Ale vs. Lager: What Sets Them Apart?

I have always wanted to be a part of the history of brewing, as it is something that mankind has been doing for thousands of years. Brewing becomes a passion as we strive to create our own beer and enjoy it with our buddies. The idea that we can brew a beer that we can all enjoy together is exciting. It doesn’t take long for this excitement to grow into something more.

Regularly, I frequently distribute knowledge and suggestions on Instagram and Facebook. I compose articles, formulae, and presently I manage Oil Creek Brewing Co. I initiated my journey with a one-gallon kit fermenting in my wardrobe. I am known as Matt Dailey.

I mean, there is nothing better. We can reach for a refreshing, crisp, cold, and nice lager in the sun after a hot day. Many of us love a good stout or IPA on a cold day.

Despite being constantly used interchangeably, these two beer styles really deserve and need their own spotlight because they are very different.

Another from them distinguish can you how and lagers and ales between differences the on light shining be I’ll blog this in.

The main attraction of the show is yeast. The crucial distinction between beer styles, lagers and ales, lies in the yeast used during the brewing process. Yeast is the key differentiating factor between these two beer styles.

Let’s begin with the yeast of conversation. Let’s commence with a few key components of beer. A quick reminder that beer is composed of four main ingredients: yeast and hops, grain, and water.

If you use a vial of English ale yeast, pitch in hops with an IBU of 25, and a handful of caramel malt, roasted malt, and some chocolate malt from row 2, you can make a beer with 10 lbs of porter ale.

“Beer is made up of four main ingredients: water, grain, hops and yeast.”

If you use the same hops and malts, but pitch a vial of Czech Lager yeast, you’ll have a Czech dark lager with a different flavor, mouthfeel, and aroma.

So what sets them apart? Once again…It all boils down to yeast.

What Is An Ale?

You can use a different strain of this yeast to brew any other beer in the Ale family, such as Hefeweizen, ESB, stout, IPA, or Kölsch. It ferments between 95°F and 65°F. There are literally hundreds of strains of this yeast. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as ale yeast, is the oldest and largest known variety of yeast in the world of brewing.

Each ale strain has its own unique and characteristic esters, of course. You may also hear this yeast referred to as top fermenting yeast.

What Is A Lager?

There are far fewer strains of yeast that have hybridized itself apart from its more recent counterpart, ale, for producing alcohol colder temperatures. Unlike ale yeast, which has been used for thousands of years, this relatively newer yeast, known as Saccharomyces pastorianus (also called lager yeast in the world of brewing), has only been around for about 150 years.

These are also called bottom-fermenting yeasts. These beers ferment much slower than ales and produce less fruity esters. While this California lager strain typically ferments between the upper 40s to 55°F, it will ferment at 65°F.

How Does the Difference Impact The Brewing Process?


The ability to keep your beer fermenting between the upper 40s and 60°F is mostly dependent on the type of ales you are brewing.


Alcohol Content

(Without explanation) You won’t find a Doppelbock with an 8% ABV. Typically, you will find higher ABV beers in the Ales category. This means that you are starting with a bigger beer. To produce a beer with a higher ABV, you will need a lot more yeast, but Lagers can withstand high ABV.

Temperature of Fermentation

Ferment ales between 65°F and 95°F, as previously mentioned. Kviek strains can even handle temperatures over 100°F! Lagers ferment in the upper 40s to the low 55°F range.

fermentation temperature

Cold Storage

Ultimately, I assure you that exercising patience with your lager will result in a positive outcome. Low temperatures necessitate a prolonged period of storage for lagers, yet every type of beer reaps rewards from being kept in cold storage.

Understanding why being patient is one of the biggest aspects of lager brewing, you will then be able to enjoy a fresh pour of a good helles after it has been lagered for 6-8 weeks.

“Being patient is one of the biggest aspects of lager brewing.”

Hops Content

Craft beer is currently making headway on the radar as lagers such as Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, and Pilsners are not as common. When thinking about Mass Rising or Pivo, there are bold lagers that match the hops found in Elder or Pliny the Elder. Additionally, when thinking about Topper or Heady, there are ales that are considered the biggest and baddest. Neither lagers nor ales are bound by hop content.


During winter, some people may look for dark lagers, while others may prefer pale lagers, especially after mowing the grass. It’s worth noting that both lagers and ales can come in either dark or light colors.

You will be pleasantly amazed.

different beer colors

Are Lagers Lighter than Ales?

Many of your lager varieties exhibit a remarkably refreshing conclusion and a more arid outcome as a consequence of mashing in at a reduced temperature, even in the case of the more intense ones. When brewing, it is likely that you would opt for a lower temperature mashing approach for numerous lager styles. The overall weight of most lagers is typically lighter compared to their ale equivalents.

What Are the Most Popular Types Of Lagers and Ales?

The craft beer industry is making a valiant effort to change the perception of American light lagers. While American light lagers still reign supreme, is it the most popular beer style? But there’s no surprise, we all know that the true and tried IPA is the most popular beer style in the United States.

It will be exciting to see what the American craft beer scene has in store for lager lovers. Now, if you’re looking to find a few IPAs, a sour, and a stout on tap, you’re likely to find them at a craft brewery, just a couple of years ago.

Final Thoughts: The ‘You’ in What You Brew

If you do not have the ability to keep your beer cold during fermentation, you should avoid lagers as off flavors may occur. It all depends on what you want to brew and your capability to brew. Lagers and ales are separated by that. Whether you’re brewing or drinking, there’s a beer for every occasion.

If you’re looking to get into brewing lagers, make sure to check out some temperature control options at your local homebrew store or online retailer like Spike’s TC-100 kit. The main reason homebrewers tend to brew more ales is because they provide hundreds of interesting styles and combinations of ingredients.

For more information, history lessons, tips, tricks and (most importantly!) To see what I’m brewing, follow along at Oil Creek Brewing Co.