Difference between Ale and Lager

Difference between Lager and Ale

The primary difference between Ale and Lager is the yeast, all beer can be put in to these two categories based on whether they are brewed  with ‘bottom fermenting’ or ‘top fermenting’ yeast. Top fermenting yeast will form a foam at the top of the wort during fermentation, but actually with both types, the yeast is present throughout the wort and both can ‘flocculate’ forming a cloudy sediment on the bottom of the wort. Another big difference is the temperature of the fermentation (because of the different yeast used) which also affects the time it takes to complete. Then there is the act of lagering which is putting beer into cold storage, which is not exclusively used on lagers, but traditionally was how the style of beer got it’s name. These differences generally produce different characteristics in the two different beers, however there are always exceptions and there are so many different styles of each that have very similar characteristics.


Lager is produced using bottom fermenting yeast which are usually fermented around 5-14 degrees Celsius, traditionally over a period of several weeks and then ‘Lagered’ for up to several months. This process has been sped-up by the continuous fermentation method, and there are warmer fermenting lager yeasts, however these methods produce different characteristics to most traditional lager styles. Lagers are generally lighter in colour then Ales, however some Lagers get as dark as the darkest Ales, Lagers tend to produce simpler flavours due to the low temperature of the fermentation, which produces less esters that give beer it’s fruity and spicy characters.


Ale is the older method of brewing; Lager yeasts have been a more recent discovery, although today Lager dominates the beer market and has since the late 1800’s industrial era brought us pale malts and the Pilsner style was born. Ale is usually produced at around 15-25 degrees Celsius using top fermenting yeasts which produces more esters then lager, giving ales a more full bodied and usually fruitier flavour. Ales range from the very Dark to the very light colours although are rarely as light or clear as Lagers. Despite a common misconception, Ales do not always have a higher alcohol content, nor do dark beers. Some lighter coloured Lagers have a higher alcohol content the other dark Ales. While we are on the subject, some dark beers are sweeter and less bitter then other lighter beers, a beers colour does not reflect it’s bitterness, nor alcohol content.

Australian Lager

Australian Bitter is a very confusingly named style of beer. Bitter as a traditional style is a type of English Pale Ale, Australian Bitter however is a Pale Lager, and it is not just a matter of using a different yeast to produce a similar result, they are completly different styles of beer. An English Bitter Ale is usually a copper brown coloured Ale, served at a temperature of about 11°C, low in fizz with not much (if any) foam. They generally have malty and fruity aromas and often have generously hopped character. English Bitter usually has a flavoursome malty taste with a bitter finish. Australian Bitter Lagers however are a much lighter colour, higher in fizz with a bubbly foam head, served chilled with little aromas and light on flavour with smooth malty characters and a crisp mild bitterness. Which can often confuse backpackers when they order there first Australian Beer. Australian Bitters are designed for one thing and one thing only; to quench the dry dusty throats on a hot summers afternoon.

5.00 avg. rating (98% score) - 1 vote


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Smegs May 23, 2010 at 9:53 pm

yeah! good old aussie beer

2 Brown Magic June 4, 2010 at 8:18 am

Yeah, take that backpackers!

3 The Rite February 7, 2011 at 6:15 am

great blog If you are the type to update your blog regulary, then you have gained one daily reader in me today. keep up the super work.

4 BlueMoon February 8, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Good article. Thank you.

5 Canadian February 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Very nice post, good luck! 😉

6 Amet February 16, 2011 at 2:28 am

Good article. Thank you.

7 allo February 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Good article. Thank you.

8 Amil February 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Good article. Thank you.

9 bob February 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Good article. Thank you.

Previous post:

Next post: