Difference between Ale and Lager

Key difference: Ales are made with "top-fermenting" strains of yeast which means that the yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank. Lagers use "bottom-fermenting" yeasts which sink to the bottom of the tank and ferment.

Beers are the most popular and the most commonly consumed alcoholic drink in the world. Ales and Lagers are the two main types of beer. Beers have been around thousands of years with a history dating back to the Egyptians and Sumerians. These were primarily ales, whereas lagers were discovered in early 1400s. The term “lager” comes from the German “lagern”, which means to store.

The main difference between ales and lagers is that ales are fermented "top-fermenting" strains of yeast which means that the yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank at room temperature. Lagers, on the other hand, use a bottom-fermenting yeast and are fermented at much colder temperatures.  The yeast that collects at the bottom of the fermentation tank can be reused. Lagers usually have a mild flavor, and can vary immensely in flavor, color, and composition. Lagers can also have a much higher alcohol content than ales. Other differences include:

 

Ale

Lager

Type of yeast

Saccharomyces cervisiae – top fermented

Saccharomyces Uvarum – bottom fermented

Color

Reddish brown or dark brown, light pale

Pale or dark

Brew time

as little as 7 days

up to several months

Described as

Robusty, hearty and fruity

Smooth, elegant, crisp, fruity, and clean

Fermentation temperature

Warmer (15 – 25 deg Celsius)

Colder (less than 10 deg Celsius)

Types

Pale ale, amber ale, pale ale, amber ale, etc.

Pilseners, bocks and dopplebocks, Maerzens/Oktoberfests, Dortmunders, Dunkel, Schwarzbier and a few other styles found mostly in Germany

Serving temperature

Cellar temperature (10-14 deg Celsius)

Cold (4-7 deg Celsius)

Additional ingredients

Hops, malt and roasted malts, adjuncts such as rice, maize, etc

Malted grain, hops, yeast and water

Alcohol content

3% - 5% ABV

As much as 14% ABV

Image Courtesy: buckshappening.com, beeriety.com

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