The GAP team is undeniably passionate about beer. With so many varieties and styles from which to choose, we’ve found that just a little bit of knowledge can help ensure that you select something you will enjoy.
All beer is categorized as either lager or ale. Within these two categories, there are different varieties of beer with their own characteristic flavors. Lager varieties include pilsner, bock, and Oktoberfest. Examples of ales include pale ale, porter, stout, and wheat beer. The difference between lagers and ales are mainly due to the yeast used, but brewing technique also plays a role.
Lager is made from malted barley and is produced by yeast fermenting at low temperatures at the bottom of the fermentation tank. It is aged longer than ale (30 days or longer versus less than 3 weeks), which causes the beer to become clearer and cleaner than ale. Lager is almost always served cold and tends to have a more refreshing, lighter flavor than ale.
On the other hand, ales are produced by yeast that ferments at the top of the tank at typically warmer temperatures. The yeast ferments the beer quickly, which allows for a sweeter, more full-bodied and robust flavor as compared to lager. Ales can be served at warmer temperatures.
Here are some characteristics of varieties of ale:
Pale Ale: Usually bronze or amber in color with a balance of hops and malt. Varied hop levels used in the brewing process allow for a wide range of pale ale styles, such as India Pale Ale and Irish Red ale. Examples: New Belgium Fat Tire, Smithwick’s
Porter: Generally hoppy, dry, and dark in color, due to being brewed with dark malts. Many porters are characterized by roasted, chocolate, and creamy flavors. Example: Yuengling Porter
Stout: Slightly stronger than its porter predecessor, while retaining its dark color and big flavor. Made using roasted malt or barley, stouts are often coffee-flavored. Example: Guinness
Wheat Beer: Brewed with a large amount of wheat and subtle hops. There are many variations in flavor and ingredients, which means it varies in appearance, as well, though it is usually cloudy. Examples: Blue Moon Belgian White, Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat
Here are some characteristics of varieties of lager:
Pilsner: The most popular and widely available beer style in the world. It is pale and golden in color, and has varying degrees of noble hop bitterness. Examples: Yuengling Lager, Pilsner Urquell
Bock: A strong lager that is rich and malty and typically low in hops. Colors range from light copper to brown. Example: Leinenkugel’s 1888 Bock
Oktoberfest: Lager named after the German festival of the same name. It is also known as Marzen, as it is brewed in March and ferments through the summer. It has a medium to full body and is typically pale yellow to deep amber in color. Example: Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest
Now that you know a little bit more about beer, get out there with confidence and enjoy responsibly!