Beer for Beginners

Typically divided into subsects of ales (made with top-fermenting yeast) and lagers (made with bottom-fermenting yeast), the types of beer that exist follow some loose guidelines.

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Typically divided into subsects of ales (made with top-fermenting yeast) and lagers (made with bottom-fermenting yeast), the types of beer that exist follow some loose guidelines. Below you’ll learn about some of the more prominent variations, what distinguishes them and some of the local breweries that craft them so you can decode what to order next time you’re confronted with a wall of taps or several menu pages of bottled choices.

Ale: Beers brewed using top-fermenting yeast

Abbey — A strong ale, similar to a trappist beer, but doesn’t have to be made in a monastery. Single (“blondes,” light color, light alcohol), Dubbel (largely malt forward), Tripel (generally over 8 percent ABV), quadruple (darkest and strongest).

Glass: Goblet or snifter

Amber Ale — A catch-all for amber-colored beers

Glass: Pint glass 

Find: Mt. Carmel Amber Ale, Mt. Carmel Brewing Company

American Pale Ale (APA) — Made when brewers tried to recreate British pale ales with American hops

Glass: Pint glass or mug

Find: Prodigal APA American Pale Ale, Ei8ht Ball Brewing; Jungle Honey American Pale Ale, Listermann Brewing Company; Copperhead American Pale Ale, Cellar Dweller

Blonde Ale — Includes golden ale and Belgian blonde ale; lighter in body with high carbonation

Glass: Pint glass or mug

Find: Mastadon Belgian strong ale, Rhinegeist; Cougar blonde ale, Rhinegeist; Leopold Belgian-style blonde ale, Listermann; Jenneke Belgian-style blonde ale (May release), Rivertown Brewing Company; Tarnished lightly hopped golden ale, Ei8ht Ball Brewing; Daywalker blonde ale (summer release), MadTree Brewing Company

Bitter — A term used in England to distinguish hopped beers from other ales; dry and heavily hopped with a relatively low alcohol content

Glass: Pint glass or mug

Find: E.S.B. Eastern Standard Bitter, Fifty West Brewing Company

Brown Ale — Commonly called a nut brown or honey brown ale; tends to have a more hoppy, nutty flavor and aroma

Glass: Pint glass or mug

Find: Shroominous brown ale with shiitake mushroom, Blank Slate Brewing Company; Cat Lady American Brown Ale, Ei8ht Ball Brewing; Gnarly Brown with roasted coffee malt, MadTree Brewing Company; Chickow hazelnut double brown ale, Triple Digit Brewing Company

India Pale Ale — Subsect of the more generic Pale Ale; developed in England to withstand sea journeys to the outlying British Empire, like British India. IPAs have high levels of hops and alcohol to improve preservative qualities. 

Glass: Pint glass

Find: Northern Liberties IPA, Christian Moerlein; Mt. Carmel IPA with a pine hop aroma, Mt. Carmel Brewing Compay; Lil Sipa, Rivertown Brewing Company; Truth intensely hopped IPA, Rhinegeist; Preach West Coast-style double IPA, Ei8ght Ball Brewing; Like Rabbits crisp IPA, Ei8ht Ball Brewing; PsycHOPathy, MadTree Brewing Company; Hoppy Poppy, Cellar Dweller; Shawsome Black IPA, Cellar Dweller

Kölsch — A pale blond, alt-style ale; sort of sour, a little bitter

Glass: Stange

Find: Speed Bump Kölsch-Style Ale, Fifty West Brewing Company

Pale Ale — Not actually very pale; generic name for a group of hops-forward, bitter beers

Glass: Pint glass or mug

Find: Zeppelin Bavarian Style Pale Ale, Christian Moerlein; Hop Bomber rye pale ale, Rivertown Brewing Company; Sprye with spicy rye (spring release), MadTree Brewing Company; Dead Dweller English Ale with espresso and peanut, Cellar Dweller; Happy Amber dry-hopped ale, MadTree Brewing Company

Saison — Tart, refreshing, highly hopped and spicy; traditionally brewed in winter for aging until summer

Glass: Tulip glass or pint glass

Find: The Awakening and Ryesing Up rye Saison with peppercorn, Blank Slate Brewing Company; Tiny Pig Saison brewed with lime leaves, Ei8ht Ball Brewing; Are We There Yet?(spring release), Fifty West Brewing Company

Scottish Ale/Scotch Ale — Rich and malty with low hops; Scotch ale is sweeter

Glass: Mug or pint glass; snifter or tulip glass for Scotch Ale

Find: Springtime Ale, Mt. Carmel Brewing Company; Word Scotch Ale, Ei8ht Ball Brewing; Aftermath Scotch Wee Heavy, Triple Digit Brewing Company

Stout — Made as a full-bodied variety of porter; includes dry or Irish stout (like Guinness), oatmeal stout, Russian imperial stout, etc.

