9th January 2023

What’s the difference between Ale and Lager?

If you’re not familiar with beer (we can’t relate), then you’ll know that there are many kinds to choose from, all competing to be peoples’ drink of choice. The most popular types of beer are ale and lager, but, what’s the difference between the two?

When it comes to brewing, lager is fermented at colder temperatures whereas ale is fermented at warmer temperatures. Lagers are made with bottom-fermenting yeast which means they ferment from the bottom to the top whilst ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast which means they ferment from the top down to the bottom.

As far as the fermentation process, lagers’ can take anywhere from a few weeks to months vs ales’ can take anywhere from a few days to weeks, depending on the style and desired flavour profile.

What Goes into Brewing a Lager or an Ale?

Brewing beer is the process of turning a mix of raw ingredients into an alcoholic drink. The ingredients typically consist of malted barley, hops, yeast, and water.

Different kinds of beers are made by varying the type or quantity of each ingredient. For example, a lager has more hops than an ale because the lager is fermented at colder temperatures for longer periods than ales.

the history of beer and brewing

Examples of Lagers Versus Ales

If you’re an avid beer drinker, you’ll probably already have your go-to. Whether that’s a lager or an ale, we’re not here to judge. When it comes to which is better, it all comes down to personal preference.

As for the most popular, lager wins this race by far – based on a survey by the Society of Independent Brewers, 71% of people chose lager as their favourite beer type, with IPAs coming in second with 46% and pale ales in third with 39%.

Some of the most popular lagers include Carling, Foster’s, Birra Moretti, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Coors, Stella Artois, and Carlsberg. Whereas some of the best-selling ales include Sharp’s Doom Bar, Greene King IPA, Fuller’s London Pride, Greene King Abbot Ale, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Wainwright, and Marston’s Pedigree. Craft beers are mostly ales, produced in smaller, passionate craft breweries with a focus on quality whereas pubs typically sell more of the mainstream lagers.

Lagers Vs. Ales – Which One Should I Choose?

Two very different kinds of beer, lagers are typically lighter in colour, crisper, and often have a lower alcohol content. Ales are typically darker in colour, stronger in flavour, and have a higher alcohol content.

Ales are generally more bitter, hoppy, and fruity than lagers. The higher temperature and longer fermentation process create more complex flavours coupled with the top-fermenting yeast used, which creates a stronger flavour profile. The opposite is true of lagers.

Should I drink ale or lager? Whilst different, both can be enjoyed in their own right. If you’re just starting out in the beer world and want to find your usual order at a pub, then we’d recommend trying a few different lagers and ales. Whilst lagers and ales are completely different, there are also a lot of significant differences in the brands you try, so make sure you try various ones to properly select which beer you like best. There’s often a lot of trial and error in the average beer lover’s journey to their favourite beer – don’t just stick to what your friends drink or what you think you know, there are hundreds of options available.

lager vs ale

Common Questions Answered!

Are ales healthier than lagers?

When it comes to ales vs lagers, many people wonder which is the healthier option. Generally speaking, ales contain more beneficial compounds like antioxidants and vitamins that can provide health benefits. On the other hand, lagers are typically considered to be lighter and contain fewer calories. It all depends on what you define as ‘healthier’; if your focus is on calories, opt for a lager, if you’re more interested in what’s actually in the drink, then steer towards ale. Ultimately, both ales and lagers can be part of a healthy lifestyle if consumed in moderation.

Is Guinness a lager or ale?

Guinness is one of the most popular beers in the world, and its unique flavour has made it a favourite for many people. The question of whether Guinness is a lager or ale is often asked, and the answer is that it’s neither. Guinness is actually a stout, which is a beer style that was developed in the 18th century in Ireland. It’s brewed using roasted malt or barley, hops, yeast, and water. Unlike lagers and ales, stouts have a more full-bodied flavour with notes of chocolate and coffee. They are also known for their dark colour and creamy texture. The signature taste of Guinness comes from the unique blend of malts used during its production process. The combination of top-fermenting yeast and cold temperatures also creates the unique flavours found in every pint.


What is a pilsner?

A pilsner is a type of lager beer. It originated in the city of Pilsen, Czech Republic and is named after the city. Pilsners are usually pale yellow to golden in colour and have a light to medium-bodied flavour with a pleasant hop aroma. They tend to be lightly hopped and have a slightly sweet taste, often with a dry finish. In terms of alcohol content, they usually range from 4% to 6%. The most common variety is Bohemian-style pilsner, which is pale yellow with a herbal, spicy hop bitterness. This style has become popular around the world, but other varieties such as German-style pilsners or American-style pilsners also exist. Pilsners are often enjoyed on their own or with food such as grilled meats and salads.

Why are lagers so much more popular than ales?

Lagers are the most popular type of beer in the world for a variety of reasons. First, lagers tend to be lighter and crisper than ales, which makes them more refreshing and easier to drink. Many people feel like the intense flavours of ale are a bit too much when going out for a few drinks with friends, combine that with our UK pub culture and session drinking, and you can see just why people opt for the easy choice. This is especially true when compared to heavier ales. Lagers also have a longer shelf life than ales because they are fermented at cooler temperatures and use different types of yeast. This means that lagers can be stored for longer periods without spoiling or losing their flavour. Finally, lagers tend to be more affordable than ales, making them a more accessible option for many people. All of these factors combine to make lagers much more popular than ales on a global scale.


Do lagers or real ales give you a worse hangover?

If you’re having to ask this question, then our condolences for the flashbacks that you have after spending the morning curled up or with your head in the toilet… There’s unfortunately not a proven answer to this question, and it all comes down to your personal experience, tolerance and of course, how much you drink.  It’s been said that beers with a higher sugar content can make hangovers worse, so that’s definitely something to look for if you want to avoid the dreaded morning after. As a rule of thumb though, the darker the beer, the worse the hangover, so dark ale and stout might leave you a bit worse for wear compared to lighter beers. Comparing pale ales and lager is a bit harder to work out though, and many people have different experiences with each, so you’re just going to have to find out for yourself!


If you love beer as much as we do, then how does a career surrounding beer sound? Pretty good, right? If you’ve never considered running your own pub, then we think it’s worth some thought. Our pub tenants are organised, passionate, reliable and love the pub culture. If you reckon you’d be a perfect fit for one of our pubs to let, we’d love to work with you and tell you a bit more about Trust Inns and what we do; we provide the brick and mortar to our tenants who become the face of their local pub. Interested in running a pub but would like more information? Contact our team today.

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