2021 Craft Beer Issue: Can You Tell the Difference Between an Ale and Lager?


Simply put, most beer is either an ale or a lager. Here’s how to tell the two apart.

• Yeast gathers toward the top of the tank during fermentation
• Ages for just a few weeks around 40–55 degrees Fahrenheit
• Aromatic and sometimes fruity
Popular types:
• India Pale Ale
• Pale Ale
• Stout
• Porter
• Sour
• Wheat Beer
• Gose

• Yeast gathers toward the bottom of the tank during fermentation
• Ages for months around 32–45 degrees Fahrenheit
• Crisp, clean and refreshing
Popular types:
• Pilsner
• Helles
• Kölsch
• Bock

Not every beer fits nicely into these two categories; many craft brews are ale/lager mixes, or “hybrids,” and can have wildly different properties.
Popular types:
• Session Beer
• Pumpkin Spice Beer
• Coffee Beer