Characteristics of Ales and Lagers
Beer Learning

Basic Characteristics of Ales and Lagers

Characteristics of Ales and Lagers

The difference between a lager and an ale comes down to the unique color, flavor, and scent of each. Lagers are usually light, crisp, and refreshing, while ales tend to have fruitier characteristics. However, to understand the difference we must learn the makeup and brewing process of each style. Let’s check out the essential characteristics of each beer style.

It’s All About the Yeast

Defining a style of beer comes down to the yeast used during the fermentation process. There is ale yeast as well as lager yeast, and both dictate the temperature at which the beer is fermented.

While an ale ferments at a warmer temperature, (55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit), lagers can be fermented at temperatures between 38 to 50 degrees. Fermenting beer in this cooler temperature inhibits the fruity aromas we taste, and works to mellow the beer.

Characteristics of Ale

As mentioned above, ales ferment with a unique yeast to lagers. This yeast type yields a higher alcoholic content, and a more robust, round flavor. They tend to be fruitier and more aromatic, with intricate smells and compositions. Majority of bitter beers, for example, are usually ales, due to the increase in the number of hops in this type of beer. Ales are also typically darker in color, with a thick, cloudy appearance.

Characteristics of Lager

Lagers are light, crisp, and refreshing in taste. They tend to be easier to drink than an ale, with a smooth and mellow finish. While the flavors are less robust and intricate, they are the more popular beer of choice in the states. Large beer producers including Coors, Budweiser, and Heineken all mass-produce lagers.

Though ales and lagers have their unique makeup and characteristics, their differences come down to the brewing process and ingredients of both. While traditionally lagers have taken over the lion’s share of the beer market, the recent surge in breweries and microbreweries have seen an increase in the production of ales. Which do you prefer?

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