Difference between Ale and Lager

All beer is traditionally divided into two main types- ale and lager. In this article, we will see what the differences between them are.


Ale vs Lager
Woodies Ale House, an ale pub in Leeds, UK

The history of ale goes back to medieval times, when it was, along with bread, a source of nutrition. Ale contained a little alcohol, which made the beverage possible to preserve, in turn providing hydration without strong intoxication. Modern technology allows the presence of all the qualities original ale had, while adding all sorts of additional tastes and components to the beverage.

lager beer
A logo of lager beer brewery H. & J. Pfaff, Boston, the US

Lager is a type of beer that is fermented at low temperatures. The practice of fermenting lager is thought to have started in the fifteenth century. The increase in production of lager is connected with the development of refrigeration, as this process made it possible to brew lager year-round.

Ale vs Lager

What is the difference between Ale and Lager?

Ale is a top-fermenting type of beer, meaning that during the fermentation process the yeast ferments at the top of the container. Lager, on the other hand, involves the bottom-fermenting process, meaning that yeast is at the bottom of the container during the process of making of beer.

Founders Old Curmudgeon
A goblet of Founders Old Curmudgeon, a craft old ale manufactured in the United States

The yeasts used in the fermentation process in ale are fermented under a relatively warm temperature (about 70- 75 degrees Fahrenheit). This is the reason why ales ferment and mature significantly faster than lagers, which are fermented under cooler temperatures (46- 59 degrees Fahrenheit).

Tanks used for lager fermentation
Tanks used for lager fermentation in Peerless brewing

There are different yeasts used in the making of ale and lager, and they are referred to sometimes as “ale yeast” and “lager yeast.”

The difference in yeast used also results in the difference of the taste of a beverage. While ales are more bitter and robust, lagers are generally mellower and are lighter.

While ales are served warm in most cases, lagers are usually served cold.

Comparison chart

Ale Lager
Is top-fermenting Is bottom-fermenting
Is fermented under warmer temperatures Is fermented under cooler temperatures
Generally more bitter Generally mellower
Is more robust in taste Is lighter in taste
Has a more intricate taste and flavor Has a more balanced taste and flavor is not pronounced
Is served warmer Is normally served cool
Is less carbonated Is highly carbonated
Ales are older Lagers are younger