When it comes to beer, there’s a lot of jargon to contend with. Some words can be defined with a quick web search. “Brett,” for instance, refers to Brettanomyces, a yeast that lends a funky flavor to any beer made with it.
Even craft beer lovers might not know the real differences between common styles. Drink in new knowledge with our handy guide, and impress your friends the next time you’re out on the town.
Pilsner vs. Hefeweizen
Boil it down, and there are two types of beer: lagers and ales.
Pilsners are a pale lager, and hefeweizens are a wheat ale. The difference? Simply, the yeast involved. Pilsners, and other lagers in general, have a cleaner, crisper taste. Hefes often take on banana or clove flavors. Both styles originated by German brewers but are separated by 300 years; Bavarians made hefes starting in the 1500s, while a Bavarian made the first pilsner in a Czech city in the mid-1800s.
Gose vs. Sour
Remember squares and rectangles in math class? Here, a gose is a sour, but a sour is not necessarily a gose.
Gose, pronounced “gohz-uh,” is another German style, different from a gueuze, which is Belgian. Goses tend to be tart, fruity, and accented with salt and coriander. Sours can also be tart and fruity, but might be aged (like Flanders red ales) and can take lots of time to ferment and mature. The tartness comes from the yeast and even bacteria used, which is why Berliner Weisse is technically considered a sour.
Preyer Brewing makes a killer Currantly Salty Gose.
Saison vs. Farmhouse
Let’s revisit that math class! A saison is a farmhouse ale, but the farmhouse category also includes gueuze, sahti, and bière de garde (the French version of a Belgian saison). The farmhouse style originated on farms, so they don’t taste like things you might associate with agriculture.
Instead, they taste funky, fruity, or spicy (like ginger or coriander). The recipes are so different that just because you don’t like one farmhouse doesn’t mean you won’t like others. Experiment, and find out what you enjoy.
Try Joymongers’ Bière de Garde.
New England vs. West Coast IPA
Some IPAs are hoppier than others, and the now-classic New England (i.e. hazy) IPA features citrus and tropical flavors. “Hazy” means the beer is hard to see through, which makes for a creamy mouthfeel. West Coast IPAs tend to be piney, bitter, or dank — a result of the hops used. There are a lot of different kinds of hops grown all over the world, and some IPAs use oatmeal or lactose for even more smoothness, so they come in many different styles and flavors.
Natty Greene’s experiments with various pale ales and IPAs throughout the year.
Porter vs. Stout
The history is simple: a stout was a strong porter, popularized by Guinness. Nowadays, the difference is a little more complicated. Generally, porters are made with malted barley and stouts with unmalted roasted barley. Also, porters tend to be lower in alcohol and might taste fruitier while stouts are more roasty. But the similarities prevail: both can have chocolate and/or coffee characteristics, both can be aged, and both are made with a lot of malt and a lot of hops.
Little Brother’s Jim’s Lunch is a dry stout that’s always on the menu.
BONUS: Cider vs. Mead
Cider, or “hard cider,” is typically made from fermented apples, but other fruits can be used. Mead is made from honey. Both can be sweet, dry, or semi-sweet. Although neither is beer, both are tasty, gluten-free alternatives.
- Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Co., 504 State St., 27405
- Joymongers Brewing Co., 576 N. Eugene St., 27401
- Preyer Brewing Co., 600 Battleground Ave., 27401
- Natty Greene’s Brewing Co., 345 S. Elm St., 27401
- Little Brother Brewing, 348 S. Elm St., 27401
- Leveneleven Brewing, 1111 Coliseum Blvd., 27403
- Pig Pounder Brewery, 1107 Grecade St., 27408