A beer style is an informal agreement between a brewer and a customer, expressed through a name on a label, by which the former gives the latter a rough idea of what they are about to buy.
In order to try to help people make sense of the world of beer styles that have been revived, recreated, devised or otherwise conjured up in the last few decades, we have divided the whole of beer into six major groups.
The German word ‘lager’ means ‘warehouse’, or ‘store’, implying that a lagered beer has been stored for a time to mature. Sadly, to save costs, the most popular lagers, are not lagered, making them dull. Ales on the other hand, are doing just fine.
Since earliest times, brewers have been caught between supplying two conflicting demands. Beer needs to be good enough to savour, and cheap enough to afford. Craft brewers concentrate on the first, industrial brewers on the second.
Beers have many purposes. Some are for quaffing with your mates in a bar while you get on with the serious business of conversation. Some are minor works of art in their own right. Others should be sipped, to assist with thinking.
There is no correct way to classify or categorise different types of beer. What we have attempted to do here is to try to bring together the major established beer styles of the world and make some sense of them. Nothing is set in stone and this is a living document.