Beer Basics: How to Choose Your Next Order of Beer

image of beer

No one does beer delivery in the bay area like Office Libations.

That’s why we take it upon ourselves to tell you all there is to know about beer. Starting with what kinds of beer are out there.

Consider this your chance to make an educated decision.

So before you go and call in your beer order for the office, you might want to check in to our basic beer guide and touch up on what’s out in the market.

We won’t get into craft beers or those new variation mixes, otherwise, our list would be endless. Instead, we’ll start off with a standard list of all the basics you are sure to meet whether it’s in a bar, restaurant, or brewery.

Once you know the basics on beer, you’ll be set to take on all sorts of beer varieties that the bay area is known for.

Yes, Beer Comes In Varieties

image of beer varieties and sub-types

Think of beer like you were thinking about wine, except without the so-called pretension.

Do you hear people bragging about their 1995 British Style Barley Beer that they saved for a special occasion? The answer is no, and if the answer is yes then that person has too much time on their hands.

Otherwise, beer is exactly like wine: it’s meant to be appreciated and enjoyed in good company.

Also like wine is the painstakingly long list of beer varieties or sub-types you’ll find.

BUT, there is a standard guide to follow when it comes to beer.

And it doesn’t matter if you’ve been around the bar or you’re just getting to know beer now. The following is crucial to understanding why there are so many varieties of beer on the market.

It All Comes Down to Fermentation

Now there are two main types of fermentation that result in two main types of beer.

A beer will usually always be categorized as an ale or a lager.

Every other beer will tend to fall into a subcategory of these top two.

The difference lies in the yeast and fermentation style of these two types of beers.

Bottom Fermentation

image of a lager, or bottom fermented beer

Bottom fermentation is otherwise known as lager production.

So what does it mean for a beer to be bottom fermented and what differentiates a lager from an ale?

When a beer is bottom fermented, that simply means that the yeast settles to the bottom of the vessel that the beer is fermenting in.

The strains of yeast used in fermenting lager beer tend to ferment at a lower temperature. They’re more fragile than those used in producing ales and so they are not as tolerant to alcohol.

They also don’t grow as quickly and that’s why you won’t see foam on the surface.

This affects the beer in several ways.

First, this creates a sweeter and smoother beer because of the type of yeast that’s used.

The yeast strain used in lager production goes by the name Saccharomyces uvarum. And because of its slow fermenting capabilities, it breaks down sugar at a slower rate.

Second, because the yeast is so volatile, this can create a bevy of flavors in the resulting product.

Top Fermentation

image of ale or top fermented beer

Now on the other end of the beer spectrum, we’ve got ale production.

Ale production uses another strain of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This particular yeast strain displays different qualities than those used in lager production.

Above all, it’s a much hardier yeast, thus it is much more tolerant to alcohol.

It also likes to ferment at higher temperatures. This not only speeds up the fermentation process, but it affects the resulting alcohol levels.

And can you guess why it’s called top fermentation?

Yup, not a hard question. Yeast rises to the top of the fermentation vessel creating a foam layer before sinking back to the bottom after fermentation is complete.

In the end, you’re left with a beer that has a higher alcohol content as well as a stronger flavor profile.

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Spontaneous Fermentation

image of lambic and sour beer

Let’s give spontaneous fermentation an honorary mention because, without it, we wouldn’t have lambics or sour beers.

Originating from Belgium, this method of fermentation is completely natural.

And when we say natural we do mean natural. Whatever happens…happens.

The fate of the brew is left to the microorganisms that are in the air at the time and left to ferment on its own.

The distillers don’t have much control over what ends up in their beer, that’s why it’s called spontaneous.

How To Categorize Your Beer

So now you know a bit more about the difference between an ale and a lager.

Here comes the fun part.

How do you differentiate between beer styles?

Like we mentioned before, beer will usually fall into two categories: ale or a lager. And each style has its own variation of flavors, alcohol, and appearance.

Beers in the Lager Family

Pilsners and Light Lagers

image of pilsner or light lager like Budlight or Coors

Popular types of pilsners include:

  • German Helles
  • German Pilsner
  • Czech/Bohemian Pilsner

Pilsners can range from a pale yellow to gold in color.

