If you are just starting to explore beer, don’t spend too much time on this site. Instead, go and find a few good shops and specialist bars, try as wide a range of beers as you can, figure out what appeals to you, take a few notes, then come back here for a guide to your next phase of exploration.
For more experienced beer drinkers, to bring some order to a complicated subject, we have organised different types of beer into a few basic groups, within which we describe numerous styles, many of which have sub-styles.
Each group represents a broad cluster of beers that share some fundamental characteristics that setting them apart from the others. Separating lagers from ales, we describe six in total. Lagers are divided into “industrial” and “authentic”, to reflect how they are made, ales appear as “session strength”, sampling strength” and “sipping strength” to reflect their alcohol content, and the final group includes “special style clusters”, such as stouts & porters, wheat beers, farmhouse ales and others.
We use the term beer style to bring together a narrower range of beers that have in common more specific characteristics, some relating to shared historical or geographical origins.
Inevitably perhaps, a successful Style with take on different forms, retaining core characteristics but changing details such as strength, colour, grain profile, hop character, or preparation. Where such variants have become well-established, we list these as sub-styles.
It should be possible for even a fairly inexperienced beer drinker to taste some of the common themes among beers of the same style or sub-style. Where a cluster of beers show the characteristics of more than one group, style or substyle, we have given it one principle listing and cross-referenced it from whichever others apply.