out. Toronto's Festival of Beer, which hits the city this weekend and celebrates over 120 flavours of this golden beverage, has come up with a Beer 101 guide for the 20 most common types of beers.

Now, we don't advise drinking all these beers at once, but after reading these stats, you can self-appoint yourself as a beer expert:

Beer 101
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North American Light Lager
• Light in body and colour
• Clean, crisp and well carbonated
• Flavours should be subtle and well balanced
• Malt sweetness is light to mild
• Hop characteristics are not dominant

North American Lager
• Colour is pale straw to rich golden
• Foam head should be white and frothy
• Lower levels of grain or malt sweetness and aromas
• Hop presence is low to medium
• Should be well balanced

Amber Lager
• Dark golden, amber, burnt orange to reddish in colour
• Significant caramel characteristics both on aroma and flavour
• Should be well balanced
• Bitterness should be mild
• Hop aromas should be mild

European Style Lager (Pilsner)
• Colour is straw to deep golden
• Foam head should be white and frothy
• Malt presence should be significant - can be bready, biscuit
• Hop presence should be medium to high - both on aroma and finish
• Diacetyl may be present

Dark Lager
• Deep copper, dark brown, ruby colours
• Aromas include mocha, caramel, nutty, chocolate and coffee
• Body is mild and reflective of aroma
• Well balanced
• Finish is clean

• Deep copper to dark brown in colour
• Aromas are malty - caramel, dark breads, molasses, dark fruits
• Hop presence is low
• Moderate bitterness
• Finish is medium to long

• Dark golden to copper colours
• Aromas are sweet - honey, maple
• Flavours include above
• Should be well balanced without being cloying
• Hop presence is minimal

German Style Wheat Beer (Hefeweissen)
• Golden to copper colours, cloudy
• Aromas are phenolic - clove or nutmeg with hints of vanilla/ or yeast
• Banana is often present
• Hop presence is often absent
• Carbonation should be significant

Belgian Style Wheat Beer (Witbier)
• Pale and cloudy in appearance
• Aromas are citrus and spice
• Some bitterness but balanced
• Carbonation should be significant
• Finish should be crisp and clean

10. Cream Ales
• Pale to deep golden in colour
• Foam should be white and frothy
• Aromas should be fruity
• Body should be well balanced with some malt character
• Hop finish should be distinct but short

British Pale Ale
• Traditional English style ale
• Colour range from dark golden to dark amber, copper
• Malt characteristics are dominant in aroma and body (balance is key)
• hop characteristics are largely present in the finish
• carbonation is generally lighter

North American Pale Ale
• Colours are dark golden, amber to reddish
• Aromas should clearly be hop oriented (North American)
• Body can be malty with hints of dark bread and caramel but is generally mild to medium in strength
• Finish should be medium to high hop character

India Pale Ale
• Colours should be golden to reddish
• Intense hop aromas (British hops)
• Body is crisp and dry
• Higher alcohol is generally accepted
• Maltiness is medium
• Finish is bold and lingering

Amber Ale
• Light copper to light brown in colour
• Aromas are generally hop generated but can include malt - caramel and possibly some fruity esters
• Medium to high maltiness (caramel)
• Low to medium bitterness is acceptable

Dark Ale
• Colour range is deep copper to dark brown
• Aromatics are generally malty with largely roasted overtones
• Hop presence is minimal
• Body is dry to sweet malt
• Caramel is positive, diacetyl is not

• Colours range from ruby to deep garnet
• Hop aroma is negligible to medium but hop bitterness is medium to high
• Roasted malt is evident with a resounding sharp bitterness (burnt)
• Chocolate, coffee and molasses are evident
• Finish is full and could range between dry or sweet depending on style

• Colour ranges from ruby to black
• Hop aroma and presence should not be perceived
• Aromas are malt based - chocolate, coffee, burnt, molasses
• Body is full and malty
• May include smokey characteristics and/or sweetness
• Balance is key

Fruit Beer
• Colours range from light golden to dark amber
• Aromatics should be distinctive of key ingredients and not overpowered by hops
• May include some acidity
• Balance is key

Flavoured Beer
• Colours range from light golden to dark amber
• Aromatics should be distinctive of key ingredients and not overpowered by hops
• May include some acidity
• Balance is key

Strong Beer
• Colour ranges from golden to ruby, garnet
• Hop presence is light to medium
• Aromatics are generally spicy or fruity
• Body is full, sweet and complex
• Alcohol presence should be present but not in forefront

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