Beer Styles

Canadian brewers cater to our desire for beloved classics and innovative conceptions. With over 7000 brands available in the market, it can be tricky to keep up.

The Beer Judge Certification Program’s Beer Style Guidelines are widely adopted worldwide to describe beer. This non-profit organization dives deep into over 30 categories of beer for the intent of judging homebrew and brewing competitions. We encourage our visitors seeking comprehensive details on different beer styles to view the organization’s guide.

The Essence of Beer – 9 Style Guidelines and
Suggested Pairings

Canadian beer educator, Roger Mittag, has simplified the wide variety of styles available with 9 style guidelines. It’s important to note these are not specifications. They are meant to describe general characteristics of the most common examples.

Contributed by Roger Mittag.

Easy Drinking:

  • Often pale to golden in colour.
  • Light in alcohol (5% ABV or less).
  • Very little hop presence.
  • Aromatics include fruit & floral.
  • Serving temperature 2-5 degrees Celsius.
  • IBUs 6-12.
  • Styles include: Light, some gluten-free, non-alcoholic.
  • Suggested pairings include: Think light! Generally you can pair light dishes with light beer.


  • Often pale to dark amber.
  • 5% ABV or more.
  • Higher carbonation levels.
  • Aromatics are led by yeast, spices or citrus.
  • Serving temperature 2-5 degrees Celsius.
  • IBU’s 8-15.
  • Styles include: Wheat, Belgian Witbier, German Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen.
  • Suggested pairings include: Refreshing, crisp beers are the best way to begin a meal. Lighter wheat beers can be an ideal match for simple salads.
  • Witbiers pair well with shellfish.
  • Hefeweizens pair well with spicy, vegetarian and citrus-flavoured dishes or with traditional German food like sausage and sauerkraut.

Thirst Quenching:

  • Often light golden to dark golden/amber in colour.
  • 5% ABV or more.
  • Slightly higher malt presence.
  • Slightly higher hope presence.
  • Serving temperature 2-5 degrees Celsius.
  • IBU’s 16-28.
  • Styles include: Standard lager, Helles, German Pils, Kolsch, Cream Ales.
  • Suggested pairings include: Pair lagers with spicy food from Latin American or Southeast Asia, as a remedy to help alleviate the burn and quench your thirst. This style of beer can cleanse your palate and work in a complimentary fashion with cheese or as a contrast to the heaviness of an oily dish.


  • Often golden to black in colour.
  • 5% ABV or more.
  • Substantial malt presence.
  • Substantial hop presence.
  • Serving temperature 4-7 degrees Celsius.
  • IBU’s 20-38.
  • Styles include: Czech Pilsner, Vienna/Amber Lagers, Marzen, Oktoberfest, Dunkel, Schwarzbier, Amber Ales, Mild.
  • Suggested pairings include: This style of beer gives a broad opportunity for pairings. Try with seared, grilled or dark meats and chocolate desserts.  


  • Often golden to dark brown in colour.
  • 5% ABV or more.
  • Substantial hop presence.
  • Mouth coating noticeable.
  • Serving temperature 4-10 degrees Celsius.
  • IBU’s 20-45.
  • Styles include: Bitters, Pale Ale, Honey/Maple Barrel Aged, Spiced beer, Extra Special Bitter, Altbier, Red Ale.
  • Suggested pairings include: Bitters and Extra Special Bitter beers are wonderful accompaniments to roasted chicken and fish and chips. You could find commonalities, pairing, say a maple infused dish with a maple full-bodied ale.


  • Often dark brown to black in colour.
  • 5% ABV or more.
  • Roasted flavours (chocolate, coffee, nuts).
  • Very little hop presence.
  • Bitterness is present but balanced.
  • Serving temperature 7-12 degrees Celsius.
  • IBU’s 30-70.
  • Styles include: Brown ales, Porters, Stouts, Rauchbier.
  • Suggested pairings include: This style can complement seared, grilled or caramelized flavor in many meats, sautéed onions or garlic.
  • Dessert also works wonderfully with this style. Try chocolate chip cookies with a roasty brown ale. A bitter and dry stout classically pairs with oysters as it cuts the sweetness of the shellfish.


  • Often golden to black in colour.
  • 5.6% ABV or more.
  • Hop aromatics/flavours are bold.
  • Malt characteristics are subdued.
  • Bitterness is present but balanced.
  • Serving temperature 5-14 degrees Celsius.
  • IBU’s 35-90.
  • Styles include: American Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Black IPA’s.
  • Suggested pairings include: Say cheese! The hoppy notes of an India Pale Ale mix well with the complicated aroma of blue cheese and bitterness will cleanse the palate.
  • Bitterness is complimented by spiciness, so pairing a hoppy beer with spicy food can work very well.


  • Often golden to black in colour.
  • 7% ABV or more.
  • Malt aromatics and flavours are very diverse.
  • Hop presence is muted.
  • Yeast aromatics are dominant.
  • Serving temperature 7-17 degrees Celsius.
  • IBU’s 15-40.
  • Styles include: Abbey Blondes, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel, Barley Wine, Barrel Aged, Bock, Scottish Ale.
  • Suggested pairings include: Abbey Blondes are great companions to white fish. Bock style beer blends well with seared meats, jerk chicken and beef.
  • Barley wine is interesting with blue cheese, as the sharp and powerful flavours stand up to each other.


  • Often golden to red in colour.
  • 5% ABV or less.
  • Fruit aromatics and flavours are dominant (also sour, acidic, tart).
  • Very little hop presence.
  • Very little malt presence.
  • Bitterness is present but balanced.
  • Serving temperature 2-7 degrees Celsius.
  • IBU’s 6-15.
  • Styles include: Kriek, Framboise, Lambic fruit.
  • Suggested pairings include: Fruity beers match well with fruit or light fruit desserts. This style is also wonderful to experiment with. Try it with sweet pork and duck dishes and food driven by herbs and spices.

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