If you’ve ever tried a craft beer, then you probably already know that they can taste a lot differently from regular commercial beer. They’re usually far more complex and nuanced, which means that the average beer drinker might find it hard to decide on which kind they actually like.

In this guide, we’ll try to demystify the topic, and it really isn’t that complicated, to begin with. Follow along to learn about the different kinds of craft beer and how they differ so that you can get an idea of which one is suited to your tastebuds. Let’s begin.\

The two main types of craft beer

Before we begin getting into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about the two main types of beer: ales and lagers. Technically, the difference between the two is the type of yeast used to make the beer. In terms of what this actually means for you—not much, to be honest. Both ales and lagers have multiple subtypes which means you’ll probably find a variety you like in either group.

Generally speaking, however, ales tend to be darker and stronger in both flavour and alcohol content, while lagers are lighter and crisper.

Different styles and varieties of beer

Going back to the subtypes we mentioned, both ales and lagers can be further broken down into multiple beer varieties. Here are some of the most common ones you’ll find:

Ale varieties:

  • Pale ales: These varieties tend to be hoppy and light to drink. However, India Pale Ales (IPAs)—which are known to be bitter, piney, and have high alcohol content—also fall under this subtype.
  • Porters and stouts These two types of beer have a very dark colour with deep, roasted flavours. They usually contain medium to high alcohol content.
  • Brown ales: These tend to be the in-between of the previous two types, in that they feature medium alcohol content, bitterness, and sweetness.
  • Belgian-style beers: These beers are known for their sweet, fruity flavours and high alcohol content.
  • Wheat beers: This variety is light in colour and alcohol content. They usually feature a tangy, fruity flavour.

Lager varieties:

  • Pale lagers and pilsners: These are golden-coloured brews that are light in flavour and alcohol content. They make excellent session beers in that they’re easy to drink.
  • Dark lagers: This variety is malty and sweet. The darker colour might give the impression that they’re strong in alcohol and flavour, but these brews are surprisingly light.
  • German-style bocks: Bocks tend to use plenty of malt which imparts a noticeable nutty taste to the final brew.

Apart from the ones mentioned, there are also specialty beers that can be either an ale or a lager. Specialty brews usually have unique ingredients like chocolate, honey, and herbs. Also, since craft beer is always evolving and new types of beers are still being invented, know that there are plenty of other types, subtypes, and hybrids out there!

How do I choose a craft beer?

With all these in mind, you’re probably even more confused than when we first started. You shouldn’t worry, though—the whole point of craft beer is that it veers away from mass-produced varieties and gives you the ability to find exactly the brews that you like.

It’s much easier said than done—that’s for sure, but you can begin by using the information above as a starting point. You may also ask your server or bartender for any recommendations. They’ll be able to describe their offerings in great detail and even tell you which ones they personally enjoy.

Ask if they have suggestions based on the food you’ll be pairing with your beer. You can also try requesting for a beer tasting flight, which is essentially a sampling of different brews in small servings. Finally, you may want to base your decision on your preferred commercial beer of choice, and simply ask as to which craft beer most closely resembles that.

No matter how you go about it, the idea is to get a taste of what makes each craft beer unique. After all, It all boils down to your individual preferences, and in the world of craft beer, there’s a good chance that you’ll find the perfect brew for you.

If you’d like to sample the finest craft beers in Australia, book our Geelong Beer Tours today and choose from our different packages that will take you to some of the best craft beer breweries in the country.