The limitless world of beer means a dizzying variety of drink options at any given bar. From classic lagers to bold IPAs to funky sour ales, each beer spawns more sub-categories than drinkers know. Draught beer menus at local watering holes have gone from offering a few standard brands to listing beverages that seem to come out of nowhere — and each beer tastes more complex than the previous one. Knowing the taste and look of the different styles of beer can make narrowing down a favourite a lot easier.
A type of beer is usually determined by the yeast used for fermentation. From classic lagers to funky sour ales, each beer is classified on the basis of its fermenting process. Furthermore, there is differentiation on the basis of the flavour, colour, and aroma. There are probably 1000s of different types of beer brewed worldwide, which makes them nearly as diverse as wine.
The rest — bitter, sweet, light, boozy — is at the discretion of the brewmasters. But without further ado, let’s get to the most popular beers, along with their food pairing options:
Takes its name from the German word for storeroom and usually refers to a beer stored or conditioned at low temperatures. It is also distinguished for its foaming head and sweet caramel-like notes. The beer is also defined by the yeasts that are used. They tend to be light in terms of colour and are more effervescent. You can find this type of beer at every cafe serving alcohol and bar, some of the most famous ones being Bira 91, Budweiser, and Miller High Life.
Best Paired With: Roast Chicken and Burgers
2. Stout Beer
A dark beer, the flavour of the stouts depends on their origin. Sweet stouts largely originate from Ireland and England and are known for their low bitterness. In fact, Ireland’s Guinness brand produces some of the world’s most recognisable stout beers. Stouts are sweet, full-bodied, slightly roasty ales with notes of coffee-and-cream or sweetened espresso. While the darker colour of the beer gives the impression that it’s hard to drink, these stouts carry sweetness from unfermented sugars that offset any bitterness. Guinness, Dupont Brewery, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, and Hill Farmstead Brewery are a few of the brands to try.
Best Paired With: Stews, Fish & Chips, Charcoal Grilled Meat
Probably the most popular type of beer, that was originally used to describe beers brewed without hops. Most varieties fall under ales or lagers. Ales used gruits (a mixture of herbs and spices) as the bitters, and now most ales use hops (the flowers of the hop plant Humulus lupulus and an essential ingredient in most beers). Ales can swing from dark brown to pale ales (Like the Indian Pale Ale). You can try brands like Bass Ale, and Worthington's White Shield.
Best Paired With: Buffalo Wings, Pizza, Pasta
Pilsner is a light and refreshing hallmark of the beer family and has a low alcohol content. This beer takes its name from the Bohemian town - Plzeň. The beer’s rising popularity coincided with the advent of glass bottles around the 1850s that showcased its light golden colour. These beers are defined by their crisp body – perfect for hot summer days. Stella Artois, Becks, Prima Pils, and Harpoon Pilsner are a few classics to go for.
Best Paired With: Salads, Salmon, Spicy Cheese
5. Indian Pale Ale (IPA)
“I hate IPAs. They’re bitter.”
“I love IPAs. They have so much alcohol in them.”
These are the two most common things we hear about IPAs, and neither of them is really true. Not all IPAs are bitter, and not all IPAs have so much booze in them. But whether you fall in the love or the hate (check yourself) side of this relationship, there’s one thing we can’t deny: IPAs are here to stay.
Among the most popular beers in the craft beer circuit including craft brewers in Bengaluru. This beer has its origin in the 19th century when English beer was shipped to India with extra hops to help preserve it and last the long journey by ship. A few brands to try are Bira 91 The IPA and Dogfish Head Brewery.
Best Paired With: Lemon Tart, Goan Curry, Salmon Tacos
A Porter is at the darker end of the beer spectrum and comes in many forms.
An English porter is brewed to be brown or robust; the former is malty with bittersweet flavours like chocolate, caramel, or toffee. Robust porters are intense and used roasted in a style that’s similar to stouts.
Similar to English porters, Baltic porters contain complex flavours including molasses, chocolate, licorice, and toffee. While the roast does not reach the classic, dark porter flavour, Baltic Porters are defined by high ABVs and fruity esters.
A leader of first-wave craft brews, American Porter uses smoky malts and intense hops inspired by English porters (but with a darker colour and higher ABV).
The classic ones are Fuller’s London Porter, People’s Porter, and Founders Porter.
Best Paired With: Rich Stews and Oysters
7. Wheat Beer
As the name says, this beer relies on wheat as the malt ingredient. It is light in colour with low alcohol content. This beer has a less bitter, but a tangy flavour with a touch of spice which gives a silky feel and a great after-taste to the mouth. Bira 91 White and Bira 91 Strong are the ones to go for. There are many breweries that offer German wheat beer, and they taste the best out of the lot.
Best Paired With: Sushi, Lobster and Avacado Salad, Feta Cheese
8. Rye Beer
Rye beer contains a notable amount of rye grain, which is used as part of the malt. The bitterness here tends to be moderate, and the taste can be sweet or spicy, depending on the lager or ale. The spicy flavour comes from rye. The brands to try are Sierra, Nevada, Ruthless Rye IPA and Terrapin Rye Pale Ale.
Roggenbier is brewed with special weizen yeasts (like dunkelweizen) that ooze banana/clove characters. Roggenbier is sweet from the malt and spicy from rye, tasting like the pumpernickel bread.
American rye beer is the U.S. variation of roggenbier. These beers display the classic “rye” flavours of grain and spice and balance sourness with sweet malts. These contain hints of pine and citrus, slight hoppy bitterness — and can be made into a bold-tasting Rye IPA (or “Rye-PA”). This subcategory of IPA is great for a strong drink at the end of the day.
Best Paired With: Cream Cheese and Spicy Meat
9. Sour Beer
This beer has become very popular over the last few years. It has a tart flavour and does not taste like typical beer, perfect for those who don't like beer. Sour Beer is one of the oldest types of beer in history and is still unknown to many. *Sigh* With the addition of fruits like cherries and raspberries, Sour Beer is a perfect marriage of sweet and sour. It comes in various types including Mainer Weisse and Peach Dodo.
Best Paired With: Mussels, Omelets, Cured Pork
One word to describe this beer is 'funky'. Lambic has a little something extra over the other beers, making it incredibly fun to drink. They are left in open vats where the fermentation takes place. Then they are stored in barrels for almost 3 years, which gives them a dry, cider-like taste and strong punch. The recommendations are Lindemans Framboise and Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek.
Best Paired With: Mussels, Eggs Benedict, Asparagus Frittata
Now you are more aware of the different types of beer out there. So, next time you are tensed and just feel like relaxing, grab a chilled beer and have a time of your life. Let us tell you, there is a type for every mood and occasion, and one just cannot have enough of it.