Need to brush up on your brew IQ? Or just looking for a new go-to on tap? With so many types of beer available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when choosing the perfect pint. Here’s a breakdown of two popular styles of beer (ales and lagers) so you’ll be able to order confidently at dinner and get more out of your next brewery tour.

Ales are often darker than lagers, ranging from rich gold to reddish amber. Fruity and fuller-bodied, they have pleasantly bitter tones.

  • Stout

o   Heavily roasted flavor with hints of coffee

o   Pairs well with roasted and smoked foods, barbecue, and chocolate

  • Porter

o   Notes of chocolate with mild roast in the finish

o   Pairs well with pork, salmon, and red meat

  • India Pale Ale (IPA)

o   A pronounced hop bitterness profile from start to finish

o   High alcohol content

o   Pairs well with burgers, pizza, Buffalo wings, and fried foods

  • Pale Ale

o   Robust hop aroma and medium bitterness

o   Lower alcohol content than IPAs

o   Pairs well with spicy, smoky, and heat-charred foods

Lagers are usually pale to medium in color, though some can be as dark as black (think Sam Adams Black Lager). Their taste is usually described as clean and crisp.

  • American Lager

o   Balance of hops and malt with crisp, dry finish

o   Pairs well with Thai, Asian, Mexican, and other spicy cuisine

  • Pilsner

o   Pronounced hop aroma and bitterness with a refreshing finish

o   Pairs well with salmon, tuna, and other oily fish

  • Bock

o   Rich, sweet caramels and warm, toasty flavors

o   Pairs well with Cajun, jerk, slow-roasted, and seared foods