Ale vs. Lager

Ale
Lager

Seasoned beer drinkers can often tell the difference between ales and lagers. Ales are usually described as "robust, hearty and fruity". Lagers are characteristically "smooth, elegant, crisp, fruity, and clean". The fermentation process when the beer is brewed is different for lagers and ales.

Comparison chart

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Ale

Lager

Type of yeast top fermented Bottom fermenting lager yeast.
Fermentation Temperature Warmer (15 - 25 Celsius) Colder (less than 10 Celsius)
Color Reddish brown or dark brown (porters and stouts). Lighter pale ales. Lagers range from very light to very dark depending on style.

Contents: Ale vs Lager

edit Fermentation

Ales are brewed with top-fermenting (actually ferments throughout the wort) yeast which allows for rapid fermentation at warmer temperatures; Lagers are brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast which ferments more slowly and at colder temperatures.

Lager beer is made with bottom yeast, so called because it works at the bottom of the vat. Traditionally bottom yeast will ferment at cold temperatures less than 10 deg C. Now fermentation takes place at 12 to 18 deg C. This cold or deep fermentation allows the malt and hops to assert their fine flavours.

On the other hand, ales are fermented at temperatures from 15 to 25 deg C. Ales are matured for shorter periods and at warmer temperatures.

edit Flavor

Ales are usually described as "robusty, hearty and fruity". Lagers are characteristically "smooth, elegant, crisp, and clean".

edit Sub types

Ales include everything with ale in the name (pale ale, amber ale, etc.), porters, stouts, Belgian specialty beers, wheat beers and many German specialty beers. They generally have a more robust taste, are more complex and are best consumed cool (45F or a bit warmer) rather than cold.

Lagers include pilseners, bocks and dopplebocks, Maerzens/Oktoberfests, Dortmunders and a few other styles found mostly in Germany. They are best consumed at a cooler temperature than ales, although anything served at less than 38F will lose most of its flavor.

edit Ale vs Lager Videos

Here are two good videos explaining the difference between ale and lager beer:

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Comments: Ale vs Lager

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Anonymous comments (5)

April 30, 2012, 8:20pm

Wow, how odd. Only slightly unfair to regard any "brits" (upper case, please!) who enjoy premium lagers as a football thug who only wants to get drunk.

Actually, this is totally incorrect. The 1980's "Lager Louts" type people drink the weaker "fosters, Carling, Carlsberg" set of budget lagers. Its the more refined people who go for the likes of Kronembourg, Heineken, Peroni, Birra Moretti etc

— 193.✗.✗.125
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March 2, 2011, 3:05am

The article is only incorrect if you live in the U.S., where beer knowledge is fuzzy at best and often blurred. In the Kingdom of Beer, the differences between Ales and Lagers are well defined here.

— 74.✗.✗.18
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November 26, 2009, 5:17am

This is a wiki. So improve it with the correct info about the difference between lager and ale if you can.

— 76.✗.✗.122
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November 24, 2009, 10:58pm

thanks for the above comment. I didn't even make it past the top of the page before I started looking for the 'comment' button... Whoever wrote this article has apparently learned all there is to learn about beer... FROM A 16 YEAR OLD BARTENDER AT RED LOBSTER. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO SOME RESEARCH BEFORE YOU PUBLISH SOMETHING ONLINE. Beer is not something to take lightly!

— 84.✗.✗.249
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June 16, 2009, 4:55pm

Technically speaking this article is incorrect. The only difference between an Ale and Lager is the use of different styles of yeast to ferment the beer. There are well kown styles of Dark lagers, Schwarzbier, as well as light colored Ales, Pale Ale and Kolsch. Alcohol content as well can not be used to separate the two as both categories feature both very high ABV and very low ABV beers. The temperatures at which they are stored in are also unable to define either group since California Common makes use of a lager yeast brewed above the normal lagering temperature and Kolsch which uses an ale yeast well below the standard temperature. You may thank Michael Jackson the beer connoisseur for developing the widely accepted differentiation between ale and lager by using the yeast strains used in the beer.

— 68.✗.✗.184
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