April 7 marks a very special beverage holiday in the US—National Beer Day! While some might use it as just another excuse to crack open a cold one, this annual celebration actually has some historic roots. National Beer Day serves to commemorate the date that the Cullen-Harrison Act was enacted after being signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 22, 1933. What’s the significance of this moment, you ask? Well, it ultimately led to the decision to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment on December 5 of that same year, thereby ending “The Great Experiment” of Prohibition.
Of course, drinking beer isn’t a uniquely American pastime, nor is it an American invention. In fact, cultures around the world have been brewing and drinking beer since well before the young nation got its start. So—ahead of America’s National Beer Day, we’re exploring our universal love of beer by taking a closer look at beer styles enjoyed around the globe.
Grab a cold one and let’s get started.
Lager Vs. Ale
If you don’t already know, most beer falls into two primary styles—lagers and ales—with a few exceptions with hybrid categories.
The biggest difference between the two types is the strain of yeast used in each production. In lagers, saccharomyces pastorianus yeast congregate at the bottom of the tank during a cooler, longer fermentation that gives the resulting beer a characteristically clean and crisp quality. The opposite is true for ales which are made with saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast. This strain floats toward the top of the fermentation at warmer temperatures, creating aromatic, often fruity beers.
Another significant nuance involves timing and temperature: ale ages for just a few weeks at around 40 to 55°F, while lagers can age for months between 32 and 45°F. It’s worth noting that the yeast in ales tends to have a higher tolerance for alcohol than that used in lagers.
From there, the specific styles and flavors of a beer continue to evolve—and that’s how we get all the delicious possibilities that exist today. We can’t go over all 100+ distinct beer styles, but here’s a few worth knowing:
1. English Brown Porter
As the name suggests, English Brown Porters are a style of English ale with a characteristically dark brown and red-tinted color. It is typically made using Fuggles hops and British pale ale malts enhanced by brown, crystal, and chocolate malts. Coming in at around 4.5 to 6 percent ABV, this type of beer has a mild flavor with notes of roasted grains, chocolate, toffee, coffee, and licorice.
2. Czech Pilsner
Also known as the Bohemian Pilsner, this style of lager was first brewed in the 1840s by “The Father of the Pilsner,” Josef Groll. Using lighter malts and spicy Saaz hops with Bavarian lager yeasts, Groll produced the world’s first Pilsner. The style is celebrated to this day, allowing beer lovers to delight in the herbal and floral flavors of this golden brew. Coming in at a low 4.5 to 5.5 percent ABV, this is one most consumers can handle more than one pour of.
3. Australian-Style Pale Ale
Australian-Style Pale Ale draws influences from its English origins, but boasts unique flavor and aroma qualities thanks to its local hop varieties. Ranging in color from straw to amber, this type of ale features distinctively fruity, tropical, and herbal notes—think mango, passionfruit, and stone fruit. It’s also a lower ABV option at 4 to 6 percent, making it easy to drink.
4. Baltic Porter
Unlike most porters, Baltic Porters are lagered and cold-fermented with lager yeast. While this style may have originated with the English, it has since been adopted by the likes of Scandinavia, Poland, and Russia. The full-bodied brew is described as malty with a silk-smooth creaminess that is balanced out with hints of smoke, bitterness, and hops. The dark ruby beer also ranges from 7 to 10 percent ABV, making it one of the highest in alcohol content on this list.
5. Scotch Ale
Also known as the Wee Heavy, Scotch Ale comes from a region less suited for highlighting hops; instead, it leans on the more readily available malt. The result is a malt-rich profile with a sweeter, caramel character. Some brews may also exhibit notes of peat smoke, another distinguishing quality of its mother country. The ale can be light red-brown to very dark, with an ABV between 3.8 and 6 percent.
6. American-Style Sour Ale
American-Style Sour Ales are made in much the same way as similar sour beer styles around the world have been made for thousands of years—by exposing unfermented beer (wort) to wild yeast and microflora. What makes them unique are the regional varieties of these organisms and how that affects the flavor of the final product. In sour ales, the result is wildly varied: brews range from pale to black in color, with profiles that feature a natural acidity and pleasant sourness at an ABV of 5 to 9 percent.
7. Ginjo Beer
Also sometimes called a Sake-Yeast Beer, the Ginjo style is classified as a hybrid brew. With roots in Japan, it is made using distinctive sake yeast or sake (koji) enzymes. The result is described as having a sake character—a mild fruitiness and earthiness with a mushroom or umami protein-like quality. In color, the brew can fluctuate from pale to dark brown with an equally varied alcohol potency.
8. Russian Imperial Stout
The Russian Imperial Stout is the style you can credit with the beer term “Imperial.” Originally brewed in England for the Russian Imperial Court in the 1800s, this type of ale boasts a complex flavor profile that combines dark roasted malty notes with fruit, chocolate, and hops for a rich sipping experience—emphasis on the word, “sip.” This beer, which varies from copper to black in color, is on the stronger side coming in at 8 to 12 percent ABV.
9. German Pilsner
Inspired by the original, the German Pilsner is a tasty lager made with Pilsner malt, plus any combination of Saaz or German Noble Hops. The pale gold brew features a stronger presence of hops than the Czech style, with sweet malt and citrusy elements for a refreshing flavor. Also coming in at a modest 4.5 to 5.5 percent ABV, this beer is one you have a little more time to enjoy.
10. Mexican Lager
Introduced by German and Austrian immigrants to the region circa the mid-1800s, Mexican Lagers are brewed with flaked corn or maize, which imparts a clean, balanced flavor that pairs well with citrus—think the popular Corona and lime. Easy to drink, these refreshingly light brews often feature colors ranging from pale yellow to deep honey. You can expect an ABV from 4 to 5.5 percent ABV.
With only 10 picks, this selection barely scratches the surface on the beer styles available to try. It just goes to show that when it comes to changing what the world is drinking, the beer world knows what it’s doing. With new innovations and experimental styles being released year after year, the flavor possibilities are truly endless—maybe you’ll be the one to create the next big hit.
Do you have an idea for a tasty flavored beer product? Flavorman can help you make it a reality! Get started by filling out this form or giving us a call at (502) 273-5214.