How Well Do You Know Your Beer?

Beer 101

Whether you are new to the world of craft beers or you are an old pro, it’s not uncommon to encounter a style of beer or a brewing term that you are unfamiliar with. Hopefully, this will help to guide you along as you are stalking Craft Breweries in your hometown and across America!


Alcohol By Volume is typically listed as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more alcohol in the beer. The ABV of beer is usually somewhere between 4% and 12%.


International Bitterness Units measures the bitterness from hops on a scale of 0 to 120. The higher the IBU, the more bitter the beer.


Could also be listed as OG (Original Gravity) or FG (Final Gravity) – The gravity reading is referring to the volume of dissolved solids (sugars) in water. A high gravity beer is typically going to have a higher ABV than a lower gravity beer.

Ales & Lagers

There are 2 basic categories that most beers fall into – Ales & Lagers. Below is a list of the most common types of Ales & Lagers, along with a brief description of their characteristics and an example of a beer in that style that you may have enjoyed.

Ales are fermented at warmer temperatures with top-fermenting yeast.

  • Pale Ale – bitter & spicy (Sam Adams Boston Ale)
  • India Pale Ale (IPA) – bitter, strong hoppy flavor (Founder’s All Day IPA)
  • Imperial IPA (or Double IPA) – stronger and hoppier, like an IPA on steroids (Lagunitas Maximus)
  • American Pale Ale – fruity, floral & citrus, high hop flavors (Sweetwater 420)
  • American IPA – fruity, floral & citrus, intense hop flavors (Bell’s Two Hearted Ale)
  • English Pale Ale – fruity, malty & lightly hoppiness (Bass Pale Ale)
  • Belgian Pale Ale – light hoppy bitterness (The Lost Abbey Gift of the Magi)
  • Scottish Ale – light body with little bitterness
  • Irish Red Ale – medium hoppy bitterness & flavor 
  • American Amber/Red Ales – strong hop bitterness & aroma
  • Brown Ale – sweet, warm, earthy (Newcastle Brown Ale)
  • American Brown Ale – caramel & chocolate flavors, medium to high hop (Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan)
  • Imperial Red Ale – intense hoppy bitterness (Oskar Blues G’Knight Imperial Red Ale)
  • Bitter – mild carbonation, medium hoppy bitterness
  • Extra Special Bitter (ESB) – full-bodied, medium to strong hoppiness (Ballast Point Calico)
  • Wheat Beer – American version of a Hefe Weizen (Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat)
  • German Altbier – malty, can be very hoppy & bitter
  • German Kolsch – low hop flavor, subtle sweetness (Leinenkugel Canoe Paddler)
  • German Wheat – not hoppy at all, may have clove or nutmeg flavor (Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale)
  • German Hefeweizen – fruity, highly carbonated, not hoppy (Sweetwater Waterkeeper)
  • Belgian Witbier – very pale with coriander & orange peel aroma
  • Gose – crisp and tangy, sometimes flavored with syrup (Sierra Nevada Otra Vez)
  • Barley Wine Ale – full-bodied with a malty sweetness (Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine)
  • Saison – fruity, spicy, medium bitterness (Goose Island Sofie)
  • Lambic – intensely sour, low hop flavor (Samuel Adams American Kriek)
  • Dubbel – rich, malty, mildly hoppy (Flying Fish Abbey Dubbel)
  • Porter – medium malt, slightly sweet, medium to dark brown (Sierra Nevada Porter)
  • Stout – darkest beer with a thick, creamy head (Guinness Extra Stout)
  • Oatmeal Stout – smooth, full flavor, not bitter
  • Imperial Stout – rich, robust flavor, very dark color, typically high ABV (Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout)

Lagers are fermented at cooler temperatures with bottom-fermenting yeast.
  • American Lager (Pale Lager) – light taste, lots of carbonation (Budweiser)
  • Light Lager – low calorie, light taste, highly carbonated (Coors Light)
  • American Amber Lager – medium body, caramel malt flavor (Sierra Nevada Vienna Lager)
  • Dark Lager – full-bodied (Michelob Dark)
  • Pilsner – clean, crisp, very high carbonation (Pabst Blue Ribbon)
  • Bohemian Pilsner – medium bitterness, slightly sweet, malty (Samuel Adams Boston Lager)
  • German Pilsner – high hop bitterness with medium to light body
  • Munchner Helles – golden, malty, slight hop 
  • Munchner Dunkel – strong malt, moderate hop, with chocolaty or bread-like aroma
  • Marzen/Oktoberfest – sweet malt flavors with a slight hop bitterness
  • Schwarzbier – very dark, malty, slightly sweet
  • Bock – strong, malty, moderate hop bitterness
  • Doppelbock – full-bodied, dominant malt flavor