Ale vs lager: Know your beers like an expert

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Posted: October 28, 2019

When it comes to types of beer, it can be tough to know the differences if you’ve never been much of a beer drinker. Not to mention, the brands of beer can also make a big difference in the flavours you find in certain types, making it harder to know what to order when out at a restaurant. 

To help demystify this refreshing drink, here are a few tips on knowing what each type is, and learning how to tell the difference so you know what to order from our beverages menu when you next visit Hunter & Barrel. 

What is ale?

Ale is one of the most common types of beer, and the key difference between ale and lager (the other major type) is in the way it ferments. Notably, the yeast rises to the top of the fermenting vessel then sink to the bottom as it finishes fermenting. 

There are numerous results that stem from this fermentation process. For the drinker, this means it’s a beer with a higher alcohol content, with a hoppier taste. These hops can also make the beer a little more bitter than a lager, which can be a positive or a negative depending on your personal preferences!

In terms of looks, an ale is typically darker and cloudier than a lager. 

Also note that ales come in many types, including Pale Ales, India Pale Ales (IPAs), Stouts, Porters, Wheat Beers, and Sour Ales. 

What is lager? 

Lager, on the other hand, uses a different type of yeast in its fermentation process. This type does not rise to the top of a fermentation vessel during this process – rather simply remaining at the bottom. 

This type of yeast is also more fragile, meaning that it needs more careful brewing to create the specific conditions it needs to thrive. 

Lagers also have an additional step in the process – that of a cold condition where it is essentially left in cold storage to create a clearer beer with finer and more delicate flavours.

Typically, the alcohol content of a lager is lower than that of an ale, and lagers also have less of a hoppy taste and more fruity, light flavours.  

Like ales, there are sub-categories of lagers to explore, including pilsners and bocks. 

What is craft beer?

The meteoric rise of craft beer popularity in recent years means that it will also help to have a basic understanding of these brews. 

Frustratingly, there is no set definition of what a craft beer is.

The name certainly implies that the beer has been brewed in a small, independent brewery. Some would argue that to call it a craft beer, it must come from one of these smaller breweries, while others would argue that a craft beer can come from anywhere, so long as it offers interesting and complex flavours. 

A craft beer can therefore be either an ale or a lager, although current trends tend to see more ales than lagers in this category. 
Not sure which kind of beer best suits your meal? Or want to try something new? Don’t hesitate to ask your server or bartender for a recommendation during your next visit to Hunter & Barrel.

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