clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Light Beer Doesn't Suck If You Know What to Order

Four light beer styles to know.

Christina Perozzi

In the world of the craft beer drinker, nothing rings more true than Greg Koch’s mantra,"Fizzy Yellow Beer is for Wussies!" And for years beer aficionados have followed the CEO and co-founder of Stone Brewing Co.’s lead, circling the wagons around huge beer styles like bitter double IPA hop bombs and rich and chocolatey Russian Imperial Stouts.

... craft breweries are hearing the cry for crisp and refreshing and ... are harkening back to the brewing traditions of 1800s ...

While these beer types still reign supreme in popularity, there’s an emerging demand from a newly confident fan base. And that demand is for good fizzy yellow beer. Some craft breweries are hearing the cry for crisp and refreshing and, instead of cringing, are harkening back to the brewing traditions of 1800s and beyond. Subsequently, they're producing some of the best "light" beers that the world has seen. Beers lighter in flavor, bitterness and ABV.

Lighter bodied and flavored beers tend to show more faults than beers with bigger flavors, and should be properly protected from heat and light. Therefore, these styles generally come packaged in dark brown bottles and should be stored and shipped in refrigerated containers. Also, these beers should be served at a colder temperature (around 40°F) than their heavier and hoppier cousins. When yearning for bright, quaffable and clean brews, craft beer drinkers in the know look for these styles from reputable brewers:


Pilsener (or Pilsner, Pilsen or even Pils) is the most produced and most maligned lager in the world, but the style is making a strong comeback due to its lovely balance when brewed properly. For the most part, Pilsener is separated into two styles: Czech (or Bohemian) Pilsener and German Pilsener. Originally brewed in the city of Plzen in the Czech Republic, Bohemian Pilseners are sparkling light straw color in appearance and have characteristic spicy, floral and grassy bitterness that comes from its mostly singular use of the Saaz hop. German Pilseners have the same sparkling golden hue, but tend to be a bit more herbaceous, and frequently finish with a zing of citrus. Good examples of Bohemian Pilseners are Schlafly Pilsner from St. Louis and Santa Rosa’s Moonlight Brewing Company’s Reality Czeck. Try Prima Pils from Victory Brewing Company for a taste of Germany by way of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. And for a sample of both worlds, try Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils, a traditional Czech-style Pils (‘pivo’ means beer in Czech) dry hopped with German Saphir, which imbues the beer with notes of bergamot zest and lemongrass.

Facebook/Firestone Walker Brewing Co.


A beer style that dates back to the Middle Ages, Kellerbier literally means "cellar beer" in German. The style gets its name from the ancient aging process, in which the beer was matured in "unbunged" (meaning the beer was matured in an open vessel) oak casks in deep rock caverns. The result is a smooth drinking, low ABV, lightly carbonated, unpasteurized and mostly unfiltered beer. True Kellerbier aficionados drink their Kellerbier out of an old-school earthenware mug. Some good examples of Kellerbiers are the seasonal Alpine Spring from Sam Adams and TAPS Brewery Cream Ale from Brea, California.

Facebook/Samuel Adams

Helles Lager

"Hell" is German for "bright," and Helles Lagers were the answer when Czech Pilseners became all the rage and Germans had to invent their own beer style to compete with the beautiful sparkling beers from the east. Helles Lager was created on March 21, 1894 at the Spaten Brewery in Munich and is considered the embodiment of perfect German brewing tradition. Helles is a nuanced, gentle blonde beer with amazing balance and a lingering malty finish. While this beer may be bright in color, this style’s alcohol content does vary. Beer drinkers wanting a lighter experience should choose a Helles with an ABV of 6% or lower. The American-made Stoudt’s Gold Lager from Pennsylvania is a great example, as well as the old-school, perfected Weihenstephaner Original from Germany. Its grainy notes of pepper and banana are balanced by floral hops and a dry finish.

Facebook/Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan

Cream Ale

A truly American style, the cream ale is something of a hybrid between an ale and an American lager. Recently becoming popular again amongst craft brewers, many Cream Ales are now being made as noble grain, slightly hoppier versions of their predecessors. A perfect style for someone who wants a golden beer with a low hop profile and aroma, and nice palate cleansing carbonation. Cream Ales are generally biscuity with notes of honey in the finish.  Sweet Action from Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, New York is a delicious choice, as is Golden Ale from Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Co.


Sign up for the Sign up for the Eater newsletter

The freshest news from the food world every day