Pale Ale Vs Lager (Beginners Guide)

Beer is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages worldwide and almost every culture has some form of beer which is commonly enjoyed.

Pale Ale Vs Lager (Beginners Guide)

Many people enjoy beer on a casual basis and do not know the ins and outs of everything that goes into making these drinks.

While this is standard, a question a lot of beer drinkers often ask is what is the difference between ale and lager.

If you drink beer quite regularly you have probably heard casual mention of different beers being categorized as either a pale ale or a lager and since these distinctions are spoken about.

So casually it is understandable that you might not want to ask what these terms mean.

While there are some differences you can pick up on between ale and lager, some of them are less obvious and can not be guessed just by drinking a few of each.

This article aims to distinguish the differences between ale and lager and let any beer drinker understand what makes an ale, an ale and what makes a lager, a lager.

If you have any questions on what defines an ale or what defines a lager, keep reading to get the information you need!

What Is The Difference Between Ale And Lager?

If you do not know, one of the basic categorizations a beer can fall into is either an ale or a lager.

No matter what beer you are talking about, with a few exceptions, it will likely fall under the umbrella of an ale or a lager. So what defines these terms?

The main difference between these ales and lagers is the yeast which is used within them as well as the temperature at which they are brewed.

The yeast which ale is made with is called Saccharomyces cerevisae, and this is the yeast which is most typically used for making bread and within most other types of baking.

This type of beer is most typically fermented at temperatures between 60 and 75 Fahrenheit. 

Lagers on the other hand use a different type of yeast which is called Saccharomyces pastorianus and this will be fermented at a temperature between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

While this is good information to know when it comes to technical distinctions, what does this actually mean when it comes to the flavor and experience of drinking the beer?

Ales will tend to be more full-bodied as well as being a bit sweeter when it comes to the aroma they give off.

Lagers on the other hand tend to have a much more clean and crisp taste and are much more suited for drinking in warmer weather.

There are many different types of ale which are popular but the most common categories which have gained popularity are IPAs as well as Stouts, both of these beers have many different sub forms and have a lot of people who love drinking them.

While lager is just as popular, there are fewer different forms of lager with one of the most notable being Pilsner.

While both ales and lager are drunk all over the world as well as produced in all different places, generally speaking, ales tend to be more popular and more widely produced in Britain, America and Belgium, while lagers tend to be more popular in cultures like Germany or the Czech.

History Of Lager And Ale

History Of Lager And Ale

In recorded history, ales go back a lot further with recorded brewing of ales going back to the Middle Ages as it was easy to make and would not spoil that easily, especially when the weather got warmer.

There are records of monks brewing beer in caves attempting to use the lower temperature but because of this the whole process took longer and did not work as effectively as usual.

However, these monks continued to try different methods and experiment with different types of yeast and eventually this method of brewing at a lower temperature with a new type of yeast turned into what we know today as lager.

Because refrigeration was only popularized in the latter half of the 18th century, before this it was only possible to make lager in colder months.

Once this beer had been fermented it was stored in cellars which were able to keep a lower temperature and occasionally used ice from lakes.

The reason lagers are called this is that this is the German word for storage.

However, once refrigeration gained traction and widespread accessibility, it made the possibility of success for lager much more achievable and this developed within Bavaria as well as Bohemia.

However, countries like Britain stayed drinking their more traditional ales, and it was not actually until the end of the 20th century that Britain began to start accepting lagers.

The mass production of lager in Britain did not begin to gain traction until the months which followed the second world war, however this did not affect the diversity of the beer ecosystem positively.

This is because production of lager began overtaking the market and pale lager became synonymous with beer.

This lead to a lot of smaller breweries having to close down and the 60s and 70s are now seen as a dark time for beer because of this.

Luckily, ales regained their popularity once craft beer started to become more popular within the 80s and this lead to the popular variety of beer which we now have today.

Unfortunately this does mean that there is still some negativity harbored towards lager for the dominance they held over the industry in the late 20th century, but this attitude is slowly waning. 


There are significant differences between ale and lager and these can be noticed if you drink enough of either of them.

Both have noticeably different tastes as well as contexts within them being appropriate for drinking. People tend to have a preference but most beer drinkers enjoy both.

Mandy Winters

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