Beer Styles – The Basics

By / Wine + Drinks / September 20th, 2013 / 1

I am a wine drinker. Sure, I enjoy a cold beer on a hot day but I’m not picky and I am certainly not well educated in the nuances of beer. In fact, until recently, I knew very little about the beverage. For all you beer aficionados out there, I apologize in advance for this very basic crash course BUT for all the novices, I hope this helps you sort out the beer world. Hopefully, it will give you a better appreciation of the complexities of beer and maybe encourage you to go beyond the Budweiser next time.


Beer is an alcoholic beverage brewed from malted cereal grains (commonly barley and wheat), hops and yeast. There are two basic beer classifications – ales and lagers. Ales have been produced since ancient times. They are fermented at higher temperatures, for shorter periods of time, using  top-fermenting yeasts (yeasts that float at the top during fermentation). Ales tend to be more complex in their flavour profiles and are usually served closer to room temperature.

Popular styles of Ale include:

India Pale Ale – American or Imperial

Amber/Red Ale – American or Imperial

Bitter – Ordinary, Special, Extra Special

Stout – Irish, English, Cream, Imperial, American

Porter – Brown, Robust


Lagers are a relatively new classification of beer, dating back only a few hundred years. They are fermented at lower temperatures for longer periods of time. Lagers use bottom fermenting yeasts –yeasts that sink during the fermentation process. Lagers tend to be clean and crisp beers, typically with lighter flavours. This is a result of lagering – a longer aging process at cooler temperatures.

Popular styles of lager include:

Pilsener – American, International

Bock – Doppelbock (double-bock), Eisbock

Amber Lager

Dark (Dunkel) Lager

German Style Oktoberfest

Hybrids and Specialty Beers

Hybrid beers are made using any combination of ale and lager methods. For example, using a top fermenting yeast in cooler temperatures or vice versa. Specialty beers fall outside the basic ale or lager classification or traditional brewing methods. Some are fermented using different food products or have specific flavours added.

Upcoming: Discover the world of Ales



Shannon is an urban soul living (and loving) a small-town, country life. Short term goals include always keeping her wine glass, and outlook on life, half-full. Long term goal…taking her three boys on a 6 month south Pacific adventure. We’ll keep you updated.

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