Beer dictionary for Madison, WI

To Olbrich biergarten mugs filled with red ale and amber ale, plus a container of cheese curds.

Surprise, they’re not just “the orange one” and “the yellow one.” | Photo by @madison.foodies

We can talk up Madison beer all day — but if we talk too much, it starts to sound like a whole different language. Consider this your reader on all the lingo no one told you before you tried ordering your first beer at the bar, including local recs + pairings.

(Heads up: This piece is pretty stout, so once you’ve had your pils you can always bookmark it for lager.)

Amber + Red Ale | Red and amber ales will typically taste like caramel, dried fruit, or coffee more sour than sweet. Pair with a hearty slow cooker meat.

Local rec: McLovin at Vintage Brewing Company

Amber + Red Lager | These lagers can taste light + crisp but also contain aromas you’d find in darker beers – like caramel or toffee. Pair with tacos.

Local rec: Wisconsin Amber at Capital Brewery

Belgian Style Beer | Belgian-style beers are typically historical styles, like Bière de Garde, Abbey ales, Dubbels, and Tripels. Belgian-style beers have a high alcohol content + low bitterness. Pair with cheese and potato dishes.

Local rec: Verily at Parched Eagle Brew Pub

Brown Ale | An English-style ale that is especially sweet + nutty tasting. Pair with pecan pie.

Local rec: D.T.B. Brown Ale at Pearl Street Brewery

Cream Ale | Light in flavor, pale in color, and not too bitter for a newbie beer drinker. Pair with grilled chicken.

Local rec: Operation Golden Dove (upcoming) at Young Blood Beer Company

Dark Lager | You can expect rich aromas like coffee, chocolate, molasses, and even pumpernickel bread. Pair with smoked fish.

Local rec: Dumb and Dunkel at Ale Asylum

Fruit Beer | Many fruits find their way into beer recipes — some popular ones are lime, strawberry, and cherry. Most fruit beers are sweet tasting + pair perfectly with dessert.

Local rec: Bosbes at Funk Factory Geuzeria

Hefeweizen | Time for a German lesson — hefeweizen is the German word for pale wheat beer. These are also called witbiers or blanches and are made by adding wheat to the mix to give the beer a foamy head + a silky texture. They have a distinct sweetness and sometimes give off a bubble gum or banana smell. Pair with cedar-smoked salmon or a watermelon + tomato salad.

Local rec: Crop Circle Wheat at Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company

India Pale Ale (IPA) | These beers can be bitter + have high alcohol levels. They can range from citrus flavors to stronger, more bitter flavors — depending on the hops used. These are usually the intro beer for new beer drinkers. Pair with fish + chips.

Local rec: Fantasy Factory at Karben4

Pale Ale | Pale ales are usually hoppy but carry a lower alcohol content than IPAs. Most types of pale ale are malty, medium-bodied, and easy to drink.

Local rec: Penguin Pale Ale at One Barrel Brewing

Pilsner | A light + crisp lager from 19th century Europe that is hoppy and a pale gold color. Pair with calamari or schnitzel.

Local rec: Peck’s Pilsner at Great Dane Pub & Brewery

Radler | A radler is a hybrid — part beer, part citrus juice. The word radler means “cyclist” in German + legend has it radlers were invented to quench the thirst of cyclists. Pair with grilled fruit or pulled pork.

Local rec: RE:FRESH Radler at Wisconsin Brewing Company

Saison | Also called farmhouse ales, saisons are typically light + dry, with low alcohol and high carbonation. Pair with comfort food.

Local rec: Spotted Cow at New Glarus Brewing

Stouts + Porters | These beers have a deep, roasted flavor and are often described as tasting like chocolate or coffee. Oatmeal stouts and porters are a subtype that include a small amount of oatmeal to give it a thicker body.

Local rec: Grand Porter at Giant Jones

Wild + Sour Ales | Wild or sour ales are typically very low in alcohol, and feature tart, sour flavors that come from (safe) bacteria in the brew mash. Pair with salty meats, stinky cheeses, and lemony seafood dishes.

Local rec: The Sour Wright at ALT Brew

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