Different Types and Styles of Beer

Beer has been around since the dawn of civilization, with historical evidence showing that the Sumerian Civilization was familiar with different beer styles. It has come a long way since then, with over a hundred types and styles of beer existing today.

Flavors, brewing methods, ingredients, country of origin, and even the appearance of beers are taken into consideration to determine the types. There is no single, universally accepted list of beer types, with different countries and organizations following their own unique criteria. The 1977 book The World Guide To Beer by Michael James Jackson is the basis for today’s most commonly accepted beer classification.

Classifying Beer Styles

There are several factors based on which beer can be classified, with the primary ones listed below:

1. Yeast and Fermentation

Various types of yeast are used to make beers, with the main types of fermentation being top-fermentation and bottom-fermentation. All beers can be classified based on fermentation, with the primary styles being ales and lagers.

  1. Ales: The traditional beer style originally from Medieval England, Ales are brewed using top-fermenting yeast (typically Saccharomyces cerevisiae). The fermentation is done at higher temperatures between 60°F and 75 °F. Typically aged for no longer than a few weeks, modern ales come with characteristic fruity and aromatic flavors.
  2. Lagers: Unlike ales, lagers are brewed using bottom-fermenting yeasts (typically Saccharomyces pastorianus) at lower temperatures compared to ales. They are aged for several months and are characterized by clean, crisp, and refreshing flavors.

2. Color and Appearance

The overall appearance of a beer, including its color, clarity, and head (the frothy foam at the top of your beer tumbler), is also important in identifying it. Most brewers use the Standard Reference Method (SRM). It measures the absorbance of light at a specific wavelength when it passes through 1 cm of beer. The resulting numeric value determines the SRM of the beer. The darker the color of a beer, the higher its SRM value.

SRM values are divided from 1 to 40, with the chart below listing the different colors of beer with examples:

3. Flavor and Aroma

  1. Hoppy: Beers flavored with hops, the small cone-shaped flowers from the common hop plant in the hemp family, are called hoppy beers. They have a characteristic bitter taste with a floral, citrusy, and fruity aroma. Example: American pale ale.
  2. Malty: Malty beers have a pleasant, toasty caramel flavor that comes from malt. Example: Vienna lager
  3. Spiced: These are simply beers infused with seasonal spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Example: Pumpkin ale
  4. Sour: These beers are characterized by a tart or sour fruit flavor. Example: Sour beers like Berliner Weisse
  5. Adjunct: Adjuncts are unmalted grains sometimes added to malted grains to brew beer. These can be whole grains or grain products like sucrose syrups. Adjuncts can cut down on production costs and add to the flavor and nutritional value of the beer. Example: Malt liquor

4. Mouthfeel

Mouthfeel refers to the texture of a food or drink and how it feels when you put it in your mouth. Like other alcoholic beverages, different types of beers can have different mouthfeel. Light-bodied beers like pale lagers have a thin, watery consistency, while full-bodied beers like stouts and strong ales have a more substantial presence on your palate. Other types based on mouthfeel include bubbly and smooth beers that depend on carbonation levels.

5. Strength

This refers to the alcohol content or alcohol by volume (ABV) of a beer. Beers with a high ABV, like barley wine and American strong ale, are considered strong. On the other hand, blonde ales, with abv between 4% and 6%, are usually on the lighter side.

6. Grains (Mash Ingredients)

Most beers have malted barley as the main mash ingredient. After all, the word ‘beer’ may actually have come from the word ‘barley.’

Malted barley may be the only mash ingredient, like in the single malt Scotch, or it can be combined with other malted grains, like wheat, corn, rice, and rye. Examples of the latter include various types of porters and wheat beers.

List of Different Types and Styles of Beer

Types of Beer Chart

Since fermentation is the primary basis for beer classification, the following chart has been divided into ales and lagers.


