Difference Between Beer and Lager


When you visit your local bar for a cold one, choosing between a beer and a lager can sometimes be confusing. You may wonder about the difference between beer and lager and even how each is made. Unless you are an ale expert, you may be unaware that lager is a type of beer.

What Is Beer?

Before we delve into how ales and lagers are made, you need to understand one critical point. All beers are either an ale or lager. The categorization of a beverage into ale or lager is not dependent on the alcohol’s content, color, or flavor. 

Both ales and lagers differ according to the fermentation process, as one uses warm temperatures and the other uses colder temperatures. We will get into the difference between beer vs. lager further below. 

How Is Beer Made: The Role of Ale Yeast

Beer is an alcoholic beverage brewed from malt, yeast, hops, and water. The malt portion of the beverage most often comes from malted barley and wheat, but brewers may use corn or rice as a substitute. 

The beverage gets its signature bitter flavor from the addition of hops, which also act as a preservative. Some brewers will add fruit and other flavors to create a distinctive taste. The alcohol strength ranges from four to six percent per volume based on the brewing process. 

How Are Lagers Made?

In the past, one could differentiate between beer and lager because brew was made with hops, and lager was not, but this is no longer the case. 

Lagers are also alcoholic drinks, and they are brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast. The main difference between beer and lager is that lagers use yeast fermented at low temperatures for a longer period than beer. Beers are fermented at warmer temperatures and are not cold fermented.

Lagers are a beer type kept cold for months before being sold or consumed. The most popular type of lager is the pilsner. Lagers are typically pale in color and served chilled. 

Pale Lager Beer Became Popular in the 1800s

The birth of the pilsner gave rise to lager’s popularity. Lager beers are the most consumed worldwide. 

Before the 1800s, all beers were referred to as ales because yeast was not an ingredient, and cold fermentation and storage would have been unattainable. 

Craft Brewers Create Ales Quicker With Top-Fermenting Yeast

When learning about the differences between beer and lager (a German word), it is essential to realize most small craft beer brewers prefer creating pale ales, which is why you will find them more readily available. 

Ales use a type of yeast that produces brew within seven days. The warm fermentations associated with an ale make it easier for small brewers to create ales without needing vast storage. 

Beer Has a Rich History

You may be surprised to learn beer was once considered nutritional. In Medieval Europe, even small children were given something called small beer, which had a lower alcohol content that was unfiltered and had the thickness of porridge. This beverage only had a 1% alcohol level, which was just enough for preservation. 

The history of ale and lager changed dramatically when yeast strains were finally viewed under a microscope and refrigeration became available. Though new methods of brewing continue to arise, many brewers are traditionalists.

Beer and Lager Enrichen Your Moments

There is nothing like cracking open a cold one after a long day, at a BBQ, or with your favorite meal. The key difference between beer and lager is that the ale goes through a shorter fermentation process while lager beer takes more time and is kept cold. 

Now that you know the differences between beer and lager, and different beer types, you will feel better equipped to choose the right one based on your taste and preferences.