The BottlesXO Guide to Beer
Getting in to craft beer can be daunting. Everyone acts like they know a pale ale from a stout, but if you’re new to this stuff maybe you need a little guidance. That’s what we’re here for!
Made with mostly pale (i.e. only lightly roasted) malts and generally a balance of malty and hoppy flavors that makes them extra-drinkable. They can be divided in to a number of varieties.
A variety of pale ale, blonde ales get their name from their color and are nice and approachable, made with a balanced attitude towards hops and malts. That means they don’t slap you round the face with big forward flavors. They’re more content to go down super smoothly than act tough and try to impress you – when they do get more flavorsome, it’s most likely with sweeter, creamier notes like caramel.
IPA (India Pale Ale)
If you’re into craft beer, you might have had a few of these in your time. Far more intense than your average pale ale, IPAs are a specific variety of that are hoppy and fruity with lots of big, bold flavors and a pronounced bitterness. They still go down plenty smoothly though, which makes them a great introduction to the complex world of craft beer.
Saisons are for those that like pale ales with a little (or a lot of) bite. While there is enough variation within the style to make it difficult to pin down precisely, their most common modern form is a pale ale with an ABV of around 7% and slightly more yeasty complexity that gives them a nice and round mouth-feel and a distinct hint of fruity character.
A wheat beer is simply a beer made with a significant amount of wheat malt. The extra protein from the wheat gives them a pleasant cloudiness and a silky mouth-feel along with a bubbly fizziness and light, almost citrus-y flavor – you can even add a little fresh lemon to them to complement them. Within the style there’s a lot of variation: Hefeweizen, for example, is a well-known classic unfiltered variety from Germany. Best enjoyed in the sunshine.
Even if you’re never had a sip of craft beer in your life, you’ve probably had plenty of lager. These are the crisp, bubbly and light filtered beers that you’ll find on draft at any pub around the world… but that doesn’t mean you need to drink the mass-produced stuff.
Pilsner is a specific kind of pale lager that’s more heavily hopped, resulting in a bit more flavor and a bit more oomph. Originating in Bohemia, this is the variety you’re most likely to have tasted – it accounts for more than two thirds of beer production around the world. Don’t let you think that means they’re boring though. There isn’t much better than the simple delights of a good, proper Pilsner.
Stout / Porter
An acquired taste, this one, but one that you might learn to love. Stouts are made using the same ingredients as your average beer, except the malts are roasted until basically cooked. That leads to a robust, heavy flavor, a dark-to-black color and intense flavors with notes like chocolate and coffee. You might not want to drink five in a row, but have a few good ones and you’ll succumb to the charms of the stout eventually.