Glass: Pint glass

Find: Friend of an Irishman Brewer’s Stout, Christian Moerlein; Mt. Carmel Stout, Mt. Carmel Brewing Company; K-Hole imperial mocha stout, Ei8ht Ball Brewing; Axis Mundi Russian Imperial Stout, MadTree Brewing Company; Coffee Please coffee stout, Fifty West Brewing Company; 562 Lateral oatmeal sweet stout, Listermann Brewing Company; Lookout Stout Irish dry stout, Cellar Dweller

Red Ale — Tart, Flemish beer; almost vinegary 

Glass: Mug or pint glass

Find: Red Drink American red ale with centennial hops, Ei8ht Ball Brewing

Wheat ale/Weizen — Highly carbonated German-style wheat beer. Hefeweizen is the name for an unfiltered wheat beer  

Glass: Weizen glass

Find: Seven Hefeweizen, Christian Moerlein; Out & About, Blank Slate Brewing Company; Spike American wheat ale, Rhinegeist; Lift, MadTree Brewing Company; Orange VV American wheat, Cellar Dweller

Witbier — Belgian wheat beer, generally flavored with orange peel and coriander

Glass: Pint glass, mug or pilsner glass

Find: Wit Ale, Rivertown; Wit Ale (March release), Rivertown Brewing Company

Lager: Beers brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast

Bock — Strong with chocolaty overtones; divided into doppelbock (stronger), eisbock (richer and higher in alcohol than doppelbock made by freezing and then removing the frozen water), maibock (paler a little more bitter), hellesbock (medium-bodied a little bitter)

Glass: Pilsner, flute or mug

Find: Moerlein Sangerfest Maibock Lager, Christian Moerlein; Emancipator Doppelbock, Christian Moerlein; Michael J. Bocks malty German maibock, Ei8ht Ball Brewing; Gravitator double bock, Triple Digit Brewing Company; Barbarossa Double Dark Lager, Christian Moerlein

Dunkel — Smooth, dark lager

Glass: Pilsner or flute

Find: Dunkel Beer, Rivertown Brewing Company

Helles — A lighter version of a dunkel

Glass: Pilsner or flute

Find: Original Golden Helles, Christian Moerlein; Helles Lager, Rivertown Brewing Company

Marzen or Oktoberfest — A copper-colored lager traditionally brewed in March and aged until Oktoberfest; similar to a Bock — full-bodied, toasty and rich

Glass: Mug

Find: Oktoberfest marzen (July release), Rivertown Brewing Company

Pilsner — American pilsner is light-bodied and more carbonated with some slight hoppiness. 

Glass: Pilsner

Find: Penny’s Pilsner German-style pilsner, Fifty West Brewing Company 

Porter — Dry, dark brown to black and slightly lighter cousin of the stout

Glass: Mug or pint glass

Find: Fume cherrywood smoked porter, Blank Slate Brewing Company; Roebling vanilla espresso imperial robust porter malt beverage, Rivertown Brewing Company; Identity Crisis, MadTree Brewing Company; Nutcase peanut butter porter, Listermann Brewing Company

Rauchbier — German smoked beer

Glass: Mug or stange

Steam or California Common — A hybrid of an ale and a lager; completely unique to America.

Glass: Pint glass or pilsner 

Vienna — Amber-red lager, often called “pre-Prohibtion” style

Glass: Mug or pilsner

Find: Moerlein Exposition Vienna Lager, Christian Moerlein

*Note: Basically any German-style lager (which is most) can be enjoyed out of a large, glass boot

Brewery info:

50 West Brewing Company, 7668 Wooster Pike, Mariemont,

Blank Slate Brewing Company, 4233 Airport Road, Unit C, East End, 

Cellar Dweller, 2276 E. U.S. 22 and OH 3, Morrow,

Christian Moerlein, 1621 Moore St., Over-the-Rhine,

Ei8ht Ball Brewing, 18 Distillery Way, Bellevue, Ky.,

Listermann/Triple Digit, 1621 Dana Ave., Evanston,

MadTree Brewing Company, 5164 Kennedy Ave., Norwood/Ridge,

Mt. Carmel Brewing Company, 4362 Mt. Carmel-Tobasco Road, Mt. Carmel,

Rivertown, 607 Shepherd Drive, Unit 6, Lockland,

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