Lagers and Ales Explained
- Yeast: Every beer is made with yeast, but the fermentation process is handled differently in lagers and ales. Lagers are made with bottom-fermenting strains of yeast that sink to the bottom of the fermenting tank to ferment. This yeast doesn't contribute to the flavor of the beer, so you can expect your lager to be flavored by other ingredients such as hops and malt. Top-fermenting strains of yeast are used in ales, allowing the yeast to ferment at the top of the tank. This encourages the production of chemicals known as esters, which contribute to the flavor of the beer.
- Temperature: Lager yeast is fermented at temperatures of 46 to 59 degrees and takes longer to mature than ale yeast, fermented at room temperature and up to 75 degrees. This makes for a faster fermenting process than that of lagers.
- Taste Factors: You'll get that mild, crisp taste you enjoy in your lager thanks to the cold temperatures and the bottom-fermenting process, while that bitter, malty taste that characterizes most ales comes from increased hops and both regular and roasted malts.
Enjoy Your Beer
These beer facts should help you understand the differences between lagers and ales, but it doesn't really matter as long as you enjoy your beer. Unless you plan to brew your own, the most important consideration is which beer delivers the taste you enjoy. Choose your favorite, and be sure drink responsibly.