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Today, there are hundreds of documented beer styles and a handful of organizations with their own unique classifications. As beer styles continue to evolve, understanding the sensory side of craft beer will help you more deeply appreciate and share your knowledge and enthusiasm for the beverage of beer.


Take a deeper dive into America’s craft beer styles and improve your ability to describe the tastes, textures and aromas of beer. Here is your study guide that will help prepare you for what you might encounter when tasting craft beer.


How to Use the Study Guide


Downloadable Resources




The Beer Styles Study Guide (below and available as a PDF) is for those who want to dive even deeper and includes quantitative style statistics not found in the Beer Styles section. Using an alphabetical list of triggers — from alcohol to yeast variety — this text will help describe possible characteristics of a specific beer style.


The best part of learning about craft beer is getting to taste and experience what you’re studying. Use the Tasting Sheet to help you analyze and describe what you taste and if it’s appropriate for a particular beer style.


The Beer Styles Study Guide may provide more information than many beer novices care to know. However, as your beer journey unfolds, your desire for more descriptors and resources will grow.

What is Craft Beer? What is a Craft Brewer?


Today is the best time in U.S. history to be a beer lover. The average American lives within 10 miles of a brewery, and the U.S. has more beer styles and brands to choose from than any other beer market in the world.


The definition of “craft beer” is difficult, as it means many different things to many different beer lovers. Thus, craft beer is not defined by However, our parent organization, the Brewers Association, does define what it means to be an American craft brewer: A U.S. craft brewer is a smaller producer (making less than six million barrels of beer a year) and is independently owned. This definition allows the Brewers Association to provide statistics on the growing craft brewery community, which accounts for 99 percent of America’s 4,600+ breweries.


Visit for the complete craft brewer definition and details on the craft beer industry market segments: brewpubs, microbreweries and regional craft breweries.


Why Craft Beer?


Craft beer is enjoyed during everyday celebrations and is viewed by many as one of life’s special pleasures. Each glass displays the creativity and passion of its maker and the complexity of its ingredients. Craft beer is treasured by millions who see it as not merely a fermented beverage, but something to be shared, revered and enjoyed in moderation (see Savor the Flavor).


In the food arts world, craft beer is a versatile beverage that not only enhances food when expertly paired with a dish, but is also often brought into the kitchen as a cooking ingredient. Because of this, you will see suggested food pairings for each style in this guide. If you would like to geek out even further on beer and food pairing, check out’s Beer & Food Course (a free download).