Beer 101: Ales & Lagers

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You like a good beer as much as the next person, but all these beer terms and craft beer lingo can be intimidating…and no one wants to be intimidate by a brewski. Let’s break it down.

There are lots labels and names on the beer menu, but when it comes down to it, most beer falls into one of 2 types. First is lager…what you might think of as your father’s beer, because it was what most of the big brewers in America put out in the 20th century. It includes: Pale Lagers, Pilsner, Dark Lagers & German Style Bocks. The other is Ale. You probably have heard of IPA (or India Pale Ale) but this type also includes: Brown Ale, Stout, Porter, Belgian Style, Wheat Beer.

So what’s the difference? It’s the yeast. Ales are made with yeasts that ferment at the top of the beer mixture. Top fermenting yeast has a higher tolerance to alcohol and ferments at warmer temperatures than lagers. Lagers are made with more fragile yeasts that settle to the bottom. These bottom fermenting yeast need more time and cooler temperatures to ferment.

If you want to remember and impress your friends use this tip: Ale starts with A, think A for 'Above' as in TOP fermentation. Also 'Above' for heat rises above. Lager starts with L, think L for 'Low' as in BOTTOM fermentation. Also 'Low' for cooler temps sink low to the bottom.

And there ya go! Cheers!