The 7 Main Categories of Beer

We’re decades into the craft beer movement and the different types, styles and flavor profiles of modern beers never seem to end. Currently, there are seven primary categories of beer: crisp, hop, malt, roast, smoke, fruit and spice, tart and funky. Knowing how to describe a particular beer is incredibly important. Customers not only expect you and your staff to have knowledge on everything you serve, but also to describe your selections and help them find a beer that suits their tastes.

1. Crisp

A “crisp” beer is a lighter brew, and is often referred to by terms such as: “Light Lager,” “The Blond,” or “The Golden Ale.”  These types of beers can be described as light and delicate, and often with a fruity flavor. Crisp beers also include ales such as the American Blond Ale, English Blond Ale, and the Wheat and Cream ales.

Need a sweet and fruity taste? Malt-accented brews stir with crisp flavors that you’ll also find in beers such as Amber Ale, Pale Ale, Vienna Ale, and Oktoberfest. Other beers described as “crisp” also include hoppier brews, referred to as “brisk hoppiness.” The name is derived from the noble German-Czech grown hops, and you will find this in a Pilsner or even an India Pale Lager.

2. Hop

Hop flavors can be described as earthy, and generally include dry, herbal styles with a malty backbone. Common examples of these styles are English Pale Ale or Belgian IPA.

The malt blend of hops includes the initial bitter flavor, and mixes with a caramel-fruity tone. You would typically find this in beer styles like the American Pale Ale or the American Imperial Red Ale. The bold, herbal and citrus flavored hop has a zestier taste that includes ales such as the American Pale Ale or the American Fresh Hop Ale.


3. Malt

Malt beers generally offer fruity, nutty and/or toasty flavors. Dark Lagers, English Brown Ales and Doppelbocks are typically toasty, nutty-flavored malts. For more fruit-forward and toffee flavor profiles, look for Scottish, Belgian Pale or English Strong Ales.

4. Roast

The darker and coffee blended malts is where you can find a soft and silky-like ale such as the Brown Porter, Oatmeal Stout, or an Imperial Brown Ale. For the richer and fuller roasts, try dark and dry flavors that include the Dry Stout, American Stout, and a Robust Porter.

5. Smoke

Think a “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” type flavor. Smoke-flavored beers offer a toasted richness that you would find in a smolder ale. Examples include Smoked Porters or Rauchbiers, which offer spicy, meaty flavors.

6. Fruit and Spice

This category includes bright-flavored fruit blends like apples, pears, lemons, bananas. It is usually mixed with spices such as vanilla, pepper, and coriander. You will find this category of beer in styles like a Belgian Blond Ale, Kristalweizen, or a Belgian Strong Blond Ale.

There is a darker blend as well. This type of fruit and spice beer captures flavors such as figs, cherries, plums, and combines them with flavor profiles like nutmeg, and cinnamon. This category includes styles like a Belgian Dark Ale, Dubbel, or a Dunkelweizen.

7. Tart and Funky

These are sour brews that range from earthy to wine-like. The tart and funky style is delicate and similar to other crisp brews. However, tart and funky beers usually include a twist of citrus like you would find in a Berliner Weissbier or a Faro.

Within this category, the fruity and vinous flavor profile will usually appeal to wine drinkers. This style makes for the most wine-like beers you can find. It is the tartest and funkiest of brews, and includes the Wild Ale and a Flanders Red Ale. Rustic, earthy ales like Saisons or a Gueuze Lambics are also categorized as tart and funky.

As the craft beer industry matures, keeping track of the different categories of beer can be daunting. Learning these flavor profiles as they edge into the market, gives your establishment a competitive edge.