Ales vs. Lagers – What’s the Difference?
What is the difference between an ale and a lager? Are lagers a type of ale? If you find yourself asking questions about ale and lager beer styles every time you reach for one, this article will teach you the difference and about their different beer types!
By Alex St Cyr on Aug. 12, 2018
There are hundreds of beer styles around the world and it is easy to get confused by them. Many beer styles and beer types have similar flavours, aromas and colours which can confuse beer drinkers about what beer style they are actually sipping on. Some beer styles are their own category, while others actually have beer styles within them! So, how do we tell the difference between certain popular beer styles, like Ales and Lagers, for example?
What’s the Difference Between an Ale and a Lager?
Ales and lagers are popular beer styles, two of the most consumed beer styles in the world, and many people get confused by the two as they have a lot of similar qualities. However, lager and ale beers are quite different in how they’re made and what their flavours feature.
What is a Lager?
How are lagers made?
A lager beer is one of the two most common beer types in the world (the other being an ale beer). So, what’s the difference between a lager and an ale? The difference is the type of yeast used in the fermentation during the brewing process. Opposite of ales, which use “top-fermenting” yeast and are brewed at warmer temperatures, lagers are brewed at a cooler temperature with “bottom-fermenting” yeasts. This means that the yeast ferments at the bottom of the fermentation container.
Bottom-fermenting yeasts strains don’t normally feature fruity characteristics that top-fermenting yeast does. Lagers tend to have a more crisp and clean flavour profile than ales and are not usually quite as bitter. Taste is the biggest indicator between determining whether you’re drinking a lager or an ale!
Types of Lagers
Lager beers include a wide variety of lager types, some of which you may not have known. A California Common / Steam Beer, Malt Liquor, Märzen, Bock, Dunkel, Schwarzbier, Pilsners and more are all types of lagers!
What are beers are considered lagers?
What are the best lagers?
Lagers are one of the most common beers all over the world and they are well-loved by beer lovers!
Examples of the Most Popular Lagers:
To find more lager beers, check out our list of lagers.
What is an Ale?
The History of Ales
Dating back over 4000 years, ales are one of the oldest beers in history! It wasn’t until 1000 years ago that hops were introduced into the brewing process, and not until the turn of the 16th century before lagers were introduced – before that, all beers were ales!
Characteristics of an Ale Beer
What do Ales taste like? Do ales and lagers taste different?
In comparison to the crisp and clean characteristics of a lager, an ale beer tends to be much more flavourful and aromatic, sometimes being fruity even. They also have a higher IBU concentration, which is responsible for the bitterness you’ll taste in your beer.
Types of Ales
To find more lager beers, check out our list of ales.
What beers are considered Ales?
Examples of the Most Popular Brands of Ales:
Now that you know what a lager and an ale are, now it’s time to learn about hybrid beers.
Learn the difference between an ale, a lager and a hybrid.
Thanks for learning about Ales and Lagers with us! Look below to learn more on beer styles:
What is a Pilsner? Czech Pilseners, German Pils & American Pilsners
Czech Pilsner, German Pils & American Pilsner: where they come from, their appearance, flavour & aroma, palate & mouthfeel, food pairings and serving suggestions are all explained in this Beer Styles 201 article.
Beer Styles: The Ingredients (Part Two: Hops)
In the second part of this series on the ingredients of beer, we will examine hops, the additive that provides an assortment of flavours to beer.
What is a Golden or Blonde Ale?
Golden Ales & Blonde Ales: where they come from, their appearance, flavour & aroma, palate & mouthfeel, food pairings and serving suggestionss are all explained in this Beer Styles 201 article.
Beer Varieties: The Origins (Part Three: Colour)
In this series, we are exploring what characterizes the hundreds of styles of beers that are available. While yeast is the most important determinant of beer style, two of the other main ingredients (hops and malt), and how the beer is brewed, among other things, also play a part. It is these factors that create the inherent qualities of the beer, which formulates each category or style. Part Two looked at how gravities and alcohol by volume (ABV.) are calculated. In Part Three we will explore colour; how it is measured, and how the different colours are assigned.