Lagers & Ales – What’s The Difference?

Lagers & Ales – What’s The Difference?

Here at the Barroom our primary focus is football. It’s also our secondary and tertiary focus. But, beer is on our minds as often as it’s in our mouths – and that’s a lot. We occasionally ask Santiago Docksin to share his knowledge of beer and he does so here with some beer basics about ales and lagers.

The word “beer” is often used as a generic noun to describe a cold refreshing beverage. For example, “Hiya Mike, let’s go for a beer.” However, beer lovers around the world will heartily agree that there’s nothing generic about beer.

When it comes to types of beer, there are many, many options to choose from. It’s impossible to say which type is best, because they all have different characteristics. You’d be surprised at how a pilsner can differ from a porter. Taste a wheat beer and follow it up with a honey beer. Worlds apart.

The names given to different styles of beer generally reflect individual characteristics of the product, such as where it originated. Most beers, particularly those sold commercially, are processed using traditional methods. The object of the entire process is to convert grain starches to sugar, extract the sugar with water and then ferment it with yeast to produce the world’s most popular drink.

Ales and Lagers

Source: http://www.britannica.com

Different types of beer have unique qualities like appearance, taste, origin and aroma. America is home to more styles and brands than any other market in the world. Every one of them falls within one of two of varieties, determined by the type of yeast: Ales and Lagers. The authors of Beer For Dummies, write:

The branch of the beer family tree — ale or lager — corresponds to the type of yeast used to ferment the beer. You have ale yeast and lager yeast, and these types of yeast, in turn, typically dictate the temperature at which the beer is fermented. Ales are traditionally fermented at warmer temperatures (55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, 12 to 21 degrees Celsius), while lagers are typically fermented at cooler temperatures (38 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, 3 to 10 degrees Celsius).

If you want a complete breakdown of the types of yeast the comprise ales and lager, CLICK HERE. I won’t get into those specifics because I can’t spell those yeast strains, nor pronounce them.

Beers Basics – Ale

Arguably the most popular type of beer around the world is the ale (it’s been around the longest). PrimerMagazine.com says that in the brewing process, “Ale yeast gathers and ferments at the top of the vessel, at a high temperature so the yeast acts quickly. Some finish fermenting in less than 2 weeks. Ales are rich and complex, with more yeast-derived flavors than lagers.

Ales and Lagers

Source: Primermagazine.com

Ales are definitely more robust-tasting beers. The taste is more forceful and typically complex and enjoyed warmer (45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Ale recipes often contain a higher amount of hops, malt and roasted malts, hence they typically have a more prominent malty taste and bitterness.

Beer Basics – Lager

Lagers tend to be more popular in the United States. Primermagazine.com says that that when brewing at the colder temperature, bottom-fermenting yeast produces fewer “esters” (flavor compounds, basically). This creates a mild, crisp and clean tasting beer. Lager is the German word meaning “to store.” Lagering softens flavors and texture.

American style lagers include all-malt lager, light lager, double pilsner, malt liquor and low-alcohol or “light” beers.

Ales and Lagers

Source: Primermagazine.com

Lagers tend to be highly carbonated or crisp, have a subtle, clean, balanced taste and aroma, and should be served fairly cool (38 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit).

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As a frequent beer drinker, I enjoy exploring all different types of beer. There are some that I frankly wish I had never tasted, but it’s a small price to pay for my passion.

If you’re a beer drinker, you’re likely loyal to a tried and true brand. But remember that variety is the spice of life. There is a world of options available to you, so try something new next time you’re ready to crack open a cold one.

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Aldo Gandia

Aldo Gandia

Among my career highlights I have produced two films while in high school that received nationwide attention; leaned out of a helicopter over the Gulf of Suez at the age of 20 to shoot movies of oil rigs; won an Emmy award for a sports special and another for a kid's fitness show; and led a team of very talented creative professionals to produce break-through corporate communications.


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