Are there too many different types of beer?

Apr 11, 2016 by Stephane

American researchers have established that there are around 150 different types of beer in the world. Paul Aerts, a Belgian professor at the university of Leuven claims that this should just be reduced to around twenty. Otherwise consumers risk losing track of everything and just becoming confused. 

This was announced at the twelfth “Trends in Brewing” fair which just took place in the Belgian city of Ghent.

American professor Paul Hughes from Oregon State University confirms that 150 different styles of beer only serves to confuse the consumer. When tastings and competitions take place, the never ending list of categories just confirms this confusion.

“In the end, everyone has their own style, but the consumer is just left confused” said Paul Aerts, head of the Technology cluster Faculty of Engineering at Leuven university.

“There are about 50 different types of lager beer. Brewers exploit the lack of clarity in beer categorisation to position themselves in the market. Many consumers of beer are very passionate, but how many consumers can really navigate the maze created by so many different kinds of beer?”.

Professor Aerts suggests to a better system, which is to establish just twenty types of beer, including lagers, stouts, lambics, saisons. Each of those would have number of subclasses.

Subclasses will be necessary because the revival of “special” beers is now a long established fact. “The new generation of brewers is adding a lot of dynamism in to the trade” says the professor. 

“And this is necessary, because in the US there are so many different types of beer being created. Belgian brewers should beware. The Netherlands has a number of American beers for sale but here in Belgium this is not yet the case. Belgian brewers need to pay attention to quality control, innovation and deciding wether to move the brewing process to the US or transport the ready made beer across the ocean. These are all important issues to be considered by brewers of Belgian beer.”

There are also a number of new trends. Many people are experimenting with wild yeasts, new varieties of hops, ageing beer in wooden barrels formerly used for wine or whiskey, adding wood chips during the ageing process, mixing beer with lemonade.

There’s also a lot of experimentation being done with the shapes of beer glasses. One of the main new trends is using smaller glasses. “Tasting beer instead of just drinking it will become an important activity in the future” says Aerts. Smaller glasses are also more elegant, for example during food pairing.