Breaking the Beer Stereotype Part 2: Beer Styles, Flavors, and Examples

Did your beer suggestions from a couple days ago go over well? Need another tool to decipher beer styles and flavors? Well, here is a list of the most common beer styles, the style’s flavor descriptors, and an industry example for each. Just think of this as more beer nerdery in your tool box so you can better suggest beer to others. Prost!


For those looking for a cheat sheet based on names of beer styles check out the list below from the Surfas Blog! This is sure to be your “magic bullet.” The beer chosen to best represent each style comes from Rate Beer’s 2013 “Best By Style.”

  • Abbey – Strong, fruity, spicy, aromatic, complex
  • Altbier – Bronze-colored, snappy bitterness, full malt flavor
  • Amber – Color signals caramelized flavors in amber ales and lagers
  • Barleywine – Very Strong, dark, bittersweet, malty, complex – a sipping beer


Port Brewing & Lost Abbey’s The Angels Share (Bourbon Barrel) (California, USA)

  • Bière de Garde – Full-bodied, herbal, flavors of anise and earth
  • Bitter – Fruity and racy, subtle, low carbonation, robust hopping


Brouwerij de Molen’s “De Molen Amerikaans”

  • Bock – Dark (usually), strong, malty, toffeeish, full-bodied, with restrained bitterness
  • Brown Ale – Dark, caramelized, fruity, light chocolate and coffee
  • Doppelbock – Very strong, dark, toffeeish, with some sweetness


Shmaltz Brewing’s Coney Island Barrel-Aged Human Blockhead  (New York, USA)

  • Dortmunder Export – Golden, dry, bready, moderate bitterness


Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold (Ohio, USA)

  • Dubbel – Dark, fruity, complex, raisiny, spicy
  • Dunkel/Dunkels – Dark, malty, juicy, bready, moderate bitterness
  • ESB — “Extra Special Bitter,” amber, fruity, slightly strong, hoppy


Three Floyds Lord Admiral Nelson (Indiana, USA)

  • Framboise/Frambozen – Beer made with raspberries; can be sweet or dry
  • Fruit Beer – can be sweet or dry, tart or delicate


New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red (Wisconsin, USA)

  • Gueuze – Pale, dry, funky, wildly complex, quite tart
  • Hefeweizen – Wheat beer with yeast, light-bodied, spritzy, clovey, banana-like
  • Helles – Golden, light-bodied, malty, bready, restrained bitterness


Tired Hands/Pizza Boy California Uber Helles (Pennsylvania, USA)

  • Imperial IPA – amber, bitter, extremely hoppy, aromatic, and malty, high alcohol content


Russian River’s Pliny The Elder (California, USA)


Bell’s Hopslam (Michigan, USA)


The Alchemist’s Heady Topper (Vermont, USA)

  • Imperial Stout – Very strong, dark, roasty, coffeeish, chocolatey, robus


Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Michigan, USA)  

  • IPA — “India Pale Ale”, golden to amber, strong, dry, robust hop bitterness and aroma


Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (California, USA)

  • Kölsch – Very pale gold, bready, lightly fruity, restrained bitterness
  • Kriek – Beer made with cherries; can be sweet or dry
  • Lambic – Fermented by wild yeasts; tart base for gueuze and fruit beers; funky
  • Märzenbier – Amber, bready, round, malty, caramelized, juicy, medium-bodied
  • Mild — Dark, lightly hopped, caramelized, raisiny, light-bodied
  • Oktoberfest – Should be the same as Märzenbier, but sometimes paler
  • Old Ale – Somewhat strong, dark, caramelized, fruity, balanced bitterness


The Bruery Fruet  (California, USA)

  • Oud Bruin — “Old Brown,” dark, sweet-and-sour, fruity, juicy, raisiny, complex
  • Pale Ale – Amber, snappy, dry, fruity, hoppy, with some caramel flavors
  • Pilsner – If genuine – golden, dry, sharply bitter, flowery, bready, snappy
  • Porter – Very dark, chocolatey, coffeeish, caramelized, hoppy


Hill Farmstead Everett Porter (Vermont, USA)

  • Rauchbier — “Smoked beer”; smokey flavors and aromatics, juicy, caramelized
  • Saison – Dry, sharp, spicy, complex, refreshing, hoppy, slightly strong
  • Schwarzbier — “Black beer,” dark, bitter chocolate, dry, caramelized, bready
  • Scotch Ale – Dark, sometimes strong, malty, full-bodied, restrained bitterness
  • Stout – Black, coffeeish, chocolatey; can be dry or sweet, strong or modest
  • Trappist – Made by monks; strong, fruity, spicy, complex
  • Tripel – Pale, strong, dry, fruity, complex, spicy, rummy, spiritous
  • Vienna-Style – Bronze, sweetish, malty, bready, caramelized, light bitterness
  • Weisse/Weissbier – Wheat beer, usually with yeast. See Hefeweizen
  • Witbier – Belgian wheat beer, hazy yellow, light-bodied, citric, spritzy, slightly tangy

And just to make our brains expand a little more… (but hopefully not explode!)…there are even more styles of beer that are not mentioned here. To dive off the deepest end, check out Michael Jackson’s collection of beer books.

Stay tuned for Part 3, beer styles and flavor charts! By the end of this series of posts, we hope that you’ll feel confident asking the right questions to determine the best beer suggestion for anyone.

(p.s. I am overly aware of my midwestern lean on good beer noted above… can’t help it! I’ll always be a midwestern girl at heart.)


To read Part 1: How to Recommend a Craft Beer to Someone, click HERE.

To read Part 3: Beer Charts and Flavor Wheels, click HERE.

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