When discussing beer, it only makes sense to look at it as an infinite universe with a dizzying number of drink options and just as much potential for any number of culinary uses and mixologist/drink alchemy options. From your classic lagers to stouts, ales and all, there are a lot of categories and subcategories to explore, each tasting quite different from the other.
The major difference between the types of beer is made obvious by the type of yeast used in the fermentation process. Ales are created by top fermentation, where yeast is fermented at warmer temperatures and settles at the top of the beer. Ales are fuller bodied with nuances of fruit or spices and a pleasantly hoppy finish. They are generally darker than lagers. However, they cover a wide range, from rich gold to reddish ambers and have a more assertive personality than lagers. For lagers on the other hand, the yeast settles at the bottom of the beer and fermentation takes longer in cooler temperatures while in storage for several months at a time. Beers typically start out as ales or lagers, from which point, their specific styles and flavours continue to evolve. The broad category of ales consists of pale ales, Indian pale ales (IPA), porters, stouts, wheat beers and Belgian style beers while the wide range of lagers include pale pilsners, German helles and American lagers.
A lot of people typically make their entry into beer drinking from lagers. This is because they are perceived as “not particularly challenging” to the palate since the flavour is consistent. IPA’s have a wide range of flavour profiles and their characteristics come from a variety of hops used. The different IPA’s balance fruitiness with bitterness. Pale ales have a lower alcohol content than IPA’s as a general rule. They are malty, medium bodied and easier to drink. They are made from hops as well. Stouts are a dark beer whose flavour depends largely on where they come from. Those of Irish and English origin are known to have low bitterness while those produced in the United States combine creamy notes with a bitter hoppy finish. The darker colour of stouts would give a none stout drinker, the impression that they are tough to drink. However, they carry some sweetness from the unfermented sugers that’ll offset any bitterness.
Porters are dark like their stout cousins, due to ingredients like chocolate and other dark roasted malts, which make them tend to taste somewhat like coffee or slightly chocolatey. Traditional porters can trace their roots to the United Kingdom. Wheat beer has low alcohol content and a light colour owing to the wheat which is used for malt. Wheat beers that have funky or tangy flavours, fall under Belgian style brews. Belgium has a rich beer culture that is evident in their wide variety of beer styles which give enthusiasts more to drink. Belgian beers span pale ales, dark ales, fruity beers and sour ales. They tend to have high alcohol content and low bitterness with either sweet, fruity or spicy flavours. Pilsners fall under the lager category. Where Czech pilsners are dark and somewhat bitter, German pilsners are pale gold and crisp flavoured.
Sour beers are on a whole other level. Spontaneous fermentation, where beer is exposed to wild bacteria and yeast is the most important part of the brewing process. They are perfect for people looking to branch out of their usual beer preference as well as people who are not quite beer drinkers like me. Their tart and sour flavours take on many forms, from Belgian style Lambic beers, fruity Flanders ales to lemony Berliner Weisse beers. The addition of fruits like cherry, raspberry, kiwi and peach for instance, enrich the flavour profile, marrying the sweet and the sour in many more ways than lagers and IPA’s can.
P.S- The picture used in this post was gotten off Pinterest.