NameABV (%)Taste & FlavorAppearanceCountry of Origin
1Pale AlesVariesVariesPale gold to amberVaries
iAmber Ale4.5% – 6.2%Rich maltiness with caramel and toasty notesAmber to copperUnited States
iiAmerican Pale Ale4.5% – 6.2%Citrusy hops with a balanced malt backbonePale gold to amberUnited States
iiiIndia Pale Ale (Ipa)4.5%-20%Hop-forward with citrus, pine, and floral notesStraw to amberUnited Kingdom/United States
ivBlonde Ale4% – 6%Crisp and refreshing with subtle maltinessStraw/pale yellow to goldUnited Kingdom, Belgium
vIrish Red Ale4% – 6%Caramel sweetness with a hint of roasted maltAmber to copperIreland
viBitter Ale/English Bitter3% – 5%Moderate bitterness with biscuity maltinessPale gold to amberUnited Kingdom
Light Ale3% – 4%Light-bodied with subtle malt and hop flavorsPale gold to strawVaries
2Altbier4.5% – 5.5%Balanced maltiness with a clean, hoppy finishAmber to copperGermany
3Scotch Ale6% – 8%Sweet and malty with caramel and peaty notesDeep gold to dark brownScotland
4Stout Beer4% – 12%Roasty, chocolate, and coffee flavorsDark brown to blackUnited Kingdom/Ireland/United States
5Sour Beers (Sour Ales)VariesTart and acidic with complex fruity flavorsVariesVaries
iFlanders Red Ale4% – 8%Tart and fruity with a slight maltinessReddish to dark brownBelgium
iiAmerican Wild Ale5% – 7.5%Funky and complex with wild yeast and bacteriaVariesUnited States
iiiOud Bruin4% – 8%Funky, sour, and often fruityBrown to dark brownBelgium/Netherlands
ivLambic5% – 6.5%Complex blend of sour, fruity, and funky flavorsStraw/pale yellowBelgium
Kriek4% – 7%Tart raspberry with a hint of sweetnessRose red to dark redBelgium
Framboise4% – 7%Rich and complex with bold malt and alcohol presenceRose red to dark pinkBelgium
Gueuze5% – 8%Sour cherry with a hint of sweetnessPale gold to amberBelgium
6Strong Ales7%-11%Rich maltiness with floral and earthy hop notesVariesVaries
iBurton Ale4.5% – 7.5%Dark fruit, caramel, and toffee with a warming alcoholAmber to copperUnited Kingdom
7Old Ale6% – 9%Sessionable with a balanced malt and hop profileAmber to dark brownUnited Kingdom
8Mild Ale3% – 4.2%Caramel maltiness with a moderate hop bitternessAmber to dark brownUnited Kingdom
9Copper Ale4% – 6%Rich maltiness with dark fruit and spice notesAmber to copperUnited States
10Dubbel6% – 8%Rustic and spicy with fruity and earthy notesAmber to dark brownBelgium
11Farmhouse AlesVariesLight and refreshing with a dry finishVariesVarious European countries
iBière De Garde6% – 8.5%Pale ale with a malty sweetness with fruity and spicy undertonesAmber to copperFrance
iiGrisette3% – 5%Herbal and spicy with a distinct juniper flavorStraw/pale yellow to pale goldBelgium
iiiSaison4.5% – 8.5%Smoky wheat maltiness with a light bodyStraw/pale yellow to amberBelgium
ivSahti7% – 12%Light and malty with a slight sournessAmber to copperFinland
12Grodziskie3% – 5%Spiced with pumpkin pie spices and caramel maltPale gold to amberPoland
13Kentucky Common Beer4% – 6%Complex maltiness with dark fruit and spiceAmber to copperUnited States (Kentucky)
14Pumpkin Ale4% – 7%Strong and fruity with a dry finishAmber to copperUnited States
15Quadrupel8% – 12%Roasty, chocolate, and coffee flavorsDeep gold to dark brownBelgium
16Tripel7.5% – 9.5%Crisp and clean with a subtle fruitinessStraw/pale yellow to deep goldBelgium
17Porter4% – 6.5%Salty and tart with coriander and citrus notesLight brown to very dark brownUnited Kingdom
18Kölsch4.4% – 5.2%Smooth and creamy with a mild malt sweetnessStraw/pale yellow to pale goldGermany
19Gose4% – 5.5%Rich and sweet with intense malt and fruit flavorsStraw/pale yellow to amberGermany
20Cream Ale4.2% – 5.6%Nutty, caramel, and chocolate with moderate bitternessStraw/pale yellow to pale goldUnited States
21Barley Wine8% – 12%Malty, Caramel, FruityAmber to very dark brownUnited Kingdom
22Brown Ale4% – 6%Nutty, Caramel, MaltyLight to dark brownUnited Kingdom


