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It’s National Lager Day! Here’s the difference between a lager and an ale

Today is National Lager Day. We know that means we should raise a glass to beer, but that doesn't mean we know what's exactly in the glass.

What's the difference between a lager and other beer?

All beer falls into two main categories: ales and lagers. These two categories are separated by two factors:

  1. Type of yeast - This is a microscopic fungus that turns sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol in a process called attenuation. Different types of yeast will also determine amount of alcohol produced, flavor profiles and the range of ways to manipulate the beer.
  2. Temperature of fermentation - This controls how fast the fermentation process happens.

Ales

Ales use Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast,  or "top fermenting" yeast. The yeast has a stronger resilience, so it can produce higher alcohol content. It's also brewed faster and at warmer temperatures.

This means the beers have wilder, fruitier and hoppier flavors because they are less refined. Ales can produce a wide range of beers and tend to be heavier in nature.

Lagers

Lagers use Saccharomyces uvarum yeast, or "bottom fermenting" yeast. This yeast is more fragile, producing less alcohol. It also doesn't protect itself against the cold as well, which means it works at cooler temperatures. The cold slows the brewing time, making for a longer process.

Lagers tend to be crisp and less fruity in aroma. These beers are all about smooth, refined drinkability that contrasts with its more raucous cousin.

In reality, it just depends on your taste. Do you like vast arrays of flavor with lots of different variability, or would you rather sip a smooth one with your pinky finger in the air?

Either way, cheers!