Today’s beer market is filled with all types of beer. You have your IPAs, APAs, porters, pilsners, lagers, stouts, wheat beers, fruit beers, smoked beers, and on and on. One could run through every beer on the shelf and find countless names for beer styles and a few of them mean the same thing. One can look through all the beers on taps and find many different names, however, perhaps few of them mean the same thing.
Beer has been developed and re-imagined over and over again through the ages and because of this, there are dozens and dozens of styles that have established themselves.
Adding to the confusion, there new styles of beer emerge all the time.
American pale ale, for example, is a play on the classic, hoppy British-brewed India pale ale. American pale ale, or APA, is similar to an IPA, but it uses more ingredients from the American brewing tradition like bright, citrusy hops instead of the woodsier, floral hops from Britain.
Does It Really Matter?
With so many different styles, some with only subtle differences from one to the next, it can seem a little daunting, not to mention unnecessary, to the average beer drinker. Well, to be honest, it kind of is.
The people who are mostly concerned with beer styles are those entering or judging beer competitions. In order to accurately and objectively judge beers, the styles need to be precisely defined. Americans seem particularly keen on this point with the beer competitions at big festivals like the Great American Beer Festival being responsible for the huge list of beer styles.
As a beer drinker, it’s helpful to be familiar with some of the broader style categories like stout, wheat or pale ale. It can help in deciding what beer to buy for a particular occasion or to pair with a nice meal. Knowing the difference between, say, a brown porter versus a robust porter probably won’t significantly enhance the average beer drinker’s experience.