Ale vs. Lager: The Difference

Ale vs. Lager: The Difference



Ales have been around thousands of years, as far back as the Sumerians and Egyptians, while lagers came about around the mid-nineteenth century.

But that’s not the only reason why these two beer styles are so different.

The main difference between lagers and ales come down to the type of yeast  used in the brewing process. It’s because this yeast determines what ingredients and brewing techniques can be used during the brewing process.


Ales, fermented at warm temperatures, are made with a top-fermenting yeast, meaning that the yeast rises to the top of the brew during fermentation. Ales usually have a stronger taste than lagers due to fast fermentation. That’s because ales can be brewed in as little as 7 days. Many countries even serve their ales at cellar temperature.


Lagers, fermented at cold temperatures, are made with a bottom-fermenting yeast, meaning that the yeast sinks to the bottom of the brew during fermentation. Lagers need at least a month to ferment in order to age properly. This longer, colder process produces esters, giving the lager a more fruity taste. Lagers tend to be cleaner, crisper, smoother and more mellow in taste. Lagers should always be served cold.

Can you remember all that? Here’s a chart that breaks down the difference between lagers and ales:

Ales Lagers
Fermented warm Fermented cold
Top-fermenting yeast Bottom-fermenting yeast
Quick brewing cycle Long brewing cycle
Served at cellar temperature(50-55 degrees Fahrenheit) Served cold(40-45 degrees Fahrenheit)

Do you prefer ales or lagers? Share your preference below.