You don’t have to be a craft-beer snob to admit that there’s better tasting stuff for sale than Coors Light, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of beer styles out there. However, with a basic understanding of these five common varieties, you’ll know what you’re getting into, whether it’s at the bar or the supermarket, making it easy to branch out.
IPA The most popular style of craft beer at the moment, the IPA (India Pale Ale) is a heavily hopped and therefore bitter style of beer that originated during the British Empire. (It was kept on ships sailing around Cape Horn to India because the extra hops acted as a preservative.) Generally pouring a rich amber color, IPAs are a dry, somewhat heavy and occasionally citrusy beer that go down right in nearly every situation. Popular options: Lagunitas IPA, Harpoon IPA
Pilsner A variety of pale lager, Pilsner beer originated in Pilsen, Czech Republic during the 1800s with the brewing of Pilsner Urquell, which is still available today. A light and refreshing style, true Pilsners possess some hoppy bitterness and flavor that American light lagers lack. Popular options: Pilsner Urquell, Sam Adams Noble Pils
Porter Porters are dark, rich ales that were first brewed in England. Featuring a toasted malt, Porters often have chocolate and coffee flavors that produce a rich, creamy texture. Popular options: Stone Smoked Porter, Founder’s Porter
Stout The blackest, strongest, and highest-ABV porters are known as Stouts (the most famous of which is Guinness). Because of the addition of beer gas during the kegging process, draught stouts will possess a much fuller head and flowing carbonation compared to their bottled counterparts. A smooth stout popular with craft breweries is the Oatmeal Stout.Popular options: Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Sierra Nevada Stout
Witbier This style of wheat beer (meaning wheat replaces a large portion of the malted barley) is also known as the Belgian White. Witbiers are very drinkable, featuring orange and coriander flavors. Popular options: Hoegaarden Original White Ale, Allagash White