Lager is a type of beer which was first brewed in Central Europe some 500 years ago, and has since become the most popular type of beer in the world.
Lager is distinguished from ale by its yeast. Lager yeast ferments at colder temperatures and falls to the bottom of the fermenting vessel, while ale ferments at warmer temperatures and settles on the tops of fermentation tanks.
As the modern definition of lager relates only to the method of fermentation, lager beers’ characteristics are quite varied. In general, lager is perceived to be a cleaner tasting, dryer, and lighter beer than ale. The flavor of a lager can be quite simple, with the most mild being light lagers. The most complexly flavored lagers are usually the darkest, although few lagers feature strong hop flavoring compared to ale of similar alcohol by volume. In general, however, lagers display less fruitiness and lower spiciness than ales, simply because the lower fermentation temperatures associated with lager brewing allow the yeast to produce fewer of the esters and phenols associated with those flavors.
Ale is a type of beer brewed from malted barley using a top-fermenting brewers yeast (this is actually the same yeast that is used in baking bread). Top-fermenting yeast ferments the beer quickly at warmer temperatures, giving it a sweet, full-bodied and fruity taste. Ales are common in Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, the eastern provinces of Canada and among craft beer brewers in the United States. In many countries ale has lost popularity somewhat with the growth of popularity for other alcoholic beverages, including lagers, and wine.
The English Pale Ale can be traced back to the city of Burton-upon-Trent, a city with an abundance of rich hard water. This hard water helps with the clarity as well as enhancing the hop bitterness. This ale can be from golden to reddish amber in color with generally a good head retention. A mix of fruity, hoppy, earthy, buttery and malty aromas and flavors can be found. Typically all ingredients are English. Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 3.8-6.0%
IPA (Indian Pale Ale)
The American IPA is a different soul from the reincarnated IPA style. More flavorful than the withering English IPA, color can range from very pale golden to reddish amber. Hops are typically American with a big herbal and / or citric character, bitterness is high as well. Moderate to medium bodied with a balancing malt backbone. Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 5.5-7.5%
American Double IPA
Take an India Pale Ale and feed it steroids, ergo the term Double IPA. Although open to the same interpretation as its sister styles, you should expect something robust, malty, alcoholic and with a hop profile that might rip your tongue out. The Imperial usage comes from Russian Imperial stout, a style of strong stout originally brewed in England for the Russian Imperial Court of the late 1700s; though Double IPA is often the preferred name. You can thank west coast American brewers for this somewhat reactionary style. "Thanks!" Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 7.0-14.0%
Deep black and opaque, with a rich, creamy, long-lasting head. Smooth, rich body with little hop aroma and a burn flavor. Cream (milk) Stout has a chocolate maltiness. Sweetness and body come from the addition of lactose (milk sugar), which cannot be fermented by yeast. There are also Dry, Oatmeal, Export, and Imperial Stout.
Inspired from English & Irish Stouts, the American Stout is the ingenuous creation from that. Thankfully with lots of innovation and originality American brewers have taken this style to a new level. Whether it is highly hopping the brew or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the roasted flavors associated with this style. Some are even barrel aged in Bourbon or whiskey barrels. The hop bitterness range is quite wide but most are balanced. Many are just easy drinking session stouts as well. Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%
Inspired from the now wavering English Porter, the American Porter is the ingenuous creation from that. Thankfully with lots of innovation and originality American brewers have taken this style to a new level. Whether it is highly hopping the brew, using smoked malts, or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the burnt flavor associated with this style. Some are even barrel aged in Bourbon or whiskey barrels. The hop bitterness range is quite wide but most are balanced. Many are just easy drinking session porters as well. Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-7.5%
American Brown Ale
Spawned from the English Brown Ale, the American version can simply use American ingredients. Many other versions may have additions of coffee or nuts. This style also encompasses "Dark Ales". The bitterness and hop flavor has a wide range and the alcohol is not limited to the average either. Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-8.0%
Saisons are sturdy farmhouse ale that was traditionally brewed in the winter, to be consumed throughout the summer months. Not so long ago it was close to being an endangered style, but over recent years there's been a massive revival; especially in the US. This is a very complex style; many are very fruity in the aroma and flavor. Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 5.0-8.0%
Description: This flavor or aroma is reminiscent of the flavor or aroma of green apples.
Cause: It may be indicative of bacterial infection, but also may be a sign that the beer is too "young" and needs to age.
Remedy: Make sure good sanitation procedures are followed to avoid infection. Make sure your homebrew is not removed from the yeast too soon during fermentation.
Description: Tastes, smells like butter or butterscotch. It can also manifest itself as a "slickness" on the tongue. Diacetyl is produced by yeast early in the fermentation stages, however it is later absorbed by the yeast towards the end. In moderation, it is acceptable and desirable in certain styles (English Ales and many other ales), however it is not acceptable in others (Munich Helles). I've tasted this stuff at both extremes, from the diacetyl that adds a subtle complexity and interesting nuances to the over-the-top-buttered popcorn that is downright nasty.
Cause: Removing your beer from the primary yeast before fermentation is complete; bacterial infection; insufficient aeration of wort before yeast is pitched.
Remedy: Make sure primary fermentation has run its course fully before racking to secondary or bottling, practice good sanitation, and be sure to adequately aerate wort before you pitch your yeast. Lager brewers sometimes employ a diacetyl rest, conditioning the beer at 50–55° F for a few days.
Oxidation / Stale
Description: Carboardy, papery flavor or aroma that is not acceptable in any beer style. Sherry-like is another way to describe an acceptable characteristic in many Barleywines, Old Ales, or Scotch Ales.
Cause: Poor wort handling.
Remedy: Do not introduce oxygen to wort after fermentation and avoid rough handling or splashing of hot wort.
Description: Think of the sensation you get in your mouth when sucking on a teabag, or chewing on grape skins (Yeah, I know, not stuff you do every day). Sometimes confused with bitterness. Astringency is a dry mouth-puckering sensation, whereas bitterness is detected on the back of the tongue and is desired and assertively noticeable in certain styles, such India Pale Ale or American Pale Ale.
Cause: Several causes. Extract brewers sometimes have problems with astringency from steeping their steeping grains too long, or at too hot of a temperature. Overcrushing your grain, oversparging or sparging with boiling-hot or alkaline water, and bacterial infection. Excessive oxidation also produces a rather unpleasant astringency.
Remedy: Pay more attention to water temperature whether mashing, sparging, or steeping. Keep good sanitation practices. Make sure grain is crushed, not pulverized into powder. Try to minimize oxygen exposure after fermentation to decrease chance of severe oxidation.
Description: This is the fruity character found in some ales. Certain yeasts will throw more esters than others. Acceptable in most ales, not acceptable in clean lagers. That banana aroma/flavor you get from a hefeweizen? That's an example of ester(s).
Cause: Higher fermentation temperature will usually produce more esters, as will certain yeast strains. Poor aeration of wort before pitching can also jack up the esters in your brew.
Remedy: Make sure to ferment your beer at the correct temperature according to style and yeast strain. Do your research on whatever yeast strain you are using. Make sure to aerate wort thoroughly before pitching yeast.
Description: Sourness registers on the sides of the tongue. Not acceptable in most beer styles, however it is part of the necessary flavor profile in brews like lambics and berliner weisse.
Cause: Bacterial Infection.
Remedy: Good sanitation!