Know Your Beer: Ales vs. Lagers

All types of beers

Alright, so we know the answer to “What is craft beer?” But what are the different types of beer?

That’s easy. The two (main) types of beer are ales and lagers.

It’s all about the yeast, baby.

Beers classified as ales use a top-fermenting yeast brewed at warmer temperatures for short periods of time. Lagers, on the other hand, use bottom-fermenting yeast typically brewed at cooler temperatures for longer periods of time.

In brief, the difference between ales and lagers is shorter, warmer science and longer, colder science. Got it? SCIENCE.

Anyway, the warmer brewing temperature of ales allows the yeast activity to really move around and float to the surface producing some distinct tasting beers. Lagers take longer to brew because the colder temperatures limit the yeast’s movement and require a longer maturation. Lagers tend to have a smoother flavor than their older ale brethren.

Did you know ales have existed for thousands of years whereas lagers are a relatively new creation approximately 200 years young? (Bet you didn’t think you’d get both a history and science lesson on Old Line’s Booze Blog.)

A quick list of Ales: Amber Ale, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale (IPA), Irish Ale, Stout, Porter, and Wheat Beer. A quick list of Lagers: Bock, Dunkel, Marzen, Pale Lager, Dark Lager, Munich Dark Pale, and DoppelBock. In subsequent posts we’ll discuss the different styles of beer in more detail.

We’re advocates for sampling beers of all varieties and encourage others to help their friends expand their horizons. If someone tells you they “only like Ales” or “strictly drink Lagers” try not to laugh. The diversity in these beers is great. Some ale beers are like lagers and vice versa.

If they don’t like specific styles of beer, well, that’s a different story. As always, remember to sample responsibly.

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