The Beginner’s Guide to Craft Beer

Mar 20, 2019 | Uncategorized

If you’re new to craft beer, you may be overwhelmed by all the different beer choices you’ll find at any local brewery. Don’t worry – we’re here to help! To get you started on your craft beer journey, here’s a quick guide to the flavours of a few common craft beer styles.


Of all beer types, ale is probably the most recognizable style. Most craft beers are often some category of ale, and it’s a popular one worldwide. Ales are known for their fruity flavour and scent, though flavour strength can vary depending on the length of time the malted barley was roasted.

Niagara Ale Trail Ales to Try:

Merchant Ale House’s Old Time Hockey Ale

Lock Street Brewery’s Jealous Mistress

Oast House Brewing’s Barnraiser Country Ale

Niagara Brewing Company’s Amber Eh!


IPAs (India Pale Ales)/ Pale Ales

A type of ale so popular, it requires its own section! Pale ales are generally made with pale hops, and have a milder malt taste that allows the hops to take centre stage.

Known for their stronger flavour, IPAs are a hoppier version of the pale ale that also boast a higher alcohol content. Though IPAs originated in London, they’re now are a staple in North American craft breweries, including those on the Niagara Ale Trail.

Niagara Ale Trail Pale Ales to Try:

The Exchange Brewery’s White IPA

Breakwall Brewing’s 9 O’clock Whistle IPA

Brimstone Brewing’s Sinister Minister IPA

Bench Brewing’s Ball’s Falls IPA

Kame & Kettle’s Gedit D’Fakenya


Lagers & Pilsners:

Lagers are known to be light, crisp, and clean in flavour – as are pilsners, though they do tend to be slightly hoppier. These two types of beer are often thought to be separate, but the pilsner is actually a type of lager (there’s some beer trivia for you!).

Niagara Ale Trail Lagers to Try:

Lock Street Brewery’s Port Side Pilsner

Silversmith Brewing’s Black Lager

Brimstone Brewing’s Punk Rock Pilsner

Taps Brewery’s Charleston Lager


Porters & Stouts:

We’ve put porters and stouts together, as they are very similar. In fact, stouts were originally called “stout porters”, then shortened to simply “stouts”. Over the years, recipes for both have changed so much it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. So, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll keep them together in this beginner’s guide.

Porters and stouts are darker beers with a high malt flavour, often boasting notes of coffee.

Niagara Ale Trail Porters/ Stouts to Try:

Merchant Ale House’s Drunken Monkey Oatmeal Stout

Oast House Brewer’s Pitchfork Porter

The Exchange Brewery’s Foreign Exchange Stout

Niagara Brewing Company’s Chocolate Stout


Wheat Beer:

There are so many types of wheat beer, it would take multiple posts to list them all. In general, wheat beers are – as the name would suggest – brewed with a high proportion of wheat. Made popular in Germany and Belgium (with their Weißbier and witbier, respectively), wheat beer is now brewed all over North America in traditional and new styles.

Niagara Ale Trail Wheat Beers to Try:

Merchant Ale House’s Blueberry Wheat

Silversmith Brewing’s Bavarian Breakfast Wheat

Taps Brewing’s Belgian Wit

Niagara College Teaching Brewery’s Wheat 101


Sour Beer:

Quickly becoming one of the most popular craft beer styles, sour beers are brewed to feature a tart, sour taste. To achieve this, certain types of bacteria and yeasts are used in the brewing process, in addition to more traditional brewer’s yeasts. Often, fruit is added to the aging process to add different flavours and secondary fermentation.

Niagara Ale Trail Sour Beers to Try:

Breakwall Brewing’s Nickel Beach Sour Peach

Bench Brewing’s Citra Grove

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Experience authentic craft and culinary experiences, unique festivals and cultural events, including live music, theatre and sports; the City of St. Catharines – the urban centre of Niagara– is at the heart of it all. Take advantage of our affordable accommodations and close proximity to all major Niagara attractions.

Niagara Ale Trail

The Niagara Ale Trail was founded in 2014 to celebrate the best of Niagara’s Craft beverage scene, encompassing craft breweries from each of Niagara’s 12 municipalities. Founded with 14 Craft Breweries, the Niagara Ale Trail expanded to include Craft Cideries in 2023 and has over 25 participating locations.