A German Helles will taste maltier than a German pilsner and a Czech pilsner will have more prominent notes of hops flavors and spicy florals.

Popular brands include Victory Helles Lager, Sierra Nevada’s Nooner Pilsner, and Lagunitas PILS.

Light lagers, on the other hand, aren’t known to be hoppy in flavor. Instead, they are characterized by their refreshing and crisp taste with very mellow flavors.

Budweiser, Coors, and Pabst Blue Ribbon are all labeled as light or ‘American’ lagers.

Dark Lagers

image of dark lager

In contrast to light lagers, dark lagers bring a unique flavor to the table. Because dark lagers are made with roasted malts, this gives them a nutty flavor.

Popular dark lagers include:

  • Amber American Lager
  • German Schwarzbier
  • Vienna Lager

Overall, dark lagers are smoother, richer, and have a very robust palette of flavors.

Bock, Doppelbock, and Eisbock

There’s no other beer with a more German reputation than bock beers.

Originating from the northern town of Einbeck, bock beers gravitate towards stronger flavors compared to traditional lagers.

They are darker in color, with a strong malt sweetness that is softer than its hop flavors.

A doppelbock is essentially a bock beer times 5, and an Eisbock is a bock times 10. They’re stronger in both flavor and alcohol.

Beers in the Ale Family

Brown Ales

image of a brown ale

Moving on to another class of beer, brown ales include two popular styles: American brown ales and English brown ales.

Both have notes of malt and boast nutty, caramel flavors.

The mouthfeel tends to range in the middle in terms of alcohol with less hoppy bitterness than porters or stouts.

Pale Ales

Needless to say, pale ales lean towards the crisper and lighter side than the rest of their ale brethren.

Types of pale ales include:

  • American Amber Ale
  • American Pale Ale
  • Blonde Ale
  • English Bitter
  • English Pale Ale

By contrast, they tend to be lower in alcohol than an IPA will be.

India Pale Ales

image of voodoo ranger IPA

IPAs are a notoriously popularized style of ale that includes:

  • American IPA
  • Imperial/Double IPA
  • English IPA

Higher in alcohol content than pale ales, IPAs present stronger hop flavors with floral, herbal, and bitter notes.


Here’s another dark ale to add to our list.

Encompassed in the porter group are:

  • American Imperial Porter
  • English Brown Porter
  • Robust Porter

They all have a few things in common.

Shout out to you if you’re a coffee lover, because porters just might be your favorite go-to option if that’s the case.

Aside from color, porters, for the most part, contain rich flavors of caramel, chocolate, and coffee.


Similar to porters, stouts are dark in color also with plenty of coffee, chocolate, and caramel flavors.

Some popular stouts you’ll find are:

  • American Stout
  • American Imperial Stout
  • Oatmeal Stout
  • Milk Stout
  • Irish Dry Stout

These range from low to medium alcohol levels with features of malt or varying roast levels.

As is the case with oatmeal and milk stouts, they also tend to be sweeter and smoother than the other styles.

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image of an IPA, stout and ale beer

So, you’ve probably cottoned on to the fact that beer is an extensive realm that requires time and experience to truly appreciate.

And, as you’ve now come to realize, it’s not so easy to choose a beer delivery service when you don’t even know what kind of beer you need.

When going to choose beer for the office, you want a beer that will satisfy everyone and to do that you have to know what kind of beer is likely to please.

You’ve got pale lagers for those Friday afternoons when you just need a refresh from the past week. Or perhaps more porters or stouts for the coffee aficionados in the office.

Maybe you need something stronger for those times when you need an extra oomph to reach that deadline.

To say we skimmed the surface of beer is putting it lightly. Be that as it may, there are still a good deal of options to try from these classic beer styles.

As in, not a few options, you have a whole BOATLOAD of options available to you. So feel free to explore what’s out there, and discover what your office can’t do without.

Make sure to share this article with anyone you think could use it!

When you find yourself in need of wine, coffee, kombucha, tea, beer, or snacks for your office or event, shoot us a message!

This article was brought to you by Office Libations, your San Francisco Bay Area office coffee, keg delivery, and snack service. Delivering top local brands and kegs of cold brew coffee, kombucha, beer, and wine.


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