Grab yourself a bottle or buy the perfect pint – these are the tastiest, most refreshing beers
Beer comes in all shapes and sizes, and there is what feels like an unlimited number of different styles, brands and blends to choose from. Much like coffee, chocolate or spirits, the best beer should come from high-quality ingredients that stand out in a crowded market.
The type of beer you like will be very personal to you, which is why we’ve tried to include a range of beers from across the spectrum. Our recommendations are based on the flavour profiles of beers, their price and where they sit in the market.
While we can’t claim to have tried every beer in the world, these are the best of a large bunch – from stouts and porters to wheat beers and IPAs. So whether you’re a traditionalist or fancy something more contemporary, we’ll help you stock up your fridge and cupboards with the very best beers the world has to offer.
Don’t forget to read our buyer’s guide at the bottom of this page too, particularly if you don’t know your lager from your lambic.
Best beer: At a glance
- Best stout: Zia Tiramisu Pastry Stout | Buy now from London Beer Factory
- Best IPA: Siren Lumina | Buy now from Siren Craft Brew
- Best low alcohol wheat beer: Schofferhofer Grapefruit Beer | Buy now from Morrisons
- Best alcohol free: Ilkley Brewevery Virgin Mary | Buy now from Amazon
- Best Welsh beer: Tiny Rebel Cwtch | Buy now from Tiny Rebel
- Best shandy: Shandy Shack Elderflower Lager Top | Buy now from Amazon
The best stouts and dark beers
1. London Beer Factory Zia Tiramisu Pastry Stout: Best coffee stout
Price: £3.50 | Buy now from London Beer Factory
Both coffee and stout are known for their strong flavours, and when put together the pair can occasionally be intimidating to a casual drinker. But Zia is a stout for everyone. Not only is it very smooth, but the dark, perky notes of coffee are blended out with chocolate and a creamy vanilla finish – similar to an actual tiramisu. This harmonious blend means it’s not only delicious but also incredibly easy to drink.
Be warned, though, it’s a whopping 9.2% ABV, so it’s not for the faint of heart. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent addition to an ever-growing lineup of coffee stouts and can be enjoyed as a drink or a dessert.
Key details – Size: 440ml; ABV: 9.2%; Country of origin: UK
2. Beer52 Top Stouts and Porters Selection pack: Best dark beer mixed case
Price: £24 (x8 beers) | Buy now from Beer52
Sometimes one stout just isn’t enough, which is why we rate this top stouts and porters selection from Beer52. Each beer has either been featured in a recent theme or one-off case on the website and proved to be the most popular of the bunch.
The selection here is really varied: you’ll find everything from a dreamy flat white stout from The Garden Brewery to the bitter curranty flavours of Boss’s black stout. It’s a great selection for those new to stouts and porters, as well as seasoned dark beer lovers looking to discover new brands.
Key details – Size: Mixed; ABV: Mixed; Country of origin: Mixed
The best IPAs and ales
1. Siren Lumina: Best new session IPA
Price: £2 | Buy now from Siren Craft Brew
Sometimes what you need is a refreshing, easy-going ale to enjoy at weekends, and we think this latest drop from Siren is just the ticket. It’s a well-balanced, hop-heavy session IPA with delicious fruity flavours such as mango and pineapple. Lumina isn’t overly sweet, though, and has a light citrus bitterness to finish. It’s ideal to enjoy in the sunshine – when it decides to make an appearance – and a real crowd-pleaser, too.
Key details – Size: 330ml; ABV: 4.2%; Country of origin: UK
2. Beer Hawk IPA mixed case: Best IPA mixed selection
Price: £35 (15 beers) | Buy now from Beer Hawk
Can’t decide which pale ale to try next or want to expand your IPA horizons? This mixed case from Beer Hawk is packed full of fantastic favourites from the likes of Siren, Fyne Ales, Brewdog, Tiny Rebel and more. You’ll get 12 beers ranging from 4.2 to 7.2% ABV with an impressive range of different flavour profiles, meaning there’s something for every occasion in the box. You won’t always get exactly what’s listed, but if something’s out of stock, Beer Hawk will always replace it with an IPA of equal or greater value.
Key details – Size: 330ml (x12); ABV: Mixed; Country of origin: Mixed
The best of the rest
1. Schofferhofer Grapefruit Beer: Best low-alcohol wheat beer
Price: £2 | Buy now from Morrisons
What do you get when you mix a German wheat beer with tangy grapefruit juice? The answer is one of the best low alcohol drinks you’ll ever taste. Like a sophisticated shandy, the Schofferhofer perfectly balances the distinct flavour of Hefeweizen beer with a thirst-quenching grapefruit kick. It’s definitely heavy on the grapefruit, but not overpowering, allowing you to enjoy the base flavour of the beer while keeping the alcohol content down. This is a really special drink and even if it’s not something you’d usually be inclined to try, we think you should give it a go. You might be surprised – we certainly were.
