Quick Guide To Common Tavern Beer Types

Taverns often carry beers beyond your typical mass-produced draft varieties. They therefore represent a great opportunity for you to try different beers. If you're used to drinking the usual draft beer, you might not know what to order at your local tavern, though.

Bar managers usually categorize beers on the menu and in their conversation by general type. Below are some of the types of beers you can expect to find at a tavern


Lager is the basic style of beer, and it's the one the main brewing companies make. They're golden-colored and light in both flavor and alcohol content. Lagers offer a refreshing finish. Because lager is the basic beer, it goes well with most styles of tavern food from French fries to fish tacos. However, since it's a light beer, it also cuts the fattiness of foods like hamburger and steak.


Original pilsner was the result of spoiled beer. Brewers used to just dump spoiled beer, which was wasteful and costly. They then started adding hops, which masked the spoiled taste. The result is a spicier feeling in the mouth. Modern brewers don't wait for beer to spoil. Rather, they craft it with the hops from the beginning. Serious Eats recommends pairing pilsner with hot wings and mozzarella sticks.


Brewers use a warm fermentation method to craft ale, which results in a sweet, full-bodied taste with hints of fruit undertones. Previously, brewers didn't use hops, but they now add them in as a bittering agent. Ales range from pale to brown with the darker varieties having more depth of flavor and some nuttiness. Below are some of the popular styles of ale:

  • India pale ale
  • Belgian-style ale
  • Brown ale
  • Sour ale

Generally speaking, sour ales are an acquired taste, though they're worth a try in a tasting flight. Ales pair well with hearty foods such as roast pork, barbecue, and salmon.

Wheat Beer

Brewers use wheat as the malt for wheat beers. Like lagers, they're lighter in color and alcohol content. They do have a slightly sweet taste, and brewers often add fruit flavoring to make seasonal wheat beers. Because of that sweet flavor profile, they do a great job of cutting through any spicy food. They also stand up well to fried food.


Stouts are dark beers. Indeed, they resemble coffee. Even their foam is darker than usual, so they're often called "black and tans." Their flavoring is strongly roasted, which cuts down on the bitterness found in some beers. They offer mid to high alcohol levels, but their chewiness often prevents drinking they quickly anyway. Try them with red meats and aged cheeses.

Try one of the above beer and food combos when you next visit a tavern.