Beer is a common stable in Manitoba and you can find many local breweries that each make their own kind! Whether you find yourself confused by all the different types of beers, or just want to try new beers, this guide will help you expand your beer knowledge and palate!
There are 3 main ingredients in beer:
- Yeast--responsible for fruity, spicy, funky, and even more neutral flavors during fermentation.
• Hops – flower closely related to weed that is soaked to produce citrus, tropical, herbal, piney, dank, earthy, and floral flavors. Adding hops before fermentation creates bitterness.
• Barley – the prominent grain in brewing, brewers use barley to create the sugar that yeast turns to alcohol during fermentation (think of it like grape juice to wine). Contributes grainy flavors like bread, toast, caramel, dark fruit, chocolate, coffee, etc. Malt is the term for barley that is specially prepared for use in the brewhouse.
Typically yellow or orange in color. They prominently feature hops in aroma and flavor, with some bitterness from the yeast and a bit of sweetness from the malts or fruits.
English versions of pale ales have more barley flavours (caramel, fresh bread, and sugar cookies) where American pale ales have more hop flavours (often with tastes of citrus, tropical fruit, and dank weed).
Amber beers are a bit darker than pale ales and incorporate flavors such as caramel, toffee, toast, sugar cookies, nuts, figs and/or dark fruit.
Like pale ales, English amber ales tend to focus more on sweet barley flavors where American amber ales taste like hops and have more bitterness. There are also German style Amber Ales like Altbier that's similar to English Amber Ales, but with German ingredients.
Brown Ales are like Amber Ales, but also include barley that is roasted like coffee or cacao nibs, creating chocolate and coffee-like flavors in addition to caramel malt flavors like the Amber Ales above. Brown ales are typically lower in alcohol, bitterness, and flavor strength as compared to porters.
Porters are similar to brown ales but are darker and more full-bodied. Both can use brown malt, so there's some overlap, but porters taste hoppier and more bitter.
So similar to a porter that they were once grouped under porters, but are now classified as their own beer type. These have an increased roasted flavour. Stouts cover a broad range of bitterness and flavour profiles:
- Dry Irish stouts are light and bitter (despite their intensely dark and creamy appearance)
- Sweet/Milk Stouts are often moderately sweet and more akin to a chocolate milkshake than a beer
- Russian Imperial Stouts are big in many different tastes and are more easily sipped than chugged
White beer uses at least 50% wheat to barley malt to make a light coloured top-fermenting beer. The two main varieties are German Weizenbier and Belgian witbier; and the other types include Lambic (made with wild yeast), Berliner Weisse (a cloudy, sour beer), and Gose (a sour, salty beer)
While European wheat beers will typically focus on fruity and spicy fermentation flavors, American wheat beers tend to be like Pale Ales with a bit of extra body and fresh-bread aromas provided by this wonderful grain.
Lagers are often assumed to be the lightest beer option (though not necessarily). These beers are clear and often have a more balanced and subtle fruity flavours. The delicate flavors of lagers are typically derived from the malt selection and the often floral types of hops used to “spice” the beer.
Lagers can range American Adjunct Lagers (Bud, Coors, etc.) to more flavorful blonde Helles Lagers and Pilsners that boast highly aromatic Noble hop aromas (nuanced floral and spicy tones). Amber Lagers such as Vienna Lager and Oktoberfest/Marzen that have rich malt backbones emphasize flavors of toasted and fresh baked bread.
There are also many darker and stronger options like Doppelbocks that are similar in flavor and aroma to their cousins in the Ale family such as browns, porters, and stouts.
Belgian Abbey Ales
This family of beer ranges in color and alcohol from blonde table beers, to medium strength Belgian Pale Ales and Dubbels, to Belgian Dark Strong Ales/Quadruples, just to name a few. Flavors may include clove-like spice, orchard fruits (apples and pears), orange zest, and honey.
For the stronger examples in this family, brewers add simple sugars to increase alcohol while thinning the body of the beer, to keep the final product light bodied which make many of these styles not noticeably heavy and a good value for the money. While most authentic Belgian beers have spice flavors that originate from yeast selection, some American versions will add spices to enhance these flavors.
Farmhouse Ales are similar to Abbey Ales but usually have more earthy and herbal flavors, and either moderate bitterness or acidity, due to the use of local ingredients (wheat, oats, rye) and yeasts in replacement of barley and of fruits, vegetables, or herbs grown on the farm.
Unlike the Abbey Ales that generally focus on clove-like spice and orchard fruit flavors, these have more pepper-like spice and citrus zest. Expect a wide range in color and alcohol, although most have a dry finish, high drinkability, and stronger yeast flavours.
The name really just means there's a high alcohol content. These beers can be a high alcohol version of any family of beer previously mentioned. High gravity beers tend to get better and smoother with age like wine, which is why they are often listed with a vintage/release year.
Common examples include English and American Barleywines, Russian Imperial Stouts, Strong Ales, and include Belgian Ales like Trippel, Golden Strong, and Dark Strong Ales.
Barleywines (like English Pale Ales on steroids) are sweet with wine- or spirit-like notes of alcohol and either hop bitterness or oak/spirit flavors. Russian Imperial Stouts replace caramel flavors for overt roasty notes.
These beers have some of the most unique flavors and generally have more sour tastes. Sour beers cover the whole range of color and flavor profile. Some of the most common examples are light, tart, and light beers such as Berliner Weisse and Gose, that often have fruit or spice flavours which can be very pleasant to a beginner (or advanced) beer drinker.
More funky and intense versions tend to come from oak barrels rather than stainless tanks, and require many years to produce. Like wine, expect sour beer prices to reflect the time and skill required for creation.
We hope this guide has helped you to begin understanding the huge world of beer. No beer is better than another, and if you prefer one type then that's the one you should drink! Hopefully this guide will start to guide you in understanding this common drink!