Key details – Size: 500ml; ABV: 2.5%; Country of origin: Germany
2. Ilkley Brewery Virgin Mary: Best alcohol-free beer
Price: £26 (for 12) | Buy now from Amazon
As a non-alcoholic pale ale, Ilkley Brewery’s Virgin Mary pulls off some pretty impressive feats. First, it has a lovely orange aroma, even though it doesn’t contain any citrus. Second, it actually tastes like beer, despite coming in at only 0.5% ABV.
It has a good body and mouthfeel and isn’t watery in comparison to many of its non-alcoholic counterparts. It might not be doing anything exciting or innovative flavour-wise, but this is a perfect substitution for anyone craving a classic beer without the high alcohol content.
Key details – Size: 330ml; ABV: 0.5%; Country of origin: UK
3. Tiny Rebel Cwtch: Best Welsh beer
Price: £2 | Buy now from Tiny Rebel
There’s no shortage of great Welsh beers around, but this is our clear favourite. Behind the quirky, eccentric brewery branding, there are some seriously vibrant, flavour-packed beers, including The Cwtch (pronounced “cutch”, meaning “cuddle” or “cubby hole”), which is a take on Welsh Red Ale. A blend of caramel malts and citrus American hops, it’s amber coloured, with tangy, tropical and piney aromas and an added sweetness in the mouth.
Key details – Size: 330ml; ABV: 4.3%; Country of origin: Wales
4. Shandy Shack Elderflower Lager Top: Best shandy
Price: £25 (for 12)| Buy now from Amazon
Shandy Shack’s Elderflower Lager Top couldn’t be a more quintessential summer drink if it tried. While shandy may seem a bit retro, low-alcohol spritzers and seltzers are now back in fashion, and shandy is a similarly refreshing way to enjoy booze during the warmer months.
The elderflower adds a delicate, floral flavour, while the pilsner cuts through the sweetness to add crispness, pleasing those with less of a sweet tooth. It’s juicy, thirst-quenching and only 2.5% ABV, so ideal for those summer afternoon drinks.
If you prefer something more savoury and traditional, Shandy Shack also sells a more traditional, bitter IPA shandy. Overall, though, we think this elderflower lager is the ideal drink to enjoy while lounging in a garden, far away from work.
Key details – Size: 330ml; ABV: 2.5%; Country of origin: UK
How to choose the best beer for you
What are the most common types of beer?
The most commonly consumed of all beers, lager was a Czech invention that came out of new techniques that allowed malt to be lightly kilned so it remained pale. It uses different yeast from ales and needs a longer, cooler fermentation. The majority of popular brands are pale lagers, which are brewed to be crisp and refreshing, with a smooth finish. They have high carbonation and medium to high hop flavour. Dark lagers (known in Germany as Dunkel beers) use grains that are roasted for longer – ranging from amber to black, they’re much rarer than their pale equivalents.
Ales are darker and fuller-bodied than lagers, as well as being more robust, complex and bitter, with hints of fruit or spice and a hoppy finish. There are many types, including bitter, mild, pale ale, abbey ale and nut brown. Ales have more individual characteristics than lager, though their alcoholic strength is similar.
India Pale Ale (or IPA) is one of the most popular ales – and indeed beers – around. Pale ale originally meant an ale that had been brewed from pale malt and the original IPAs were heavily hopped for transport to colonial India. IPAs now have a strong association with Canada and the United States, where many breweries produce their own versions. Session IPA refers to the lower alcohol version (mostly below 5% ABV) of US-style IPA, which is usually fruity, zesty and bitter.
Bitter, a British style of pale ale, comes in a huge variety of colours, types and strengths from 3% to 7% ABV. Sub-types include light ale (low alcohol bitter, often bottled), session bitter (up to 4.1%; includes IPA), best or special (strength between 4.2% and 4.7%), premium or strong (4.8% or over) and golden ale (summer ale).
Porter is a London-style, dark, almost black, fruity-dry, ale. It’s brewed with roasted malts to impart flavour, colour and aroma.
Although stout and porter are very similar, stout is darker and heavier, with a rich, creamy head. It’s flavoured and coloured by barley. Slightly sweeter to the taste than porter, stout also uses a portion of unmalted roasted barley, leading to some delicious, toasted flavours such as chocolate, coffee, oatmeal or cream.
This is a refreshing, crisp and light yellow lager with a bitter, hoppy flavour. Pilsner originated in the Czech Republic and tends to be light in colour, ranging from light straw to golden, with strong hoppy, spicy and floral flavours. Some of the most iconic beers derive from the pilsner style, including Budweiser.
In a wheat beer, a significant quantity of the mash contains wheat. Because wheat contains more protein than barley, wheat beers have a hazy look, thicker heads and a silky mouthfeel. They are highly effervescent and light in flavour, making them great summer beers.
This version of wheat beer is the oldest beer style in the west. A Belgian beer that is exclusively brewed in and around Brussels (because the sourness depends on the local wild yeasts of the Brettanomyces strain), it’s prepared in the traditional way. However, vents are later opened in the roof to allow in wild yeast to ferment the beer.