Craft Beer for Beginners

With more than 7,000 breweries operating in the U.S., you won’t need to go out of your way to experience the increasingly popular craft beer scene. But what happens when you can’t tell your pale ale from your pilsner? To truly appreciate craft beer, try learning a bit about the different styles and their distinctive tastes. Here are the most common types of craft beers you’ll encounter and what you can expect from them.

India Pale Ale (IPA)

IPAs come in different styles: British IPA, West Coast IPA, East Coast IPA, Belgian IPA and Sour IPA to name a few. Not everybody likes them because of their bitterness and high alcohol content (from 4-9%), but the different variations come with different flavors, some fruity, some bitter. Don’t miss out on trying an IPA just because a friend deemed it disgusting.

Recommended: Greenhead IPA (Newburyport), Notch Voll New England IPA, Notch Left of the Dial IPA


Most beers contain 100% malt. Wheat beer, on the other hand, uses between 40-60% wheat instead of malt. This results in a lighter body and fruity, floral flavor. Yeast is one of the prominent tastes in this beer, but flavors can vary depending on each individual brew. Some add spices and citrus to their blend for a pleasant, quirky finish.

Recommended: Schneider Weisse, Bell’s Oberon, and Notch Dog and Pony Show

Belgian: Dubbel, Tripel, Quads

Belgian beer offers more depth, intensity and alcohol (up to 9%) than wheat beer. Its distinctive flavors come from a blend of yeast and unconventional beer ingredients such as brown sugar and spices. Each type of Belgian beer fluctuates slightly. Belgian Dubbel will resemble a stout, only thicker and darker. A Belgian Tripel is golden and fruity. As for Quads, they are the hardest to come by and only recommended for experienced beer drinkers who can manage the 11% alcohol content.

Recommended: Allagash White, Victory’s Golden Monkey, and Trappistes Rochefort 6.

Stout and Other Darks

Although stouts are often known to be heavy, you can get light versions and they generally contain less alcohol than other types of craft beers. Because of their rich flavors – caramel, chocolate, nutmeg and coffee – some people find them a little overwhelming. Other malts in the dark beer category include red, browns, ambers and porters. These tend to be light bodied with touches of toffee and caramel.

Recommended: Alesmith Nut Brown, Smuttynose Stout, and Notch Zwickel Beer.

Lagers and Pilsners

The least boozy of the craft beer family, lagers and pilsners are your Bud Light of fancy beers. Light, crisp and low in alcohol (3-4%), these are great summer beers that won’t leave your head feeling fuzzy. Craft versions of lager, however, usually miss out the corn and replace it with all malted barley.

Recommended: Spaten Lager and Notch Session Pilsner.

Enjoy Tasty Craft Beer at Woodman’s

Woodman’s open-air biergarten features the finest local craft beers that New England has to offer. Besides, nothing goes better with an ice-cold brew than our famous fried clams!

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