No casual get-together is complete without beers. It’s the go-to alcohol we drink whenever we’re in the mood for it.
Hanging out with friends? Grab a beer!
At the bar having fun? Cheers to it!
Out in the backyard cooking BBQ? Chug one!
But of course, you would want to drink the best beer there is. And so, this list of the best British beer styles and brands could help you find out which beer to serve to the table on your next hangout.
- Pale Ale
- India Pale Ale
- Oatmeal Stout
- Brown Ale
- Scotch Ale
- Cask Ale (aka Real Ale)
- Imperial Stout
- English Barleywine/Old Ale
- Irish Red Ale
One common yet popular beer style is pale ale. It’s brewed with pale barley malt and ale yeast, which contributes to its classic malty sweetness and bitter flavors. It has an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 4% to 6%, so it won’t get you tipsy anytime soon.
Note, though, that British pale ales are usually on the “extra bitter” side. Despite that, you can still taste the malt on the background of this rich amber-colored drink. It also has a high amount of hops to it, which gives you hints of fruity or citrusy flavor.
If you want to give this a try, know that pale ales pair well with hearty pub foods, such as fish and chips, roasted chicken or pork, and various nutty desserts. As for the beer brands in this category, you can go for the following:
- Fuller’s London Pride
- Boddingtons Pub Ale
- Bass Ale
- Youngs Bitter
Although pale ale and India pale ale belong to the same ale category, they’re different from one another. India pale ale has much intensity and potency to it than pale ale, with a slightly higher ABV (5% to 10.5%). In fact, it takes hoppy bitterness to another level.
For this reason, the India pale ales have become one of those beer styles that you may hate or love. You can still taste the malt, but with bits of floral taste because of the hops and fruitiness from the added English ale yeasts in the brew.
If you don’t mind that kind of flavor profile, here are the beer brands you can order to drink with your friends:
- Three Floyds Blackheart
- Brooklyn Brewery East IPA
- ShinDigger’s Shangri-La
- Fuller’s India Pale Ale
- Shepherd Neame India Pale Ale
These would pair well with flavored roasted meats and other BBQ-type foods.
If you want a “healthy” beer, why not try oatmeal stout? From the name alone, you can guess that it has oatmeal in it, which adds an intriguing taste and texture to the stout. And perhaps it’s because of the oatmeal that contributed to it being in the low-to-medium ABV range, with 5% ABV.
This beer style has been brewed with strongly roasted malt, so you can taste the nuttiness with hints of caramel and chocolate. It also has a coffee-like aroma that the coffee lover in you would love. But the best part is that it has little to no bitterness, so you can fully enjoy drinking this smooth, rich beer.
So, in your next get-together, try the following beer brands to pair with seafood, salty-type foods, and bitter-type desserts:
- Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
- The Three Legs Brewing Co.’s Oatmeal Stout
- Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout
Brown ale is a British beer classic dating back to the 17th century. It’s brewed with more brown malt and less hops. As a result, there’s mild hoppy bitterness to it and a harmonious blend of malt, nuts, chocolate, and caramel flavors that we’re sure you’ll love. These are easily recognized by their dark colors, ranging from light amber to almost black.
This beer style has two variations: Northern brown ale and Southern brown ale. With the former, you’ll taste a drier, more malty and nutty, and less sweet drink, whereas the latter will give you a darker, sweeter, and with a hint of either fruitiness or nuttiness. Whichever variation you’ll serve to the table, your party can last longer without getting drunk as brown ale only has a 3% to 7% ABV.
You can pair brown ale with any “hearty” foods, such as roast beef, smoked sausage, and aged gouda. As for the beer brands, you can choose to try any of the following:
- Newcastle Brown Ale
- Manns Brown Ale
- Black Sheep Brewery’s Premium Amber Ale
Scotch ale originated in Scotland that’s been brewed using ale yeast. It’s considered as one of the most intensive beer styles ever known, with a high alcohol content of 6.2% to 10% ABV. Beers in this style are recognized as full-bodied with dark brown or light copper color.
One distinct feature of scotch ale is its low hoppy bitterness. It allows you to taste just the right amount of malty sweetness that’s hard to resist, as well as an intoxicating fusion of earthy tones, dried fruit flavors, and roasted malt. Overall, you’ll get a good combination of a strong kick and unforgettable taste.
