What is an IPA?
Know Your Beer and Drink It Too: Common Beer Styles

What is an IPA? Whether you’re tapping into the beer scene or noticing the growing amount of beer options other than “light” on your bottles and cans, there are some common beer styles you should know. If you don’t want to be that person by the beer cooler who doesn’t know their IPAs from their ESBs, here is a common list of beer styles to drink in before your next beer run.

American Lager

Mass produced by macro breweries such as Anheuser-Busch, the pale yellow American Lager is a popular light bodied and low bitterness beer with consciously less complex flavor than other beer styles due to the focus on consistent production.

Examples: Budweiser, Coors,  PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon)


A Pilsner is more or less used synonymously with the lager style and features a pale golden color, crisp flavor, and a refreshing finish. Today, nearly 95% of beer in the world is some form or imitation of the pilsner style originally created in the Czech Republic in the mid 1800s.

Examples: Lagunitas PILS, Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager, Sam Adams Noble Pils

American Pale Ale

An American Pale Ale (APA) is a popular beer mirrored after the English Pale Ale by American microbreweries in the early 1980s like Sierra Nevada. Ranging in color from gold to amber, pale ales are highly characterized by their abundance of hops for a slight bitter but clean and balanced finish.

Examples: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Deschutes Mirror Pond, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale 

 IPA (India Pale Ale)

India Pale Ale or IPA is a hop heavy beer that consists of higher alcohol content or ABV and bitterness levels compared to more traditional styles. The IPA style originally derives from British India due to the ability to keep its flavor during lengthy sea travels during the 19th century.

Examples: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, Dogfish Head 60 Minute, Dark Horse Crooked Tree

Imperial IPA

An Imperial India Pale Ale, also known as a Double IPA or DIPA, features the high hop and bitterness characteristics of an IPA but with more complexity and an even higher ABV above 8%.

Examples: The Alchemist Heady Topper, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Bell’s Hopslam Ale 

Black India Pale Ale

A Black IPA or BIPA consists of similar hop properties of an IPA but with a mix of dark and toasty malt character. This hybrid brew is becoming more popular in craft breweries due to its distinct flavor profile between an IPA and a Stout.

Examples: Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous, Sierra Nevada Blindfold Black IPA

ESB (Extra Special Bitter)

The Extra Special Bitter or ESB is a popular British style beer that has become a standard for American breweries due to its clean, crisp balanced hop and malt flavor. ESBs are lower in ABV and are an easy session drink.

Examples: Fuller’s ESB, 3 Floyds Lord Rear Admiral, New Belgium 2 Degree Below 


The Porter style is a dark beer with strong characteristics of rich chocolate combined with notes of coffee, caramel, and occasional smokiness. Porters can feature additional flavor profiles consisting of mocha, java, and vanilla.

Examples: Deschutes Black Butte, Rogue Mocha Porter, Breckenridge Vanilla Porter  


Similar to a Porter, a Stout is a bold flavored dark brown or black colored beer with roasted chocolate and coffee notes due to the distinct roasted grain used to brew this style. Some Stouts include vanilla, milk, and even oatmeal.

Examples: Guinness Draught, Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout, Left Hand Milk Stout

Imperial Stout

An Imperial Stout, or Double Stout, has the same characteristics of a Stout but are fuller bodied, richer, and have a higher ABV around 10%. The Imperial Stout style was first brewed for Emperor Peter the Great of Russia and has become a popular style for many American craft brewers.

Examples: Founders Breakfast Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin, 3 Floyds Dark Lord 

Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer (BBA)

A Bourbon Barrel Aged or BBA beer is beer that is aged in bourbon barrels for a length of time. A popular style of a BBA beer is an imperial stout, but craft breweries have been known to experiment aging other styles. BBA beers typically have a higher ABV and, with the additional time of the barrel aging process, will cost more as well.

Examples: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS)


Photo c/o Adweek