M c C l a t c h y - Tr i b u n e

An introduction to the major types of ales and lagers
Graphics and text by Mark Nowlin/The Seattle Times

This is a beginner’s guide to the main styles of ales and lagers, and is not meant to be the definitive beer bible. Specialty, hybrids, cream, smoked and steamed beers are not shown. Some Belgian beers have been included under the main styles.

What is in beer?
The three main ingredients are water, malt (barley grain that has been kiln dried) and hops (a conelike fruit grown on vines). From the combination of these ingredients and the fermenting yeast used during brewing come the many colors, flavors and aromas of beer. The most common beer styles are ales and lagers. When other ingredients are used to enhance the flavor

such as wheat, pumpkin, honey, spices, fruit, smoked malt or chile peppers, the beer is known as a specialty beer. The alcohol content of beer is measured in percent by volume (ABV). The low end is around 2 percent, rising up to a sky-high 25 percent. Most beers have an ABV of 4 to 6 percent.

Chart key
Xxxx xxx Type Xxx xx
Suggested style of glass for this beer.

Color range

Flavors, taste or aromas


Alcohol By Volume

Ales are made with a top-fermenting yeast (yeast that gathers at the surface at the start of the brewing) at temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees for two to three weeks. Top-fermenting yeasts produce phenols, which impart spicy undertones, and esters, which provide fruity flavors and aromas. Ales are usually higher in alcohol than lagers. The ale family includes pale, amber/red, strong and dark.

Pronounced hop flavor
R O N J E N K I N S / F O RT W O RT H S TA R - T E L E G R A M / M C T

Alcohol By Volume (AVB)

Toasted with nutty malt flavor and little hop Type Mug or pint glass English mild English-style American-style German-style Belgian-style


Type Nonic pint glass Pale Ale American-style Belgian-style

ABV 2.5-4.1% 3.5-6.0 4.2-6.0 4.3-5.5 6.0-10.0

4.5-5.5% 4.5-5.7 4.0-6.0

Pronounced hop flavor with caramel or nutty malt Type Goblet or chalice India Pale Ale Belgian IPA Imperial/ Double IPA


Roasted malt taste with light to firm hop Type Imperial pint glass Brown Porter Robust Baltic


ABV 5.1-7.6 % 6.0-12.0 7.5-10.5

ABV 3.8-5.2% 4.8-6.0 5.5-9.5

Medium to high bitterness


Roasted taste with low sweetness, high bitterness Type Tulip pint glass Dry Stout Oatmeal Stout Sweet Stout (chocolate, coffee) Imperial Stout Imperial Russian



ABV 3.0-3.8% 3.7-4.8 3.7-4.8

ABV 3.2-5.5% 3.3-6.1 4.5-6.5 7.8-9.0 8.0-13.0

Lagers are made with a bottom-fermenting yeast (the yeast gathers and sinks to the bottom during brewing) at cooler temperatures, between 45 and 55 degrees for four to six weeks and then stored cold at temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees. Cold storage keeps acids and other by-products from forming, producing a clean and crisp taste. The lager family includes light, pilsner, amber, bock and dark. Most lagers are less alcoholic than ales.

Nonic pint glass

Ordinary Special Extra Special

Very little hop bitterness or flavor Type Becker pint glass or mug/ Seidel glass American Lite Tropical-style Belgian-style American Standard American Premium Munich helles


Medium to high hop bitterness Type Pilsner Bohemian- or glass Czech-style German-style American-style


Rich malty flavors and aromas Type Thistle glass Light Heavy Export Scotch Ale

ABV 2.8-4.0% 3.5-4.1 4.0-4.9 6.5-10.0 Tumbler pint glass

Medium to high hop and toasted malt flavors Type American Amber Irish Red Ale Imperial/Double Red Ale

ABV 4.5-5.7 % 4.0-6.5 7.9-10.5

ABV 2.9-4.5 % 3.8-5.0 4.0-6.0 4.1-4.8 4.6-5.1 4.5-5.6

ABV 4.0-5.0 % 4.1-5.4 5.0-6.0

Sweet to mild malt flavor with medium hop bitterness Type Mug/ Seidel glass or a pint glass Octoberfest Märzen Vienna American-style

Rich malty flavor


Intensely malty with caramel flavor and bitter hop Type Tulip/ snifter glass English American

ABV 8.0–12.0% 8.0–12.0

Where’s the Hefeweizen?
Wheat ales use malted wheat in 40-60% of the recipe, which puts them into the speciality beer category.

ABV 5.0-6.5 % 4.1-6.5 4.5-5.7 5.5-8.0 Stange glass or Tom Collins glass




Heller bock/Maibock 6.0-8.0% Bock 6.3-7.5 Doppelbock 6.5-8.0 Eisbock 9.0-12.0

These kinds of ales have very low hop, and a wheaty flavor. Type ABV 4.0-8.0% 4.5-6.0 4.5-6.2 4.3-5.6 4.8-5.2 4.5-6.0 6.5-9.6

Beer trivia
Q: What country is the world’s No. 1 beer producer? A:: China. The U.S.

Malt flavor throughout, moderately sweet Type Tulip American-style dark pint glass Münchner Dunkel Schwarzbier

ABV 4.0-5.5 % 4.5-5.6 3.8-5.0 Thistle glass

Sweet nutty malt and fruit flavors Type English Belgian

ABV 6.0-9.0% 7.0-11.0 Weizen glass

is second followed by Russia and Brazil, out of the 169 countries around the world brewing beer today.

Flavored Wheat Ale White Ale Hefeweizen Weizenbier Belgian-style Dunkelweizen Weizenbock

S O U R C E S : “ T H E B R E W E R S A S S O C I AT I O N G U I D E TO A M E R I C A N C R A F T B E E R ,” 2 0 0 9 , B R E W E R S A S S O C I AT I O N ; 2 0 0 8 B J C P S T Y L E G U I D E L I N E S ; WA S H I N G TO N B R E W E R S G U I L D ; S E AT T L E P U B L I C L I B R A RY, R E F E R E N C E L I B R A R I A N S ; S A M U E L A DA M S . C O M / W O R L D _ O F _ B E E R . A S P X ; W W W. B E E RT U TO R . C O M ; G R E AT B R E W E R S . C O M ; B E E R A DVO C AT E . C O M ; W W W. B E E R H I S TO RY. C O M ; W W W. G L O B A L M A LT. C O M


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