Become a Beer Expert in 5 Minutes

Beer samples at bar
Image: Viral Scape

Whether you are at a local bar or the grocery store, having just a few beers to choose from can be intimidating. Luckily, we will save you from cheap Pabst Blue Ribbon and leave you with the nitty gritty details of craft beer. After reading this guide, you will never again hesitate when selecting a beer.


Lagers are crisper than ales because they are fermented longer and at lower temperatures. This mellows the beer and produces a smooth flavor. Types of lagers include: Pilsner, Oktoberfest, Bock, and Dunkel.

  • Pilsners are a light, straw-colored beer and are highly carbonated and low in alcohol concentration. (4.5-5.5%)
  • Oktoberfest is dark brown and bold. These beers are perfect for October weather! (4.0-7.0%)
  • Bock beers are sweet and dark and come in a variety of flavors. (5.5-7.5%)
  • Dunkel beers are reddish brown with aromas similar to coffee. (4.0-6.0%)


Ales vary in color depending on the grains used in the brewing process. Most ales contain hops, which add a bitterness that counteracts their naturally sweet, full-bodied flavor. Ales include: Porter, Stout, Amber, Irish Ale, Pale Ale, Indian Pale Ale, and Wheat.

  • Porters are dark and heavy and taste toasty. (4.0-7.0%)
  • Stouts are roasted instead of malted and contain sweet, caramel aromas. (4.0-7.0%)
  • Ambers are amber-colored and are sweeter due to their excess malt. (4.0-7.0%)
  • Irish Ales are red beers with both malty and sweet flavors. (4.0-6.0%)
  • Pale Ales are lighter colored and have a fine balance between being malty and hoppy. They contain fruity aromas. (4.0-7.0%)
  • India Pale Ales (IPA) are the most bitter and are usually amber colored. (5.5-7.5%)
  • Wheat beers are pale and highly carbonated with a fruity aroma. (4.0-7.0%)

Malty flavors are typically sweet and make the beer darker and heavier. Malts are often associated with rich flavors like caramel and espresso. Hoppy flavors get their bitterness from a flower, which produces fruity, herbal and citrus flavors. The strong hoppy flavors come from being left in the barrel longer.

This quick guide to beer will give you a base knowledge, but the best way to learn about beer is to tour breweries and try samples of a variety of beers.

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Kate Wilke

Kate Wilke is the content manager at 301brands, and she's the editor of, and the lifestyle editor at When she's not paddle boarding or skiing, she's informing someone about global warming (or cats) over a local double IPA. Follow her on Instagram — @kateewilke