The two major classifications of beers are ales and lagers.
Ales date back to antiquity whereas lagers are relatively new (only a few hundred years old).
Ales are fermented for short periods of time at warm temperatures, while lagers are fermented for longer and in cold temperatures.
Ales are fermented with top-fermenting yeasts meaning the yeasts rise during fermentation whereas lagers are fermented with bottom-fermenting yeasts meaning the yeasts settles on the bottom during fermentation.
Those two categories are then broken down into different types including Pale Ales, Brown Ales, Indian Pale Ales (IPA), porters and stouts, and Pilsners, Dark Lagers and Bock.
Hybrid and specialty beers
Hybrid beers are emerging as a cross over between ale and lager. For example a beer fermented at cold temperatures, using an ale yeast or a beer that’s warm fermented using a lager yeast.
When it comes to specialty beers the possibilities are endless. Typically these beers are brewed in a classic style such as a porter or a wheat beer but with added flavours. Turning an ordinary beer into a specialty is as simple as adding fruit, herbs, spices, honey, maple syrup, molasses, liquorice, or hot peppers or anything else that tickles your fancy. Brewers the world over are experimenting with specialty beers with mixed results. Sometimes a new brew is palatable and other times its destined for the train. The fun is in the experimentation.