If you’re just beginning to explore the variety of beers out there: boy, do we envy you. There are so many wonderful sights, smells, and tastes out there waiting for you—and you get to discover them for the first time! Nothing is quite like the first pour, the first smell, the first taste of a new beer.
Now, we don’t want to spoil it for you by giving away too many of the surprises, but we do want to give you a few landmarks. Not quite a map, but just some notes about the lay of the land so you can pick the road that looks most pleasant to you.
And, remember, if you want a guide on the ground for some up-to-the-minute tips about what’s in and what’s fresh, we’re always available.
Ambers and Reds:
This is a great place to start your explorations. Your mouth will love all the flavors, but because they’re all in balance, they’re less likely to put off people new to beer explorations. Medium body/color slight malt biscuit sweetness, some more hoppy than others but tend to be balanced with malt roast. Another great thing about ambers is that they’re like all beers in miniature. You don’t ever need to venture outside this style to appreciate how tremendously varied beer can be.
- Examples: New Belgium Fat Tire; Breckenridge Avalanche; Odell Levity; Alaskan Amber; Pinstripe Red Ale; Crazy Mountain Amber
Wheats and Blondes:
Wheat beers and blondes make a great fallback position. Like, imagine you’re falling back onto a bed laid out with a thick, cushiony comforter and all kinds of throw pillows. That’s what drinking a wheat beer can be like. Luxuriant texture, wheat sweetness, and maybe some spicy or fruity flavors like clove, banana, citrus, or honey—like that old flame in college whose bed smelled like incense.
- Examples: Odell Easy Street Wheat; New Belgium Sunshine Wheat; Avery White Rascal; Blue Moon Belgian White; Boulder Beer Sweaty Betty; SKA True Blonde; Paulaner Hefe; Dry Dock Apricot Blonde
IPAs and Pale Ales:
These are the styles that have truly driven the craft beer revolution, so they’ve diversified into thousands of mini-styles. Expect lots of hop bitterness, usually notes of citrus, resin, and herbs. In general, IPAs are hoppier and have a higher alcohol content, but . . . it’s brewer’s choice about what name they put on their beers, so there’s a lot of overlap here. As we said, there’s a lot of variety in these styles. Some are very accessible, and others are best left to the hop-hardened palate.
- Examples: Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale; Avery IPA; Breckenridge IPA; Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Torpedo IPA; Upslope IPA and Pale; Denver Beer Incredible Pedal; Great Divide Titan IPA; Telluride Tempter IPA; Elevation First Cast
Like ambers, brown ales tend to be nicely balanced. They’re darker in color with slight hints of caramel, nut, and chocolate. They tend to be mild in ABV, and they make a good dinner beer because they pair well with many kinds of foods.
- Examples: Avery Ellie’s Brown; Telluride Facedown Brown; Upslope Brown
Stouts and Porters:
These beers are dark colored and thick in body, varying degrees of roasted malt can give chocolate, toffee, coffee, and smoky flavors. These beers can be very similar in style, and they can even overlap. Porters got their name as a working-man’s beer because they’re lighter in flavor and lower in alcohol—though not every boss will be happy if you have one at lunch. Stouts, well, as their name suggests, they’re stouter beers, both in flavor and in alcohol.
- Examples: Denver Beer Graham Cracker Porter; Left Hand Milk Stout; Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter; Deschutes Black Butte Porter; Breckenridge Vanilla Porter; Avery Out of Bounds Stout; Elevation Lil’ Mo’ Porter
Technically, everything we’ve been talking about up until now is an ale. Lagers and ales differ because they use different kinds of wheat to ferment the beer. Ale yeast ferments at a warmer temperature. Lagers became popular in the US with the rise of refrigeration that allowed the style to be made more often. Technically, there’s nothing stopping someone from making lagers that could be mistaken for the ales we’ve been talking about.
Dark lagers can be similar in taste to ambers, browns, stouts, and porters. They’re good to pair with foods.
- Examples: Upslope Craft Lager; Sam Adams Boston Lager; Shiner Bock; Tommyknocker Butthead Bock; Colorado Native
Light bodied, easy to drink, low malt and usually low hop flavor. These can be more like the wheats, blondes, and pale ales. There are even some lagers that are similar to IPAs. Their light flavor makes light lagers popular thirst quenchers when the weather gets warmer.
- Examples: New Belgium Pilsner; Prost Pils; Odell Loose Leaf; Pug Ryan’s Pilsner; Lagunitas Pils; Firestone Walker Pivo Pils; Elevation 8 Second Kolsch
The world has long enjoyed a wide variety of beer styles. In fact, there are few styles that originated in America, and most beers have similar styles being produced overseas. But because of the great popularity of light lagers, what has tended to be imported was lighter lagers. As beer tastes in America have changed, we’ve seen the imported beers change, too.
Belgium has a very diverse beer tradition. In beer styles per square mile, Belgium may lead the world. (Although if microbreweries keep popping up around town, Denver may change that!) Belgian beer can taste like virtually anything, although many varieties never make it to the US.
- Examples: Stella Artois; Hoegaarden, Leffe, Chimay
In sharp contrast to the Belgian experience, beer production in Germany has been governed by the Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law. It states that beer can only be made using four ingredients: water, barley, hops, and yeast. However, it would be a mistake to say that all German beers taste the same: there’s a remarkable diversity in just those four ingredients.
- Examples: Paulaner; St. Pauli; Hacker Pschoor; Weihenstephan; Becks
Strongly influenced by their German neighbor, the Czech republic tends to be straight-laced in their beer styles. It should be noted that they literally invented the pilsner, and they’re justifiably proud of it.
- Example: Pilsner Urquell;
Famous for its wine, Italy is not a huge exporter of beer. Nonetheless, they do distribute a number of brands, although most that reach the US tend to be mild lager types.
- Peroni; Birra Morena, Birra Moretti
For a small country, Ireland has had a big cultural impact in the US. And that’s true of their beers, too. The beers imported from Ireland tend to be hearty, flavorful styles.
- Guinness ; Harp; Smithwicks
Although the Netherlands hasn’t produced the same wide variety of beers as its southern neighbor Belgium, they have produced one of the most popular imported beers in the US.
In many ways, the Canadian beer experience parallels that of the US. Like the US, for a long time, production of Canadian beers has been dominated by light lagers, but with time the styles are changing. Microbreweries are making their presence felt in Canada, though they’re hard to find in the US.
- Molson; Labatt Blue
With a wide variety of local tastes and the thirst of a global empire to quench, the UK helped develop many of the beer styles we enjoy today. And they export many of them to us, although their flavor is notably different from the versions we make.
- Newcastle, Bass, Samuel Smith’s, Fuller’s
Mexico actually produces many different styles of beer, although most examples that make it to the US are the light lagers. Strongly influenced by German emigres in the 19th century (the same ones who brought the polka influence to Norteño music), Mexican beers tend to fall into German styles.
- Examples: Modelo; Corona; Dos XX; Tecate; Pacifico
So, are you ready to start your beer explorations? Then it’s as easy as moseying down to Applejack to start browsing. No, wait, it’s even easier than that—we deliver! The world starts just outside your door, and with a phone call, its beers could be there, too.