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If you’re an adult man over the legal drinking age, knowing the different types of beer is one of those guy things that can score you some major social brownie points. There are dozens of beer varieties and recipes, but we’re going to stick with the 10 types of beer that have the most influence around the world.
What types of beer are there that the average drinker should know? This list contains the most relevant different kinds of beer so you can impress your friends with some knowledge next time you gather for drinks!
Lagers are the most common type of beer, consumed by loud frat brothers and grumpy old men alike. Miller High Life, Coors and Budweiser are all lagers that have fueled many festivities over the years. The flavor is light and malty, making it a good starting point for new beer drinkers to develop their palettes.
The “light” versions of lagers – Miller Lite, Coors Light, Bud Light – have lower calories and thus a less potent flavor, but they do the job all the same. These beers are almost as popular as their originals because they’re cheaper and aren’t quite as filling, which allows people to drink more of them in one sitting.
Breweries often categorize their lagers by color. There are three different types of beer that are considered lagers:
- Pale lagers: Pale lagers are known for their light-bodied complexions and crisp taste that goes down easily. They pair well with a variety of foods, which is why they’re so popular at restaurants.
- Amber lagers: Amber or red lagers are slightly darker due to the malted barley that gets toasted during the brewing process. They often contain dark malt flavors such as toffee and caramel.
- Dark lagers: Dark lagers take the sweet and savory palette to the next level, introducing flavors like coffee, chocolate and molasses. They usually have higher alcohol content than their pale and amber counterparts.
These different kinds of beer make lagers the most versatile beer options for any adult-oriented social gathering. You can casually drink one with a meal or use it to fuel your Friday night out.
Ales are the second-most common types of beer after lagers. It has a unique origin story compared to the other 10 types of beer because our ancestors originally brewed ale without the main ingredient — hops. Today’s ales do have hops, but a warm fermented brewing process gives them a wide-ranging flavor palette.
Some brewers also call ales “top-fermented beers” because the yeast floats on the surface at room temperature during the fermentation process. This brewing method has resulted in the creation of numerous ale subcategories:
- Pale Ale: English-style pale ales are known for their malty flavors, while American pale ales tend to use more hops and thus have strong citrus notes. They’re also called blonde or golden ales because of their coloring.
- Cream Ale: Cream ales also have fair complexions and are quite similar to lagers in flavor and appearance, but the fermentation process sets them apart and usually gives them a higher alcohol content.
- Amber Ale: Amber ales are known for their deep auburn colors and rich flavors, often tasting like dried fruit or maple syrup. If you prefer sweet over sour, then this type of ale is for you.
- Dark Ale: Dark ales are either English-style with sweet and nutty flavors or Belgian-style with dry and malty flavors. In both cases, they often have high alcohol contents as is expected with European beers.
- Brown Ale: Brown ales are the nuttiest of them all. In fact, they’re also known as “nut brown ales” because of their flavor and complexion.
People have been enjoying these different kinds of beer for thousands of years, going all the way back to the first civilizations. However, despite their neverending success, another type of ale has recently emerged above the rest.
India Pale Ales (IPAs) have become popular in recent years due to their bitter and fruity flavors, which make for a solid pairing with traditional bar food. Their popularity is so much greater than other ales today that they deserve their own spot on the list of 10 types of beer.
An IPA’s flavor depends on the hops used during the brewing process. Some IPAs taste distinctly like apples, peaches and oranges, while others have a dark and spicy flavor that has a similar sensation to drinking a warm liquor like rum or brandy. These darker IPAs are usually reserved for beer-tasting occasions rather than regular parties.
Some IPAs hover around 5% alcohol content, while others reach above 12%. No matter your preferences or experience with beer, there’s a perfect IPA for you somewhere at your local bar, waiting to be enjoyed.
4. Malt Liquors
Don’t let the “liquor” name deceive you — malt liquors have more than earned their place among the different types of beer. The name comes from their high alcohol content and a special ingredient: a ton of malted barley. It has the same look and feel of regular beer, but the drinking experience is quite different.
You can easily spot malt liquors by the size of the bottle, as they often come in substantial 40-ounce bottles at a low price. They have a distinct dry taste and don’t go down as easily as other beers, but they’ll have you feeling buzzed in no time. These factors make malt liquors highly popular among experienced beer drinkers.
Pilsners are technically lagers, but they have earned their own spot on the 10 types of beer because of their unique brewing methods. The first pilsner was a bitter drink brewed in the Czech Republic, which quickly popularized throughout Europe. As the beer spread, other countries began to make them with different colors and flavors.
For example, Germany tends to brew their pilsners to have a pale golden hue and refreshing citrus flavor. American pilsners have a similar texture, such as Leinenkugels and Dogfish’s Heads. They are the perfect balance between a strong dark lager and a rich pale ale.
Porters are the English working man’s beer, named after day laborers and porters of 18th Century London. They had a similar character to their namesakes: dark, bitter and strong. They traditionally have the highest alcohol content of all the different types of beer. However, they have undergone some changes throughout the years.
Today’s Porters tend to be lighter and lower in alcohol content, resembling a traditional English brown ale. They still have the dark chocolatey taste of their predecessors though, which makes them very enjoyable to drink if you have a sweet tooth.
Stouts are the next evolutionary stage of Porters: dark beers with a sweet coffee-like taste along with high alcohol content. The most well-known stout is the famous Guinness brand. Don’t let the dark coloring fool you, though — Guinness goes down easier than most of the other different kinds of beer on the market.
American stouts, on the other hand, have the usual bitter taste that you can expect from dark beers. Think of Guinness as regular milk chocolate, and American stout beers as dark chocolate. They may look similar, but they have distinct tastes.
8. Belgian Beer
The Belgian Beer gets its own spot on the list of 10 types of beer because of the country’s exceptional beer history going as far back as 2,000 years. While it comes in many forms, the flavor is unmistakable — spicy, with a sweet aftertaste. The high alcohol content makes Belgian beers a popular choice as well.
If you go out to drink, you’ve probably seen some Trappists floating around. Similar to the English Abbeys, Trappists are beers that have been brewed under the supervision of monks. Does it get any cooler than that?
9. Wheat Beer
Wheat beers are a summer drink — light in coloring, taste and alcohol levels — which makes them the tamest beers on the list. Blue Moons and Sam Adams Summer Ales are two popular wheat beers in the United States. They’re best enjoyed with a slice of orange or lemon to complement the tangy flavors.
Wheat beer gets some flack for its low alcohol content, but if you’re just dipping your toes into the world of beer, it’s a fine starter. Most other different kinds of beer don’t go down as easily.
10. Sour Beer
Sour beer, on the other hand, is something you want to try after you’ve explored other different kinds of beers. As the name suggests, sour beer is tart, tangy and more than strong enough for veteran beer drinkers. It will test your taste buds, but reward you with a quick buzz after just a few drinks.
While fruit slices add a nice touch to wheat beers, they’re almost a necessity for some sour beers to offset the bitterness.
Serve and Try Different Types of Beer
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with this list of 10 types of beer, choose one that caught your eye. Maybe you gravitate towards light-colored IPAs, or you want to challenge yourself with a strong American stout. Whatever you choose, make a point to try it on your next drinking occasion.
Remember –- – beer is meant to be savored, not chugged. No matter your choice of malt beverage, enjoy every sip and drink responsibly!
Originally published 1/11/2022 — Updated 9/28/2023
Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.