Simply put … it’s the Yeast.
I like just about any kind of beer that has flavor whether it is an ale or lager. I’m not particularly biased in either direction. If you’re like me, the difference between lager and ale is diluted. But there are many people out there searching for the answer to this question. So I did a little digging and here’s the dirt…
Ales are much older than lagers by thousands of years. Lagers didn’t make their debut until the early 1900s. Typically, ales tend to have a more robust flavor and are better appreciated at warmer temperatures (45°-55° degrees) than lagers (38°-45° F). Lagers are generally lighter and smoother in taste.
Yeast is the determining factor between lager and ale. Lager yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus, is reported to have been used in 1904 at the Carlsberg brewery in Denmark. Though there are many similarities of lager yeast and ale yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) perform in a profoundly different manner.
Lager yeast ferments under a much colder temperature and ages for much longer making for a much milder, smoother tasting beer. The word lager means ‘to cold age something’ in German. Conversely, ale ferments at a much warmer temperature and doesn’t get aged as long, so they stay more robust and full-flavored. An ale can be brewed in as little as seven days, whereas a lager brew cycle lasts several months.
It doesn’t matter what hops or malts are used, so the color is not the determining factor. You could have a really dark lager or very pale ale. Ales typically are a little bit thicker and lagers are a bit thinner, but the two groups overlap in many ways which causes some confusion.
Suffice it to say that limiting yourself to either ale or lager is like limiting yourself to red or white wine. With all the distinct variations and flavors out there, a little experimentation might lead you to the conclusion that you are switch hitter when it comes to beer.
Check out this Video on lager versus ale of the brewmaster at Mill Street Brewery.
Tri-State Liquors has a full line of ice cold Kegs in stock. We got all your beverage needs covered and we are conveniently located in beautiful TAX-FREE Delaware with easy access from I-95.