by JULIA TAYLOR
Often when we think of beer, we think of common domestic beer brands such as Coors Light, Bud Light and Natural Light, just to name a few. However, what many people don’t know is there are many different styles of beer. From sweet to sour to bitter, there is a style out there that will suit almost any beer drinker’s taste.
As a bartender at Capital Ale House in downtown Fredericksburg, I am very familiar with all sorts of styles of beer, and I’m here to take you through the menu.
All types of beer begin with the same few ingredients: grain, barley, water and hops. According to an article from the National Wheat Foundation, each ingredient has a specific purpose.
“Hops give the beer its bitter flavor and scent while increasing its shelf life. Yeast ferments the beer, turning it into alcohol. Water provides 95 percent of beer’s content. Grain gives beer its color, flavor, protein and sugar. Most beers include malted barley as their source of grain, but wheat beers, by definition, contain grain content that is at least half wheat.”
Although all beers begin with the same ingredients, they can be extremely different from one another once they’re finished.
To begin our tour of the beer menu, Capital Ale House has a few broad categories that classify beers. These categories include sharp and hoppy, funky and wild, malty and sweet, crisp and smooth and bold and roasty.
Sharp and Hoppy
The “sharp and hoppy” category includes IPAs and pale ales. IPAs, which stands for India Pale Ale, can be described as bitter and hoppy. However, this can change depending on how each brewery manufactures their batch. Like IPAs, Pale Ales are hoppy as well, but they are often less so.
Funky and Wild
“Funky and wild” incorporates all of Capital Ale House’s sour beers. Sour beers can best be described as tart and acidic. Sour beers can come in a variety of different flavors. At Capital Ale House, we have a cucumber sour, pineapple sour, and a Pina Colada sour, just to name a few. While these beers are definitely sour, they can also be full of flavor and, depending on the batch, they can be a tad sweet as well.
Senior political science major Jordan Seurattan said sour beers are her favorite style of beer because “they are complex enough that I can find one for whatever mood I’m in. I usually go for refreshing beers, and sours always hit that mark.”
Malty and Sweet
The category “malty and sweet” contains a few different styles of beer, such as Belgian tripels, Irish red ales and dark ales. All of these beers contain a malty palate. They vary in sweetness, strength and color. Additionally, they may contain notes of toffee, carmel and nuts. Unlike IPAs and Pale Ales, malty and sweet beers have no hops in them. Like the category suggests, these beers tend to be sweeter.
Crisp and Smooth
As college students, the majority of us are probably most familiar with “crisp and smooth” styles of beer, such as pilsners, hefeweizens and kolsch. Beer styles such as these are lighter in color, have a wheat taste and are easy to drink. Because of the light palette wheat beers offer, often they are brewed with distinguishing ingredients such as orange peel, watermelon, coriander and lime peel.
Bold and Roasty
My favorite beer style comes from the “bold and roasty” category. This category includes stouts and porters, which are both extremely dark in color and have a rich, full and creamy taste. Both stouts and porters can be described as having hints of caramel, chocolate and coffee. I find that I enjoy stouts and porters mostly during the cold months. Because they are heavier, especially compared to pilsners and kolschs, they are filling. During the winter months, many breweries will brew more stouts and porters over lighter beers because of their heavy style.
Another large difference between all the different styles of beer listed above is the ABV (alcohol by volume) of each beer. The more familiar you become with the different types of beer, the easier it will be to distinguish which types have higher alcohol contents compared to others based on the taste.
I began bartending at age 21 and had no idea how many different styles of beer there were. Two years later, through being exposed to different styles, brands and taste testing, I can recommend a style of beer suited for almost anyone’s taste. Prior to being exposed to different beers, I never liked beer. But now, I really enjoy having a cold beer every once in a while. If it weren’t for exploring, I wouldn’t have known I was missing out on so many delicious drinks! I encourage anyone who has a taste for beer to experiment with different styles of beer. You never know what you may find.