Interested in beer but wanted to have a bit more knowledge on the differences between the different styles? New to craft beer and want to know what kind of styles you might like, based on what you currently like? Well, have a look through our Beersplainer’s Guide and see if we can help you find what you want.

This is by no way meant to be definitive or scientific, but more of a rough easy guide to help!

Ales.  These are made with top fermenting yeast, by far the most common “craft beers”.

Blonde: a pale ale, sometimes a little fruity, sometimes a little sweet, almost always crisp and refreshing but generally inoffensive and designed for sessions.  Most countries have their own version of this style.

Pale: light and generally quite hoppy with the use of New World (American, Australian, New Zealand) hops to create a bright pale ale with citrus and/or fruity flavours for easy drinking.  UK bitters are a distant cousin of these beers!

IPA: generally stronger than pale ales, with copious amounts of hops create a strong hoppy, bitter flavour. Probably the most popular of pale ale styles, IPAs come in a bewildering spectrum of variants from white (wheat) via New England (murky) and West Coast (strong, bitter and piney) to Red and Black.

Wheat Beer: a cloudy Bavarian beer (called Hefeweizen if cloudy, or Kristall if filtered) that has a lot of body plus flavours of bubblegum & banana from the yeast used.  Belgian Witbier is also a wheat beer but very different!

Red Ale: red ales tend to be more traditionally bitter and caramelly, with a deep red colour from the grains used. Warming and sometimes with a little spiciness from the hop varieties, Irish versions are sweeter and more caramelly than American hoppy reds which can be called Red IPAs if highly hopped.

Porter: a dark, full bodied beer with roasted and coffee flavours depending on malt and additives.  Often sweet and chocolatey / caramelly and session strength, but the style overlaps stout nowadays with no defined difference.

Stout: Originally meaning strong beer, stouts are mostly also dark and full bodied like porters but often more roasty in taste.  Stronger ones are called Export or Imperial and can reach 12% ABV.

Milk Stout: these are stouts brewed with lactose (milk sugar) which can’t be fermented by beer yeast so retaining a creamy, sweet flavour.

Milkshake/Cream/Cheesecake IPA or Pale:  A modern style with lactose milk sugar (as in milk stout) to give a sweet, creamy taste.  Often have vanilla and fruit added.


Lagers.  A beer of the industrial revolution where the yeast ferments colder at the bottom of the tank.

Pilsner: a pale lager style, straw coloured with a crisp, clean flavour, originally a hoppy lager from Plzen in Bohemia but now refers to most pale lagers.  Czech Pilseners are generally far more hoppy and tasty than German Pilsners.

Helles: A sweetish lager style beer from Bavaria with a pronounced malty taste rather than the Pilsner’s hop-forward flavour; Bavarian session beer!

Dunkel/Schwarzbier: Basically a lager with dark grains / other colourings in, often tastes toasty and sweet although there are many local variations in Germany and Czech; the Prague style is particularly excellent!

Kolsch: A German beer style (by EU law it can only be made in Cologne) that is a hybrid of lager and ale, although most of them taste like a standard German lager with a bit more hoppiness.  Fairly sweet and very drinkable.

Kellerbier: From Bamberg in Germany, these lagers are a more rustic version of Helles with pronounced butterscotch and malty tastes, usually fairly sweet and often with a big dose of bitter hops.

Baltic Porter: Originally exported from the UK to Russia, these are lagers, not ales, which gives a smooth, strong, sweet flavour with treacle, caramel and often a rich warming alcohol presence… delicious but very rare!

India Pale Lager: a modern invention, this is a crisp pilsner base with IPA amounts of hops added to give a clash of old and new world in the same glass.  They can work exceptionally well!  Also called “Italian Pils”.


Others.  Beers made with wild yeast, bacteria or having additional flavour additions.

Sour: these beers are made using wild yeast and bacteria which give the beer an acid and tart flavour profile. Many use fruits to complement this, giving a nice balance of tart and sweetness.  There are many varieties of sour from Belgian Lambic to Brazilian Catharina sour with tropical fruit.

Berliner Weisse: Originally from Berlin, these were traditionally low ABV (3% ish) sour wheat beers, but now the name is taken to mean any sour with (usually) added fruit.  Modern examples bear no relation to traditional Berliner!

Gose: Another German sour style, this time from Goslar and Leipzig, which uses salt and coriander seed to give a surprisingly delicious flavour.  Many modern examples have fruit added.

Farmhouse/Saison: a Belgian style ale, originally brewed in summer for farmworkers, these should have a very dry and complex taste from the yeast, usually including clove and “horsey” flavours and lots of herbal hops.

Kveik: a Scandinavian wild yeast that provides a fruity, “rustic” taste, normally found in IPAs or pale ales.  The yeast is different for each town, sometimes each house, and ferments incredibly fast at body temperature.

Pudding/pastry sour: A very modern style of beer, using lactic bacteria, lactose and lots of fruit (plus other additions which can be literally anything!) to, in the main, suggest a cake or pudding flavour… in a beer!

Barrel aged: basically, beer which has undergone ageing in a wooden barrel that has previously contained another alcoholic drink.  Commonly used barrels are bourbon (or other whisky), wine or rum , but any barrel can be used.