What Is The Difference Between Pilsner And Lager? (Quick Guide)

Have you found yourself wondering what the difference between pilsner and lager is? Maybe you have heard people discussing pilsners and you want to know more about them?

What Is The Difference Between Pilsner And Lager? (Quick Guide)

Or are you looking for a new lager to enjoy and want some inspiration? Whatever your question is, we have the answer for you!

When it comes to lager, there are so many options out there it is easy to become overwhelmed! You can spend days and days searching and sampling, trying to find one that is right for you.

And no-doubt you will find yourself unsure what the difference between some of them is, especially lager and pilsner.

They can sound similar, but often, it is hard to tell what a pilsner is, what a lager is, and what the differences are between the two? And no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to find the answers you need!

Well, no more! Today we are here with the quick guide that you need! Keep reading to find out what the difference is between pilsner and lager.

We will walk you through what pilsner and lager is before showing you the differences and similarities. Let’s get started!

What Is Lager?

Let’s start by first looking at what lager is. Lager is of German origins, where brewers in the nineteenth century adapted a process of long fermentation and storing periods to create lager.

In German, lager means ‘to store,’ so you can see how appropriate the name is given the brewing process of lager!

German brewers would build cellars specifically for brewing and storing lager, filling these cellars with ice from rivers and lakes.

This helped to keep the lager cool in the hot summer months, helping it ferment and age.

These days it’s far easier to brew lagers thanks to the invention of refrigerators and air conditioning. Gone are the days of needing to dig out cellars to keep the lager cool!

Although if you are trying to brew lagers at home yourself, they are some of the harder beers to brew as they have specific temperature needs and aging times.

The cold temperatures used to ferment lager help the yeast consume the sugar at a slower rate, giving the drink a crisp and clean flavor.

It takes so long to ferment thanks to the bottom fermenting method used. Despite the long process, lagers are now the second most popular beer in the world, just behind Ales.

Types Of Lager

We can divide lagers into two types: pale and dark lager. Within these two types there are several subcategories.

For example, pale lager has Bock, Helles, Pilsner, and Marzen and dark lager has Doppelbock, Dunkel, and Scarziber.

Now, we know Pilsner is listed as a sub-category, but don’t worry, we will cover that in more detail later.

Let’s now take a quick look at the different types of lager in closer detail.

Pale Lager

Pale lager is the most common type of lager produced around the world. Pale lager tends to be quite mild and is best served cold compared to wines or craft beers that taste better at room temperature.

Pale lager has been brewed since the mid nineteenth century when Gabriel Sedlmayr started pale ale brewing techniques at the Spaten Brewery in Germany.

Here, he started experimenting with brewing methods to give us one of the most consumed beers, the pale lager.

Dark Lager

Before pale lager brewing methods were adopted, most lagers brewed were dark lagers. Dark lagers are typically dark in color, with the brightest being an amber or red color.

Dark lagers tend to have a more bitter or smoky flavor compared to pale lagers and are less focused on hop flavors.

Popular Lager Brands

Now that we have established the difference between the types of lager, let’s take a look at some popular brands of lager. Below we have a quick list for you to look at.

  • Corona
  • Carlsberg
  • Heinkene
  • Pilsner Urquell

Can you spot your favorite on this list? It’s just a short list, but there are so many other lager brands out there! Why not try a few and see if you can tell which ones are light lagers and which ones are dark lagers?

What Is Pilsner?

What Is Pilsner?

If you have picked up on our hints earlier, you will know that Pilsner is a type of pale lager.

We have already covered the process of making a pale lager earlier and the history of them, but there is a little more to the origins and history of pilsners. So, let’s dive in and take a closer look now!

History Of Pilsners

Pilsen, in the Czech Republic, has been brewing beer since 1295, however, these beers weren’t considered as good as those brewed in Germany.

The main reason for this was that beers in the Czech Republic were top-fermented, meaning their taste was different, and not to the liking of most Western customers!

In 1839, Pilsen officials founded a city-owned brewery, later known as the ‘Pilsner Urquell’ which has become one of the leading beer brands in today’s market.

After learning that German brewers were using cold fermentation to improve the quality of the beer and extend its shelf life.

The brewery hired Josef Groll, a Bavarian brewery who brought new ingredients and brewing methods.

He combined brighter malts with the high-quality water and hops in Pilsen to create a fantastic tasting beer that’s golden in color.

This beer later became known as the Pilsner and revolutionized the lager game!

As Pilsner was being created, the price of glass manufacturing in Europe dropped significantly.

This meant that taverns and households across the country could afford new and clear beer glasses to showcase their new golden pilsners.

Now that we have established what pilsner is and looked at how this lager came to be, let’s move on and answer the burning question that brought you here today!

What Is The Difference Between Pilsner And Lager?

Let’s dive into it! Although a pilsner is a lager, the type of lager it is was developed later than more traditional lagers.

Pilsner is a pale lager with light and golden color and large foaming. Dark lagers on the other hand are very dark, often black with very minimal foaming.

Modern pilsners are made with a heavy hop and malted barley that helps to give the pilsner its typical aromas and taste that we have come to know and love!

The strength of pilsners will vary from 4.5% to 5.2% depending on the brand of pilsners.

These days it is considered to be one of the most drinkable beers, doesn’t thinking about it just make you want one?

And although pilsners look and taste completely different from dark lagers, they do fall in the same broad category of lager!

Their brewing process is incredibly similar, using long storage periods and cold fermentation, giving them longer shelf lives.

While the color and taste are the main difference between pilsner and lager, they are both still lagers.

Which one you want to drink will vary depending on your personal preference. Why not try both a dark lager and pilsner and see which one you prefer?

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you leave us today check out our brief FAQ section to get any last-minute questions answered!

Is Corona A Pilsner?

Corona is a pale lager, just like Pilsner is, but are they the same thing? Well, they are very similar, but not the same thing.

Although, as both Corona and Pilsner are pale lagers, you aren’t likely to be told you are wrong if you called a Corona a Pilsner!

Is Heinekin A Pilsner Or A Lager?

Heinken is a pilsner and a lager! Pilsner is a type of pale lager that is a bright or golden color and has lots of foaming.

Sounds like Heinekin doesn’t it? Pilsners and pale lagers tend to have a heavy hop flavor and are sweeter than their dark lager counterparts that are more bitter.

Final Thoughts 

And there you have it! Pilsner is a type of pale lager, and isn’t that different from other lagers out there!

The brewing and storage process is incredibly similar, helping to give pilsners and lager their extended shelf life.

Their main difference is their taste and color. Pilsners are much brighter and lighter in color. They also have a different flavor, with more of a focus on the hop used.

You can expect a light and aromatic taste, that is almost sweet compared to the bitter taste of dark lagers.

These days there are so many different types of lagers out there you could spend days sampling them all to find your new favorite.

Why not use our guidance on the difference between pilsners, pale lager, and dark lager today and see which one you prefer?

Mandy Winters

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