When it comes to beer, there are two main types: ale and lager. While both are brewed with hops, the difference lies in the fermentation process. Ales are fermented with top-fermented yeast at warm temperatures (60° to 70° F), while lagers ferment with lower-fermented yeast at cold temperatures (35° to 50° F). This difference in fermentation temperature has a significant impact on the taste, alcohol content, and brewing time of each beer. Ales have a much higher alcohol content than lagers because yeast thrives at higher temperatures.
This means that the alcohol content lasts during those temperatures. The alcohol content of ales can range from 0.05% to 21% and above, with stronger beers exceeding 50% alcohol. In comparison, slower and more fragile lager yeast generates less alcohol because it cannot survive beyond that lower alcohol content, resulting in lagers generally having a lower alcohol content. In terms of taste, ales have a more fruity flavor, while lagers have a more crisp taste that is not as sweet. However, these differences are not set in stone as some lager yeasts survive in the 60-65° F range and some ales go through a cold conditioning stage, producing beers that transcend the differences between these two varieties. The process of brewing a beer generally takes less time and can be done at room temperature, while brewing a lager beer takes much longer.
This is because lagers go through an extra step of cold conditioning to develop greater clarity. Ales can generally ferment and age in a relatively short period of time (3-5 weeks), while lagers take much longer to ferment (up to 6 to 8 weeks) because they ferment cold. In today's craft beer market, beers are generally more common among craft brewers because brewer's yeast can produce beer in as little as 7 days, making it more convenient for small breweries that may not have the fermentation space to produce lagers on a regular basis. Although there are many different types of beer, with ale and lager being the most common varieties with many subtypes within each of those varieties, it is easy to find a beer that satisfies almost any palate. In conclusion, ale and lager beers have a number of different characteristics that make them as different from each other as two beers could be. Ales have a higher alcohol content and a more fruity taste, while lagers have a lower alcohol content and a crisper taste.
The process of brewing an ale is shorter than that of brewing a lager due to the difference in fermentation temperatures.