There are 2 main types of beers – Lagers and Ales. Some consider hybrids a beer type, a hybrid would contain both ales and lager beer characteristics.
What differentiates them is the type of yeast and fermentation process.
Lager beer refers to a specific type of beer characterized by its fermentation and aging process. Below are some key characteristics and details about lager beer.
Lager beer is fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast strains, most notably Saccharomyces pastorianus (formerly known as Saccharomyces carlsbergensis). These yeast strains work at cooler temperatures (typically between 44°F to 55°F or 7°C to 13°C) and settle at the bottom of the fermentation vessel, hence the term bottom-fermenting. This cool fermentation process results in a cleaner and crisper taste profile compared to ales.
One of the defining features of lager beer is the extended aging or conditioning process it undergoes. This aging typically occurs at near-freezing temperatures, a phase known as lagering (from the German word lagern, meaning to store). Lagering can take place for several weeks to several months, depending on the style of lager being produced. During this time, the beer matures, flavors mellow, and any undesirable compounds are removed, resulting in a smoother and cleaner taste.
Lager beers are known for their clean, crisp, and refreshing taste. They tend to have a balanced malt and hop character, with a subdued yeast aroma. The extended fermentation and aging process contribute to a smoother and less fruity flavor profile compared to ales. Lagers can range from light and mild to darker and more robust in flavor, depending on the specific style.
There are several substyles of lager beer, each with its own unique characteristics. Some well-known lager styles include
Lager beer is one of the most widely consumed beer styles globally. It originated in Central Europe, particularly in Germany and the Czech Republic, but has since spread worldwide. Many of the world’s largest beer brands produce lagers, and they are readily available in most parts of the world.
Lager beer’s popularity can be attributed to its approachable and versatile flavor profile, making it a favorite choice for both beer enthusiasts and casual drinkers. Whether enjoyed as a refreshing drink on a hot day or sipped slowly to savor its complexities, lager beer has a rich tradition and continues to evolve with various regional and craft interpretations.
Half of all beer sales in Europe and Canada are lagers. Lagers are bocks, pale American Lagers, and darker pilsners. IPAs and stouts are different kinds of ale.
Pilsner is a subspecies of lager. They are among the hoppiest and usually have a dry and slightly bitter flavor. Their have a light gold color and a crisp finish. Pilsners are a popular summer beer.
American Lagers are highly carbonated beers. They have a pale color that varies from straw to a golden hue. American lagers tend to lack the haps and malt flavor that is found in ales.
Ale beer is characterized by its distinctive fermentation process, which differs from that of lager. Here are some key characteristics and details about ale beer.
Ale beer is fermented with top-fermenting yeast strains, primarily Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These yeast strains work at warmer temperatures (typically between 60°F to 75°F or 15°C to 24°C) and rise to the top of the fermentation vessel during the process, hence the term top fermenting. The higher fermentation temperatures and the rapid yeast activity contribute to a more complex and fruity flavor profile compared to lagers.
Ales are known for their diverse and often robust flavor profiles. They can range from light and refreshing to dark and rich, depending on the specific style. Ales tend to have more pronounced fruity, estery, and often hoppy flavors. The yeast strains used in ale fermentation produce various aromatic compounds that contribute to these flavors.
Ale beer encompasses a wide range of styles, each with its own unique characteristics. Some well-known ale styles include those listed below.
Ales have a rich history and regional variations, with different countries and cultures producing unique ale styles. For example, British ales, including Bitters, Milds, and Porters, are known for their malt-forward profiles. Belgian ales are celebrated for their fruity and spicy yeast character.
The craft beer movement, gained momentum in the late 20th century and continues to thrive. This has led to an explosion of creativity within the ale category. Craft breweries experiment with various ingredients, brewing techniques, and flavor profiles, resulting in a wide array of innovative and specialty ales.
Ales are versatile and can be enjoyed in various settings and seasons. The diversity of styles means there’s an ale for nearly every palate and occasion, whether you prefer a light and refreshing beer on a summer day or a rich and warming ale during the colder months.
Ale beer, with its broad spectrum of flavors and styles, remains a favorite among beer enthusiasts and continues to be an exciting and evolving category in the world of craft brewing.
This is the oldest style of beer and is easily accessible for home brewers. The short warm temperature fermentation turns what could have been a barley and malt tea into an Ale to enjoy.