Difference Between Ale and Lager

With a variety of tastes and appearances, the world of beer is drenched in flavors. With just a change in the way of fermentation, a sea of change can be observed in the way a beer tastes.


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This rule applies equally to all types of beer be it ale or lager, here is an attempt to illustrate the same.

Ale vs Lager

The difference between ale and lager is that ale is produced using the upper-fermentation at high temperatures whereas lager is brewed at low temperatures and using lower fermentation. Ale has a fruity-sweet taste whereas lager is a mild, clean, and crisp tasting beer with a lighter and cleaner appearance.

Ale vs Lager

Ale used to be brewed without hops which is a flavoring agent used in beers. But nowadays hops are used as a bittering agent.

Before fermenting a mixture of herbs or spices was boiled in the wort to balance off the malt. The mixture also acted as a preservative but now it has been replaced by hops.

To produce Larger low temperature and low fermentation method is used. It comes in variety and can be identified by color profile.

It can be pale or dark or amber which depends on the malt and chemical reactions. The term lager originated in German for storage.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAleLager
Fermentation methodIt is fermented at a high temperature. Low fermentation is used.It is fermented at a low temperature. High fermentation is used.
Color profileThe color ranges from golden to amber in American beers.The color profile is pale, dark, or amber.
Taste profileIt has a fruity-sweet taste.It has a mild, clean, and crisp taste.
AppearanceIt is darker compared to Lager.It is lighter and cleaner comparably.
The yeast used for fermentationSaccharomyces cerevisiae.Saccharomyces eubayanus is used for fermentation.

What is Ale?

Ale is the variety of beer that is produced by the upper fermentation method and at high temperatures. The process yields a lot of flavors and the method is the oldest one.

The yeast is applied in the top wort which is why the name upper fermentation.

The flavor is more pronounced as the by-products ester and phenols are greater in quantity. Hops are used as a flavoring agent, but traditionally a mixture of herbs or spices was used which is called gruit.

The mixture used to be boiled in wort before fermentation which acted as a preservative.

The use of hopes balances off the malt with bitterness. The use of the word is very murky as its origin can be traced back to many languages. According to the oxford dictionaries the origin of the word cannot be traced and it is largely disputed.

In medieval times it was considered one of the most important sources of nutrition. The main ingredient used to make ale or any kind of beer is grains which formed the greatest part of the everyday diet of medieval people.

The reason for its high consumption was that it was safer to consume ale than water. It was also consumed by children in a milder form called table beer.

What is Lager?

It is a beer that uses a lower fermentation method. In this method of fermentation, the yeast is introduced in the lower wort and at low temperatures.

This light-colored drink (usually famous in the USA) comes in a variety of colors such as amber, dark brown, etc.

It is left to mature in cold conditions and Saccharomyces pastorianus yeast is used to ferment it. The name for Lager comes from the Greek word for “storage”. It was so-called because it needed to be stored before use.

In old days German Brewers used to dig a cellar for lagering. To keep the beer cool they used to fill the cellars with ice.

Before the advent of refrigerators, Lager fermentation was banned in summers but it became more commonplace as refrigeration became common.

There is a large variety of this beer served worldwide which differ in alcohol content, flavor, etc. Helles which is brewed n southern Germany is pale in color. A brown-colored Lager called Dunkel is also one example.

The most common variety of Lager is the Pale Lager which should be served chilled. The color of the variety ranges from very pale to golden color. The noble hop bitterness gives it its original known taste.

Dark Lagers were commonly produced on large scale after technological advancement which is also one of the most popular Lagers.

Main Differences Between Ale and Lager

  1. Ale production uses upper fermentation and high temperature to get the rich taste whereas Lager is produced using the lower fermentation and low temperature.
  2. Ale is generally light-colored whereas Lager can be dark and amber in color as well.
  3. The yeast used for Ale production in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae and for Lager is Saccharomyces eubayanus.
  4. The beer ale tastes sweet and fruity whereas the taste of Lager is mild,crisp, and clean.
  5. The origin of the word Ale is very controversial and can be traced back to many languages whereas the origin of the word Lager comes from the Greek word for “storage”.
Difference Between Ale and Lager


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1389172313002211
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1469540516684189
  3. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01190873
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123738912000031
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