Apart from water, beer is made of three main ingredients; malt, hops and yeast. Each provides certain flavours; some beers are malty, whilst others have more of a hops or yeast character. When choosing among the myriad of beer styles in bars and bottle shops, it might be helpful to know what characteristics you usually fancy.

Let’s start with malt-forward beers. They are all about bready notes, ranging from white bread and crackers to toast, caramel and nuts, and even rich dark chocolate and coffee. If this sounds tempting, examples of malty styles are Amber Lager, Doppelbock and Brown Ale, and of course the dark, smooth and delicious Porter and Stout.

Moving on to hops-driven beers. They carry more grassy, earthy and herbal notes, but can also feature citrus and tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple – especially American hops. You can also expect higher levels of bitterness and a lingering aftertaste. If you like this, the obvious choice is American Pale Ale, as well as all types of IPAs, from Double IPA and New England IPA to the latest trend, Cold IPA.

And lastly, beers that showcase yeast character have fruity flavours such as banana, pear, plum and raisins, and spicy notes like clove or black pepper. Try a Belgian style such as Saison or Witbier – both are complex yet refreshing. Even if the aroma reminds you of something sweet such as honey or apricots, Belgian beers will often have a dry finish – easily quaffable.

What characteristic do you like most in beer? With a taste for bitter green tea, I often lean towards hops-forward beers, but at a sessionable alcohol strength. So, in a pub, I will probably ask for an American Pale Ale or a session IPA. They hit the spot for me.

Matching beer and food – a culinary experience

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