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Ale vs. Lager

There is some basic terminology in home brewing that all brewers needs to understand right away, such as the difference between an ale and a lager. Let’s keep this short and simple:

Ales, in general, use yeast that rises to the top of the fermentation vessel to do its thing. They are fermented at room temperature (approximately between 60 and 74 degrees F). I have only ever home brewed ales, and I ferment them in my basement during the fall, winter, and spring when it is nice and cool.

Some various examples of ales include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bell’s Amber, and Newcastle Brown Ale.

Lagers typically use different strains of yeast whose commute to work is to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. Lagers are fermented at a cooler temperate (46-59 degrees F) which suppresses extra flavors that can be given off by the yeast. Historically lagers were fermented in caves and cellars that were consistently at those lower temperatures. I don’t have one of those, and unfortunately refrigerators these days do not hold a steady temperature (they cool off whenever they get up to a set temperature). Variation in temperature can be bad for the fermenting beer so if you want to home brew a lager you will have to buy a temperature controller to keep your refrigerator at a constant temperature.

Some various examples of lagers include Budweiser, Saint Pauli Girl, and Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest.

Personally I prefer ales because they tend to be more adventurous than lagers, although a nice crisp lager can be very refreshing at certain times of the year.

Which do you like better, ales or lagers?

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