What’s The Difference Between Ale & Lager?

When you live in India, for the most part, if you drink beers you say you drink “beer”. For many years, like most of my countrymen & women, I only knew it as beer. Kingfisher is the main choice and in some cases the only choice as most bars tend to carry that in large quantities. But mostly what we get here, the domestic ones atleast, are lagers and not ales. Yes there’s two main types of beer (who the fuck knew). Until a few years go I only knew it as just beer but there is a difference in ales & lagers. The main difference between ales and lagers is the type of yeast used in the brewing process, which in turn dictates what ingredients and techniques can be used.

So let’s see what the internet has to say about the two types:

Ale are fermented warm and made with a top-fermenting yeast, which is, just like it sounds, a yeast that rises to the top of the brew during fermentation. The yeast will ferment the beer quickly, giving it a sweet, full bodied and fruity taste. Most ales contain hops, which help preserve the beer and impart a bitter herbal flavour that balances the sweetness of the malt.

Lagers, from the German word “lagern” meaning to store, are made with a bottom or cold-fermenting yeast that sinks to the bottom of the brew during the fermentation process. Lagers traditionally need to age before their brewing process is complete. They also tend to be more crisp, cleaner & smoother than ales.

Beer Faq even has a little chart that shows you the differences between the two types:

Ale vs. Lager – At A Glance



 Thousands of years old  Relatively new
 Fermented warm  Fermented cold
 Top fermentation  Bottom fermentation
 Yeast – Saccharomyces cervisiae  Yeast – Saccharomyces Uvarum
 Quick brew cycle – as little as 7 days  Longer brew cycle – up to several months
 Usually brewed between 59 – 77 degrees F  Usually brewed between 40 and 55 degrees F
 Strong, assertive, and more robust in taste  Smoother, crisper, and more subtle in taste and aroma
 Served not too cool, usually 50-55 degrees F, 10-14 degrees C,  sometimes called  “cellar temperature”.  Served cold, usually 40-45 degrees F, 4-7 degrees C.


And then ales & lagers both have many sub-styles of their own. We’ll check a few of them out in later posts.

2 thoughts on “What’s The Difference Between Ale & Lager?”

  1. Roshan, I was surprised that living in India you didn’t give us any information about the storied past of beers in your country.You didn’t even mention that there is a whole category of beers called India Pale Ales or IPAs which arose from the fact that when Britain occupied India and controlled it the local British colonists there wanted there home made ales shipped to them but the voyage time caused the beers to spoil. The solution to that problem was initially solved by British brewers adding extra amounts as well as stronger Hops to their Ales and hence IPAs were born. Later with the advent of lager brewing techniques beers could be shipped over to India without spoiling. That’s probably why your home brewed beers tend to be mainly lagers and not ales.

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