NameABV (%)Taste & FlavorAppearanceCountry of Origin
1Vienna Lager4.7% – 5.5%Rich maltiness with toasty and caramel notesAmber to copperAustria
2Malt Liquor6% – 9%Sweet, malt-forward, with high alcohol presencePale gold to amberUnited States
3Pale Lager4% – 6%VariesStraw/pale yellow to goldVaries
iPilsner (Pilsener)4.5% – 6%Crisp and hoppy with a clean, bitter finishStraw to deep goldCzech Republic, Germany
iiAmerican Lager4% – 6%Clean and mild with a balanced flavor profileStraw/pale yellow to goldUnited States
iiiAustralian Lager4% – 6%Crisp and light with a moderate bitternessStraw/pale yellow to goldAustralia
ivHelles4.5% – 6%Smooth maltiness with a slightly sweet finishPale goldGermany
vDortmunder Export5% – 6%Clean and balanced with a subtle maltinessDeep gold to amberGermany
4Bock6.3% – 13%
and higher
Rich and malty with a smooth, full-bodied tasteAmber to dark brownGermany
iMaibock6.3% – 8%Toasty maltiness with a hint of bitternessPale gold to amberGermany
iiWeizenbock7% – 9%A wheat beer with malty sweetness with banana and clove notesAmber to dark brownGermany
iiiDoppelbock7% – 10%Rich caramel and malt flavors with low bitternessDark amber to brownGermany
ivEisbock9% – 14%Sweet and fruity with a full-bodied richnessAmber to very dark brownGermany
5Kellerbier4.7% – 5.4%Malty with a slight hoppy characterStraw to amberGermany
6Zoigl4% – 5.4%Toasty maltiness with a light hop presencePale gold to amberGermany
7Dunkel4.5% – 5.6%Malty sweetness with chocolate and nutty notesDark brownGermany
8Märzen (Märzenbier)5% – 6%Toasted maltiness with caramel sweetnessAmber to copperGermany
9Schwarzbier4.4% – 5.4%Roasty and chocolatey with a clean finishDark brown to blackGermany

Specialty Beer Types

Over the years, brewers have crafted unique beer styles by experimenting with modern techniques and materials, often deviating from the above typical categories.

These beers can have various types of grains like corn, rye, and wheat as the main mash ingredient instead of barley. Most of them  are the result of spontaneous fermentation of different types of yeasts, which means they can have characteristics of both ales and lagers.

Wheat Beers

  • Weissbier
  • Witbier
  • Berliner Weisse

Rye Beers

  • Kvass


  • Fruit Beers
  • Hard Soda
  • Malt Beer
  • Small Beer
  • Tella
  • Spruce Beer
  • Ice Beer
  • Steam Beer
  • Corn Beers
  • Smoked Beer
  • Barrel-Aged Beer
  • Millet Beers


What is a craft beer?

Unique styles of beer produced by smaller, often individually owned breweries are referred to as craft beers. Such breweries, usually called craft breweries, emphasize experimenting with different flavors, styles, and techniques to create new varieties of beer instead of mass-producing traditional types.