Know that because of its rich flavor, scotch ale is best served after dinner so as to not overwhelm your palate. But if it can’t be helped, you can pair it with savory meats, pungent cheeses, and light, creamy desserts. The beer brands you can buy in this style are as follows:
- McEwan’s Scotch Ale
- Belhaven Wee Heavy
- Gordon Scotch Ale
If you want to try something old school but with a fresh taste, try cask or real ale. It’s one of the earliest beer styles in history where unpasteurized or unfiltered beer undergoes natural carbonation in sealed casks. What you’ll taste afterward is 100% natural beer with zero chemicals and additives.
However, for this same reason, you may find cask ale flat and warm. Only if you drink it at its suitable temperature (50°F to 55°F) will you discover that it has a strong aroma, malty sweetness, and slight dryness and bitterness. It also has a low ABV of 3% to 3.6%, so you and your friends can have fun without getting tipsy too soon.
One important thing you should know is that cask ales are highly perishable. Their lifespan only lasts five to seven days. So we recommend you try drinking it on the spot at your local pubs or craft beer stores for the best drinking experience. And if you can find one that serves Joseph Holt’s Cask Ale, much better.
The “imperial” in imperial stout isn’t just for show. It’s been brewed with twice the amount of grains and hops than most beers, resulting in bolder flavors and higher alcohol content (8% to 12% ABV).
You can recognize imperial stouts for their deep red to dark brown colors. And if you try it, you’ll experience a highly complex drink—stronger flavors and aromas of roasted malt, coffee, chocolate, and fruit.
In terms of food pairings, the intensity of imperial stouts makes them an ideal match for sweeter and fattier foods like chocolate cake, bacon, beef stew, and cheeses. You can go for the following brands to try with your meal:
- Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout
- North Coast Brewing Co.’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
- Harvey’s Imperial Extra Double Stout
Like brown ale, porter is a British beer classic brewed with dark malted barley and a considerable amount of hops. This is why you’ll instantly taste the roasted malt and hoppy bitterness when you drink it.
There are three styles of porter beer: brown, robust, and Baltic. Brown porter (4.5% to 6% ABV) has more malt but without roasted barley in it, which highlights the bittersweetness of toffee, chocolate, or caramel. Robust porter (5.1% to 6.6% ABV) has more intense malt and hops that offset the sweetness, leaving it slightly bitter. Lastly, Baltic porter (7% to 10% ABV) balances the flavors of malt and hops but with significantly higher alcohol content.
If you’re going to serve porter beers, it’s best to pair it with grilled meats, cheeses, and baked goods. Then, bring any of these beer brands to the table:
- Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter
- Fuller’s London Porter
- Victory Brewing Co.’s Baltic Thunder
English barleywine, or old ale, is one of the oldest English beers, with a history that dates back to the 1400s. Like other British beer styles, it has malty characteristics and a well-balanced hoppy bitterness. For this reason, beers in this style have complex yet intense and rich flavors.
The moment an English barleywine is in your vicinity, you’ll be greeted with different aromas of dried fruit and toffee. You also can’t resist its dark amber to rich gold color, with some beers exhibiting hints of ruby. But make sure to drink moderately, though, as it has a high alcohol content of 6% to 12% ABV.
Note that this beer style is best served after a meal or when you’re in the mood for a dramatic evening. So how about trying the following beer brands and pair them with gamey meats, like duck, lamb, or venison, and caramel-based desserts:
- Meantime Brewing Co.’s Thomas Hardy Ale
- J.W. Lee’s Harvest Ale
- Dark Star Brewing Co.’s Prize Old Ale
- Whitbread’s Gold Label
Irish red ale is famous in the British beer culture because of its well-balanced flavors of malty sweetness from the roasted barley and kilned malts. Beer drinkers also like that it’s slightly grainy and dry, adding a unique texture to the drink.
That’s why if you’re recently legal to drink, Irish red ale is the best choice for your first alcohol. It has a clean and smooth mouthfeel and a light hoppy bitterness so you won’t get overwhelmed with the flavor. Plus, it’s low in the ABV range, with only 3.8% to 5%.
Because it’s an Irish ale, it’s best paired with Irish meals like shepherd’s pie or Reuben sandwiches. And if you’re out to try this beer style, you should start with any of the following:
- Heineken Ireland’s Murphy’s Irish Red
- Franciscan Well’s Rebel Red
- Porterhouse’s Red Ale
British beers are unlike any other—they’re bold and strong, with just the right flavor profile to keep you captivated for a long time. With different beer styles available, there’s no limit to what your taste buds can experience. So get yourself and your friends a bottle of cold beer to spice up your little get-together!