About Choosing a Beer

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About Choosing a Beer

which have very heavy hop flavor. They're often fruity with nutty and toasty malt flavors


  • This guide is to help you pick a beer that will appeal to your taste buds as well as complement you meal.

    Beer names range from the fanciful "Pete's Wicked Ale" to the straightforward "Murphy's Extra Stout". The eccentric names can be confusing, but if you first decide what you want in a beer, the choice is really a matter of a style.

    There are two basic types of beers: ales and lagers. For a hearty beer with complex tastes and aromas, choose an ale. Or, for a beer that's crisp light, smooth, and subtle with more carbonation, choose a lager. For both types, the darker beers tend to have stronger flavors and often more sweet-malt or roasted-malt flavors. Hops, the green flowers of the hope vine, contribute a fruity, floral flavor and aroma, especially pronounced in a darker beer. Malt, which is the dried or roasted sprouts of barley or other grains, adds a sweet, bread-like aroma and taste. Certain malts can also bring in such flavors as toffee, nuts, caramelized sugar, coffee, and chocolate.

    To help you in your beer hunt, here is a listing of the basic types identified by the Institute for Brewing Studies and other expert in the brew business.


    American amber and red lagers. Amber to light reddish in color, often with caramel and light hop flavors.

    Bocks. Ranging form light "helles" (pale) and "mailbocks" (beers celebrating the month of May) to darker and more potent "doppelbocks" (very strong bocks). Often strong with flavors of malt, chocolate, and caramel. Try with sausages.

    Dark lagers. Dark amber to brown with a caramel or chocolate flavor and low or medium hop character. Try with cheeses and smoked fish.

    European pale lagers. These brews range from the hoppier Pilsners to maltier "helles" and "export" styles.

    German Oktoberfest, Märzen, and Vienna lagers. Amber to reddish in color with a toasty malt character and low to medium hops.

    Pale or American lager. These are the beers sold by American's largest breweries. Made with rice or corn in addition to barley malt, they have clean, refreshing, mild tastes with a subtle blend of hops and malt. These beers are popular because they go with just about everything.

    Pilsners. Generally light amber to golden colored, crisp an slightly bitter. Light hop flavor, some maltiness. Try with picnic foods.

    California common beer. Amber to copper colored, with emphatic hop flavor and subtle bitterness, medium body. Try with braised meats and vegetables.


    Amber or Red ales. Red to amber colored, sweet or nutty with a range of hop flavor from light to heavy.

    Barley wines or strong ales. One of the beers highest in alcohol; copper to medium brown with a high malty flavor, frequently balanced with heavy hop bitterness. Try with salted nuts, desserts, sausages and smoked fish and meats. Barley wines are also served as after-dinner drinks.

    Bitters. Amber to copper colored with a moderate to strong level of bitterness in a variety of styles from light to heavy.

    Brown ales. Light and slightly malty with sweet or slightly tangy overtones; can sometimes have a pronounced hop flavor.

    German ales. Sometimes labeled as "altbiers" or "alts

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