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A beer paddle full of glasses with different varieties of beer
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Know your craft beer: Key varieties

The key kinds every craft beer bluffer (or boffin) should know

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Amber Ale
Confusingly, amber ale actually begins its life as a pale ale, but then crystal malt is added to produce a deep, coppery colour and add sweetness to the final brew. Hop to: James Squire Nine Tales Amber Ale.

American-style pale ale
Typified by strong citrus and fruity hop aromas, American pale ales were developed in the 1980s and take their name from the use of American hops such as Cascade. The style has since been adapted to embrace hops from around the world, while retaining the key taste characteristics and a good balance of malt and hops. Hop to: James Squire Hop Thief American Pale Ale. 

As German as a Bratwurst, this dark, malty beer is low on the hop front. It’s a compromise beer for people who like dark ales but want something more light and clear than a porter. Hop to: Red Hill Weizenbock.

Copper Ale
Named after their distinctive colour (which perhaps isn’t the most creative approach, but at least you know what you’re getting), copper ales can vary in taste from mild to bitter. In the US, copper ales are classed as American amber ales and originated on the West Coast. Hop to: James Squire The Constable Copper Ale. 

Golden Ale
Combining elements of pilsners and wheat beers, golden ales are technically part of the broader pale ale family. Noted for their alluring colour, golden ales are light, refreshing and highly drinkable, with a restrained bitterness and dry finish. Hop to: Two Birds Golden Ale.

India Pale Ales are super-hoppy (thanks to a secondary addition of the flowers during fermentation) and pack flavour in spades. They might be challenging but they’re also refreshing. Hop to: Little Creatures IPA.

This is Germany’s answer to a traditional Pale Ale. It hails 
from Cologne, and is a light, straw-coloured brew that is just the littlest bit sweet with clean, citrusy aromas. Hop to: 4 Pines Kölsch.

Lagers are like Swedes: blonde and genetically engineered for long sessions in the sun. They’re hard to make, and all about being subtle and clean. Hop to: Bright Brewery Bright Lager.

Pale Ale
Originating in northern England (Burton upon Trent, to be precise, a town blessed with plenty of rich, hard water, which helps with clarity and enhancing the hop bitterness), pale ales can vary dramatically, but traditionally they are brewed with lots of pale malts and are generally a light, bitter brew that you can sit on all day. Hop to: Little Creatures Pale Ale.

The very first pilsner ever brewed was Pilsner Urquell. We say raise a glass and down a little piece of beer history. Or take a run at its crafty sister. Hop to: Moo Brew Pilsener.

They’re dark as night and just a bit toasty from those dark malts, but often as not nowhere near as heavy or intense as you’d expect. Sharing similarities with stout, expect a complex, interesting beer with chocolate and coffee aromas. Hop to: Holgate Temptress.

Saison Beer
Traditionally adjusted in style to suit the season, these beers tend to be lighter in hot months and then get noticeably darker and heavier as the cool weather sets in. Hop to: Wayward Saison.

The term stout originally meant a beer had enough alcohol in it to get you dancing like Coyote Ugly. Now it is usually referring to porters like Guinness. Hop to: Nail Brewing Clout Stout.

Tripel Beer
It’s the deep and amber-coloured, super-boozy Belgian-style ale. The lolly syrup of beer, it’s typically 9% alcohol by volume. Whoah, Nelly... Hop to: La Trappe Tripel.

Wheat Beer
Drinking them is like being thrashed with the fresh branch. Nay – a whole bushell. You may also know them as hefeweizen, witbier or weissbier. Hop to: Burleigh Brewing Co.

Want to learn more?

Bartender pours a beer from a tap
Photograph: Sarah Pannell

Melbourne craft beer guide

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Everything you need to know about craft beer: where to get it, who's brewing the best and what you should be drinking at any occasion.


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