Water, hops, malt and yeast are all you need to brew beer—but of course, it’s so much more than just that. Whether pushing the boundaries with unorthodox additions like puréed apricot or even bacon, or perfecting those four main ingredients for the ideal expression of a historic style, the beer world’s offerings continue to expand.
From juicy New England IPAs to traditional pilsners, here are our favorite beers, organized by style.
Saisons started out in Wallonia, a French-speaking region of Belgium, as a refreshing, drinkable farmhouse brew. On American shores, it’s quite different—sour, acidic, boozy and barrel-aged.
First brewed in Vermont before trickling down to Massachusetts, this northeastern-specific IPA boasts soft carbonation, a hazy appearance, fruity aromatics and a “juicy” flavor profile. Made with high-protein grains like oats and fruit-forward hops, this IPA is a burst of freshness.
Once an obscure wheat ale, gose has gone full-on Hollywood. In Germany, it’s traditionally brewed with salty water, spiked with Lactobacillus via open fermentation and seasoned with coriander. Stateside breweries have taken creative liberty with the formula, but still pay homage to the original with a distinct tang, lower ABV and subtle spice from the coriander.
German wheat beers go back to the four basic ingredients of brewing: water, hops, malt and yeast. However, the simplicity in this brew is anything but mundane. It’s an explosion of banana-y esters and sweet graininess, backed up by the balancing bite of hops and that hallmark yeastiness.
Striking a balance between a fruity yeast profile, a toasty, sweet malt character and crisp hop flavors, English-style bitters resemble early American pale ales and juicy IPAs. They max out at six percent alcohol, making them easy to drink pint after pint.
With a unique blend of malted barley, unmalted wheat, aged hops and the native yeasts and bacteria present in Belgium’s Senne Valley air, Lambic has been touted as the best beer style out there. Traditional Lambics embody complex textures and fruitiness, while American variations of Lambic are decidedly funkier and less acidic.
Pilsners are nothing flashy—they’re low in alcohol and typically made of only the four most basic beer ingredients. But with nothing else to hide behind, there’s little room for error; perfecting the brewing process to yield a subtle beer that’s both delicious and complex becomes even more important here.
Prized for its minimalism, Kölsh is often made with pilsner malts, fermented like an ale, then cold-lagered, which leaves a clean, refreshing taste. Helles, another German beer, is similarly light and crisp. However, these pale lagers are less hoppy and tend to be on the sweeter side.
Lagers like Pearl, Schlitz and Olympia weren’t always owned by conglomerates—they were all once locally brewed. Originally produced by German and Czech immigrants, many still retain a clean, grainy quality that made them so beloved (and drinkable) in the first place.
Bitter hops are balanced by fruity undertones in this IPA style. From apricots to citrus to watermelon, real fruit lends a brightness that’s a natural fit for the hop-forward template.
Once confined to dark stouts, coffee-infused beer is now just as likely to appear in lighter styles. With so many nuances from the beans themselves, an ideal coffee beer should be as complex as it is balanced.
Affectionately known as “Brett,” this slow-acting yeast results in a funky, dry beer. Made with multiple species of the yeast, Brett beers can exhibit flavors that range from “horse blanket” to cherry and pineapple.
Not confined to a single style, these seasonal holiday beers can embody many flavor profiles, from malt-forward Belgians to imperial stouts brewed with winter spices.