When I first started getting into beer, I found all the different terminologies very confusing. To begin with, ‘Beer’ is an all-encompassing term which can be used to describe both ale and lager. Now I’ll try to explain the difference between the two main sub-categories of beer – ale and lager.
Ales are made by using a kind of yeast that rises to the top during fermenting (Saccharomyces cervisiae), hence the name top-fermenting yeast. Their fermentation period is generally shorter than that of lagers, often a week is sufficient, and the yeast needs a warm temperature to ferment. They are generally not chilled at any point during the process and most ales are served at room temperature. They tend to have a stronger taste than lagers and the colour range can vary from light and golden to dark browns.
Lagers use a type of yeast which sinks during fermentation (Saccharomyces Uvarum) and needs a cool temperature to ferment. Their fermentation process also takes longer than ales, around 3 weeks or more. They can also vary in colour, light kinds being the most popular but there are also dark lagers e.g. Dunkel. They have a crisper and less fruity taste. They are always served chilled and are the most popular and mass produced types of beers in the world.