Ales Vs. Lagers: What’s the Difference?

You’ve probably heard the saying “there are two kinds of people in this world…” followed by some sort of generalized statement that lumps people into two categories. Those who like Batman and those who like Superman. Morning larks and night owls. People who enjoy pineapple on their pizza and those who think the very idea is an abomination.

Same thing happens in the world of beer. You’ve probably heard of people saying, “I really enjoy a good lager,” or “Ale is my favorite kind of beer.” If you’re not too savvy with beer terminology, you might be wondering what the difference is between the two. Well, no worries, beer drinker. We’re here to dispel any confusion you might have. And maybe give you an edge on trivia nights to boot.

Beer can generally be broken down and placed into one of two different categories in the beer family tree: ales and lagers. These two branches are closely related, but there’s one big element that separates them: yeast.

Yep. It all comes down to yeast.

Ales and lagers are made with different strains of yeast, which usually dictates the temperature in which they are fermented. Many beer connoisseurs say that lagers are brewed with bottom-fermented yeast and ales are made with top-fermented yeasts. But it’s a bit more, well, involved.

Think about it – if you’ve watched your beer brew, you know that the yeast doesn’t just automatically float up or down and stay there. The yeast is active, and it’s hungry, seeking out sugars within the beer. This process, known as fermentation, gives the beer a cloudy appearance.

As for that foam you see on the top, ales usually have a larger head (called a kräusen), and lagers tend to have a smaller one. This is mostly due to the temperature in which the beers are brewed. See, yeast, like most of us, works more slowly in colder temperatures. Lagers are generally brewed in colder temperatures than ales, which is why they have a smaller kräusen. Oh, and speaking of which, the colder temperatures tend to create a cleaner, crisper taste in lagers. The more you know!

Although ales and lagers may be created differently, they often share so many characteristics that there are no absolute rules about either group. There are so many varieties out there that the answer really can’t be as cut and dry as we would like. Why? Well, let’s just say it involves a lot of biochemistry in understanding it all. So just take it from us, okay? And in the meantime, crack open a can of Kräftig Lager or Kräftig Light and enjoy that crisp, all-natural, award-winning taste.