Although beers are brewed from similar ingredients, beers worldwide have distinct styles. Their uniqueness comes from the mineral content of the water used, the types of ingredients utilized, and differences in brewing techniques. Strictly speaking, there are two classic beer styles: ales and lagers. However, aside from ales and lagers, there are other classical beer styles worth mentioning, such as wheat beers, porters, stouts, and lambics.
Traditionally, ales are most closely associated with Britain, Ireland, and Scotland. British variations include mild, bitter, and pale ales, Indian Pale Ale, brown ale, old ale, and barley wines. Nowadays, ales are produced all over the world. The ale family also encompasses Belgian specialty beers, German specialty beers, and American ales. Ales tend to have a fruity aroma and flavor, often offering a complex taste that varies significantly in terms of bitterness, color, sweetness, and harshness among different ales.
Lagers represent a diverse range of beers, ranging from the light and delicate Pilsner beers to the dark and aromatic Munich types known as “dunkels,” as well as the strong lagers called bocks. There is an incredible variety of German and Continental-style lager beers. Lager, particularly in the United States, is widely known as a golden-colored beer that is heavily carbonated and served chilled to enhance its clean, refreshing taste. Lagers are typically low in esters and VDKs (volatile diacetyl compounds) and have a light hopping, except for Pilsner and German export. Like ales, lager beers can be found pasteurized or unpasteurized, filtered or unfiltered, on tap or bottled.
When it comes to any beer style, there are no strict rules, and variations within the styles are expected in terms of flavor, ingredients, and brewing methods. Each brewmaster has their own interpretation of what they consider appropriate for a particular style.