Difference Between Ale and Lager

Ale vs Lager

Difference between ale and lager is something everyone, who drinks beer should pay attention to. Ales and Lagers, the two terms or words which are common to some and not-so-common to others, can be somewhat confusing when it comes to their actual difference. But before knowing a detailed difference between Ales and Lagers, some people might want to know what these two words stand for and the background of them. Well, basically Ale and Lager are two different categories of the same family of beer. Though the difference between both the categories is neither that of the ingredients nor of the alcoholic capacity or the bitterness in the taste or their color for that matter, it is to do with something else. Surprising as it may sound, the difference between both these types can only be understood by considering both of them separately and knowing about them from the brewing angle.

What is Ale?

Basically, Ales are produced by top-fermenting the tiny strains and those yeast strains rise and go to the top and evolve a special type of chemical known as esters. Those esters are responsible for creating that special flavor in Ales. In addition to that, the yeast of Ale ferments at damp and warm temperatures (can be room temperature). The yeast matures and ferments really fast. The recipe ingredients of Ales include high contents of hops, malt, and roasted malts. This is the reason for Ales having a specific and particular taste which is bitter and malty. The brewers, who brew ales, add some other ingredients and contents as well such as adjuncts.


What is Lager?

On the other hand, when they produce Lagers, the whole process is carried out by the fermentation from the bottom side. In this process, the yeast and the strains of the yeast go down to the bottom of the container or the tank where the Lagers are being fermented. Because of the fact that lagers come together at the bottom of the container, all those strains of the yeast are able to be used again. Another thing is that all the yeast used in the lagers has a specific flavor. All those people who use lagers know that particular taste of them which include tanginess of malts, hops, etc. Also, the fact that lagers usually ferment at a colder temperature (colder than ales) sets them apart from Ales.

Difference Between Ale and Lager

Looking at lagers’ historical background, this kind of beer first showed up from European regions especially Germany where the whole process started by brewing and fermenting yeast at a comparatively colder temperature. If you consider the word ‘lager’, which is basically derived from a German world ‘lagern’. Lagern stands for ‘storing’ which indicates the whole procedure of lagering. This process surrounds and compensates for the beer in which the most important role is that of yeast. It creates a slight yet crispy taste of lagers.

What is the difference between Ale and Lager?

• Ales are produced by top-fermenting the tiny strains. On the other hand, when they produce Lagers, the whole process is carried out by the fermentation from the bottom side.

• Lagers usually ferment at a colder temperature than ales. Ales usually need mid-range room temperatures.

• During the fermentation stage, ale is stored between 60 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit while lager is stored between 35 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

• It takes more time to finish preparing Lager when compared to ales. Also, lager can be stored for a longer time than ale.

• When it comes to taste, ale is bitter and malty.The lager taste includes tanginess of malts, hops, etc.

• Ale family includes pale ale, Indian pale ale, porters, stouts, and amber ale. Lager family includes dunkels, bocks, and pilsners.

Though lagers take more time in brewing, fermenting, and getting prepared, still a lot of people prefer Ales over them. Maybe this is because Ales are better in taste but the difference lies mainly in the way both these categories are brewed and prepared.

Images Courtesy:

  1. Ale via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. Lager by 4521james (CC BY-SA 3.0)