The difference between a lager and an ale
Our beer expert shows us the differences between these 2 popular types of beer.
I was serving beer the other day and one of
my customers said firmly, “I don’t drink ales, they’re flat and taste bad, so
don’t even offer me one”.
So I offered him a taste of the Drayman’s Weiss beer we
had on tap. He loved it and ordered two.
He came back after that and said he’d like
two more. That’s when I told him it was an ale.
The look on his face – like he’d just
stepped in rocking-horse shit.
This tells me two things:
1. Not enough people know the
difference between an ale and a lager
2. They don’t care, as long as the
beer tastes good.
We need to learn more about beer and beer
styles, brewers, brands and ingredients when we drink beer in SA.
Here are some interesting differences between
ales and lagers:
is an ale?
An ale is a type of beer that ferments at
higher temperatures than a lager.
The yeast starts fermenting closer to the top of the beer - this adds more
flavours and aromas, as well as body to the beer.
It also allows a certain degree of experimenting
with hops and yeasts.
go very well with food
These beers go phenomenally well with
different types of food and most certainly are not served warm, though the
flatter, or slightly less carbonated myth is true.
True craft and micro-brewed ales are mostly
unfiltered and unpasteurised. Some are even ‘bottle conditioned’ - this means
they ferment again with some extra sugars in the bottle to reach their final
They aren’t only made by microbreweries
like Devils Peak and Citizen, but also by the big guys, like Castle Milk Stout,
is a lager?
A lager is brewed and fermented at colder
temperatures for longer.
They have a bottom fermenting yeast.
It tastes cleaner, crisper and sometimes
less full of body than 90% of all ales. Although a good Bock beer (style of lager) could have
the same similarities as an ale.
quenchers with spicy food
These are enjoyed as thirst quenchers, with
spicy food and around a braai or in the sun.
Strangely though, it is harder to brew a
good lager, than an ale, as they need more care and temperature control. These
are the most popular and mass produced beers in the world.
Within these two beer types, you get many
beer styles, such as pilsners, porters, stouts, Belgian ales, IPAs, bitters, lambics
and amber ales, but more on these another time.
There is a beer to suit all tastes and
times, try something different, or you’ll never know any better.
Martin started the Cape Town Festival of
Beer in 2009.
twitter @CTFestofBeer and Facebook CTFOB.
He is also an owner of Keg King, twitter @kegkingsa and
Keg King on Facebook.