Explore What is Beer and Types of Beer: A Guide for South Africans

Beer is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the world and has been enjoyed by people for centuries. It is brewed from cereal grains, hops, water, and yeast, and comes in a wide variety of styles and flavors. If you’re a South African who loves beer, then you’re in luck. South Africa has a diverse range of beer varieties to choose from, each with its unique taste and character. In this guide, we’ll explore what beer is and the different types of beer available in South Africa.

Key Takeaways:

  • Beer is a popular alcoholic beverage brewed from cereal grains, hops, water, and yeast
  • South Africa has a diverse range of beer varieties to choose from
  • Beer comes in different styles and flavors, each with its unique taste and character
  • Knowing the different types of beer will help you choose the right one for your taste buds

Understanding the Basics of Beer

Beer is classified into different categories based on their brewing process and ingredients. These different categories give rise to different flavors and drinking experiences. By understanding these categories, you can make an informed decision on which type of beer to try next.

Beer Classification

Beer is generally classified into two main categories: ales and lagers. The main difference between these two types is the yeast used in the brewing process. Ales use a yeast that ferments at a higher temperature and typically result in a fuller-bodied and fruitier flavor profile. Lagers, on the other hand, use a yeast that ferments at a lower temperature and result in a crisper and lighter-bodied taste.

Beer can also be further classified based on its alcohol content. Light beers, for example, generally have a lower alcohol content, while strong beers have a higher alcohol content. The different categories of beer include:

  • Pale lagers
  • Dark lagers
  • India Pale Ales (IPAs)
  • Amber ales
  • Brown ales
  • Stouts
  • Porters
  • Belgian-style beers
  • Wheat beers

Beer Flavors

Beer flavors can range from light and crisp to heavy and rich. The different types of beer have flavors that stem from their ingredients, brewing process, and aging process. For example, stouts and porters usually have a roasted, chocolatey flavor that comes from the use of roasted malts in the brewing process. IPAs often have a bitter and hoppy taste due to the use of hops in the brewing process. Belgian-style beers tend to have a spicy and fruity flavor due to the use of unique yeast strains.

The categorization of beer by flavor helps you to understand the characteristics of different types of beer and choose the one that is best suited to your taste preferences.

Lager: Crisp and Refreshing Beers

When it comes to beer styles, lagers are one of the most widely consumed varieties worldwide. Lager is a type of beer that is fermented and conditioned at low temperatures, typically between 4-12°C. This process results in a crisp, clean flavor profile that is widely appreciated. The use of different types of hops and malts can provide a wide array of flavor options to lagers in South Africa.

There are several popular lager styles you might find in South Africa. Firstly, there’s the classic Pilsner. This Czech-style beer is light in color and has a crisp, floral taste with a hint of bitterness. Secondly, Munich Helles is a German-style lager that is light in color with a clean finish and a slightly sweet flavor. Lastly, there’s the Vienna Lager, which is amber in color with a toasted malt flavor and a moderate hop bitterness.

Lagers are commonly brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast strains, as opposed to ales, which use top-fermenting yeasts. The longer fermentation process gives lagers a cleaner taste profile compared to other beer styles. The cold conditioning process also adds to the crispness and refreshing nature of lagers.

If you’re new to the world of beer, lagers are a great place to start. Typically, they have a more straightforward taste profile, making them easy for first-time drinkers. However, as you explore different lager styles, you’ll find that there are plenty of options to suit different palates.

Ales: Full-bodied and Flavorful Brews

If you’re looking for a beer with a little more complexity and richness, ales are a great place to start. Ales are a broad category of beer that includes a wide range of styles and flavors, from light and refreshing to dark and complex.

What makes ales different from lagers? The primary difference is the yeast used in the brewing process. Ales are fermented using a type of yeast that ferments at warmer temperatures, which results in a faster fermentation process and a beer that is typically fruitier and more complex in flavor.

There are many different styles of ales, each with its unique flavor profile and characteristics. Here are a few popular ale styles you might encounter in South Africa:

  • Pale Ales: Pale ales are light-bodied and refreshing, with a crisp, hoppy flavor. They are often a good choice for beer drinkers who are new to the world of ales.
  • India Pale Ales (IPAs): IPAs are known for their intense hoppy flavor, which can range from fruity and floral to piney and resinous. They are often a popular choice among craft beer enthusiasts.
  • Stouts: Stouts are dark, rich, and full-bodied, with flavors of coffee, chocolate, and roasted malt. They are often a favorite among beer drinkers who enjoy a more complex and robust flavor profile.

Whether you prefer a light and refreshing ale or a dark and roasty stout, there is an ale style out there for you. Don’t be afraid to explore the world of ales and try new styles and flavors.

Stouts and Porters: Dark and Roasty Delights

Stouts and porters are two of the darkest and most flavorful beers available, known for their rich, roasty flavors and smooth mouthfeel. While they may appear similar, there are some key differences between the two.


Stouts are typically made with roasted barley, which gives them their distinctive dark color and coffee-like flavor. They are also known for their creamy, smooth texture, which is achieved through the use of nitrogen during the brewing process. Stouts come in a variety of styles, including:

Style Description
Irish Dry Stout The classic stout, known for its dry, roasted flavor and low ABV.
Imperial Stout A high-ABV stout with a rich, complex flavor profile.
Oatmeal Stout A smooth, creamy stout made with oats for added body.


Porters are similar to stouts in many ways, but are typically made with malted barley instead of roasted barley. This gives them a slightly sweeter flavor profile, with notes of chocolate and caramel. Porters also tend to have a lighter body than stouts, making them a good choice for those who want a dark beer without the heavy mouthfeel. Popular porter styles include:

Style Description
Baltic Porter A rich, malty porter brewed with lager yeast for a smooth finish.
Robust Porter A full-bodied porter with a strong, roasty flavor profile.
American Porter A hoppy porter with a citrusy, floral flavor profile.

No matter which style you choose, stouts and porters are a great way to explore the darker side of beer. Whether you enjoy a classic Irish dry stout or a rich, complex imperial stout, there’s a dark beer out there for everyone.


Now that you have explored the diverse world of beer and its various styles, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge to the test. With so many different types of beer available in South Africa, there’s never been a better time to expand your taste buds and discover new brews.

From refreshing lagers to full-bodied ales and rich stouts, there’s a beer for every occasion and every palate. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new who knows, you might discover a new favorite.

Remember, the key to enjoying beer is to drink responsibly and in moderation. Always ensure you are aware of your limits and never drink and drive. Keep exploring and cheers to discovering the wonderful world of beer!


Q: What is beer?

A: Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grains, typically barley, water, hops, and yeast. It is one of the oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic drinks in the world.

Q: What are the different types of beer?

A: There are several types of beer, including lagers, ales, stouts, porters, and IPAs. Each type has its own unique characteristics and brewing methods, resulting in a wide range of flavors and styles.

Q: What are the popular beer types in South Africa?

A: In South Africa, popular beer types include lagers, pilsners, pale ales, IPAs, stouts, and porters. These styles offer a diverse range of flavors and cater to different preferences.

Q: How is beer classified?

A: Beer is classified based on factors such as its ingredients, brewing process, and flavor profile. The two main categories of beer are lagers and ales, with further distinctions made within each category depending on specific styles.

Q: What are the main flavors associated with different types of beer?

A: The flavors of beer can vary widely depending on the type and style. Lagers are often crisp and refreshing, while ales tend to be fuller-bodied and more flavorful. Stouts and porters offer rich and roasty notes, while IPAs are known for their hoppy bitterness.

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