Before jumping into all of the various styles of beer, we feel it important to include a little about the brewing process and define a couple terms along the way. That being said, we won’t lay out all the details of how beer is made…not here anyway. The process of brewing beer is laid out quite well in our segment at the Harpoon Brewery – we highly recommend checking it out!
Beer is derived from 2 brewing processes, one creating ales, and the other lagers. The differences between the two are in the type of yeast and temperature used during fermentation. Brewers classify yeasts as top-fermenting (used in ales) and bottom-fermenting (used in lagers).
Top-fermenting yeasts are defined as such because they form a foam at the top of the wort (the liquid that is extracted from a “mash” of crushed grain and water) during fermentation. These yeasts prefer higher temperatures and ferment the beer quickly giving it a sweet, full bodied and fruity taste and can produce higher alcohol concentrations. Bottom-fermenting yeasts tend to collect at the bottom of the fermenter, hence the name. These yeasts ferment more sugars and grow well at low temperatures. The result is a crispier taste typically found in lager-type beers.
It is from these distinctions in the brewing process that several secondary styles of ales and lagers can also be produced. And by several, we mean dozens…here’s a great chart detailing the breakdown of beer styles of the world: http://www.fermentarium.com/Beers%20of%20the%20world.pdf
As you can see, it is quite informative but pretty big. So for our purposes here, we’ll start with ales and lagers and stick to a few of the more commonly recognized styles of beer that are related to each…