Whether you’re newer to the craft beer scene or an avid craft beer drinker, you’re probably aware of the rising popularity of local microbreweries. Craft beer is known for its unique flavors, carefully crafted with a combination of yeast, hops, barley, and sometimes some very interesting additions. If you’re trying to dip your toes into craft beer, but you’re not sure where to start, the options and varieties can be quite daunting!
As a self-proclaimed beer connoisseur myself, I wanted to craft a guide for the newer beer drinkers, so they could have a good entry point into the craft beer scene. If you’re a relatively experienced craft beer fan, there will also be some useful information for you too. This guide on craft beer will teach you what the beer should taste like and where you should start!
Now this list isn’t perfect, because there are a few exceptions that may change the flavor profile. Malts will sweeten a beer, so even if a beer has more hops than another, if the malt content is high enough, the maltier beer could taste sweeter! But for the most part, this list will tell you what to expect as far as bitterness goes. Also of note–darker beers are usually not more bitter, they are more likely to have cocoa or coffee flavors. When it comes to bitter, dark beers are trumped by the bitterness the very hoppy IPA’s bring to the table.
Bitterness Scale: From Least Bitter to Most
Taste: Easy to drink beer with a crisp wheat flavor. It can also include vanilla, banana, and honey flavors.
Common Wheat Beers: Blue Moon, Hoegaarden
You Need to Try: Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen
Taste: Quite similar to wheat beers, blonde ales have a crisp wheaty taste, though blonde ales are more likely to have a light hop flavor as well.
Common Blonde Ales: Duvel, Newcastle Bombshell
You Need to Try: Deschutes River Ale
Taste: Pilsners are the most common beer style worldwide. The flavor is simple with light grain and hops bittering. The finish is clean and refreshing.
Common Pilsners: Stella Artois
You Need to Try: Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils
Taste: Amber Ales have a caramelly, malt sweetness that balances out the medium hops they usually contain. Amber ales are a good option if you want to branch out of wheat beers, but aren’t ready for a super bitter beer yet.
Common Amber Ales: Fat Tire
You Need to Try: Mac and Jack’s African Amber Ale
Taste: Porters have a medium hop level, that is often matched by a dark roasty flavor reminiscent of chocolate or coffee. The creamy, caramel tan head at the top makes porters a pleasure to drink.
Common Porters: Kona Pipeline
You Need to Try: Rogue Mocha Porter, Stone Smoked Porter
Taste: Big brother to the porter, stouts have a very similar taste. Stouts are even more likely to have a coffee taste, and almost always will have a fuller body. In fact, if you like full-bodied beers, stouts are your best choice!
Common Stouts: Guiness
You Need to Try: Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin, Left Hand Brewing Co. Milk Nitro Stout
Taste: Pale ales are a hop focused beer with a bit of restraint in the bitterness level. They are second in hops only to IPAs. and they let a bit of maltiness come through the hops.
Common Pale Ales: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
You Need to Try: Stone Pale Ale 2.0, Lagunitas Lil Sumpin Sumpin Pale Ale
Taste: IPAs are the go to for beer connoisseurs. With their punch of hops, and matching punch of malt and bitterness flavors, these are not for the faint of heart. Herbal and citrus flavors are commonly found in IPAs as well.
Common IPAs: Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Lagunitas IPA
You Need to Try: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA