There are many beers but there are only two types: lagers and ales. Think of them like reds and whites in wine -- Here's a starter list of the styles that come under lagers and ales.
Ales are made with top-fermenting yeasts and take 2-8 weeks to make.
American Pale Ale
An American take on this traditional English beer with more hops that supposedly have a balancing malt backbone yet many are just lower abv IPAs. This style ranges from 4.5% - 6.2%. Great examples: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Heavy Seas Americannnon.
India Pale Ale (IPA)
A much hoppier type of Pale Ale with a heavy floral and/or citrus aroma, sometimes even piney, along with flavors to match. 5.5-7.5% ABV. Great examples: Dogfish Head Brewery's 60 Minute IPA and Jackie O's Mystic Mama.
New England IPA (NEIPA)
This style has virtually no bitterness and tastes mostly like some sort of fruit juice with a look that's ultra-cloudy much the way your beer looks like when its from the bottom of the keg. There are generally no bittering hops in these thus the shelf life for a true-to-style NEIPA is about 30 days. Typically these beers are double IPAs starting at 8% and go up from there. Excellent examples: Zaftig Hazy Miss Daisy and Two Roads Two Juicy.
As the name suggests, this is an ale. It ranges in color from gold to deep red and is the remnant of English Pale Ales which are traditionally not all that bitter and more sweet. ABV ranges from 4-7%. Good example: Zaftig's Heavy Hearted Amber and Breckenridge's Avalance
This is a beer and not a wine like the name suggests. They are usually quite strong (usually around 10-12% ABV). Because it is so strong it's aging potential is outstanding which results in a smoother and more balanced drink as time goes by. Recommended examples are Weyerbacher's Blithering Idiot and JW Lees Harvest.
Belgian Golden Ale
Very balanced beer tha may have a little dryness but tends to be sweet enough to still be refreshing. Color ranges from a pale straw to deep gold. ABV ranges 8-10%. Good examples are Duvel or Chouffe LaChouffe.
Brewed like an ale but usually finished off with lager yeast. ABV ranges 4-8%. Our favorites: Wexford's Irish Cream Ale and Wolf's Ridge Clear Sky.
This has become a very popular style due to the unique flavors these beers can exhibit and their broad characteristics. They can be dark or light in color and they contain wild yeasts that can create very unusual flavors. Some of those flavors can be sour, or tart or funky, or acidic or any combination and degree of the aforementioned. ABVs vary greatly from 3.5-11.5% Some of our favorites are: Rivertown Ojos Negro, Tilquin Geuze, Orval.
Saison [Also known as Farmhouse Ale]
This old style comes from the Belgian and French country sides three centuries ago. Traditionally this beer is light in color with a crisp and refreshing flavor stemming from the saison yeast, lemon peel and coriander that's perfect for hot days and yard work. The ABV ranges from 4.0-11.5%. Our favorites are: Ommegang Hennepin, Dupont Saison and Rockmill Petite Saison.
Many do not realize that this dark beer is actually an ale that uses very dark and roasted malts to get the black color that it has. They tend to have robust flavors with hints of coffee and chocolate. They are also ideal for barrel aging in used spirits barrels like bourbon. ABV ranges from 4.0%-17% and sometimes higher. Examples: North Coast Old Rasputin and Wolf's Ridge Dire Wolf.
Lagers have bottom-fermenting yeasts and usually take 4 weeks to 9 months to make.
American Adjunct Lager
The "adjunct" in American Adjunct Lager means filler grains like rice and corn have been added to the malt to make the production of the beer less expensive. These beers tend to be pale, fizzy and fairly flavorless. Many macro-breweries produce this type of beer which ranges from 3-6% ABV. Examples of these beers are easily found in grocery stores and gas stations.
Grolsch and Stella Artois are good examples of the European Pale Lager. There are also European Dark Lagers and European Strong Lagers. ABV for the Pale and Dark ranges 4-6% while the Strong usually ranges 7-11%.
This style has been the most popular beer style in the world though its popularity is waning due to America's love IPAs. This straw-colored beer is what comes to mind for most people when the word "beer" is mentioned. ABV ranges 4.5-5%. Don't write this style off before you try either Oranjeboom or Pilsner Urquell (Pilsner Urquell is the first and considered to be the best pilsner made in the world).
A type of German Lager, this is a strong beer with a lot of malt flavor and not much in the way of hops. ABV ranges 5.5-7.5%. Hofbrau's Maibock is a good one to try when it's in season.
Bock is the German word for goat. Doppelbock means two goats or, in beer terms, a doubled version of a bock beer making it stronger in flavor and alcohol. Generally these lager beers are smooth with some sweetness and no bitterness. Alcohol content ranges from 7-10% and some can age well. Great examples: Ayinger Celebrator and Troegs Troegenator.
Märzen / Octoberfest
A type of German Lager usually brewed in March (Märzen is the German word for March) and ready to enjoy in October. This is a full-bodied beer darker in color and ranges between 4-7% ABV. Try out Great Lakes' Oktoberfest or Revolution's Oktoberfest. If you want to try something a little more off the beaten path then Aecht Schlenkerla Rachbier Marzen is for you.
This style became very popular shortly after the Berlin Wall came down and the East and West sides got to see what each other was doing when it came to beer. This is a very dark beer but very crisp and refreshing complete with a typical lager dryness to it stemming from the hops and yeast used. These beers are light in alcohol at 4.5% to 5.4%. Flawless examples are: Kostritzer Schwarzbier and Devils Back Bone Dark Lager.