As far as alcoholic beverages go, beer is easily the most popular and probably the oldest, of the bunch. Just a quick stroll through the beer aisle at your local grocery will let you know it is also one of the most popular beverages consumed, alcoholic or not. There are literally hundreds of styles to choose from, but each one will fall into one of 3 main categories: lagers, ales or specialty beers. So what’s the difference? In the case of lager vs ale, the difference is simply a matter of the yeast and temperature used during the fermentation process. (2BASnob and Wikipedia). Specialty beers may be a lager or an ale that does not meet the exact definition of the beer type or a hybrid of the two. Here is a more in depth look at the types of beers.
- Ales are a type of beer that uses a fast acting yeast in a warm fermentation process. Ales are typically fermented between the temperatures of 60 and 75 degrees Farenheit. The yeast clumps and rises to the surface, leaving behind residual sugars. This type of beer production creates a significant amount of esters and other secondary flavor and aroma properties. The word “ale” is believed to be derived from the Old English “ealu” meaning sorcery, magic, possession or intoxication. Types of ale include barley wine, English bitter, pale ale, Scottish ale, porter and stout. Popular ales include Bass Pale Ale, Pete’s Wicked Ale and Guinness.
- Lagers are a type of beer that are made using a slower acting cool fermentation where the yeasts remove most of the sugars. The result is a cleaner, dryer, lighter beer. Lagers are typically fermented twice, once between 45 and 54 degrees farenheit and again between 32 and 39 degrees Farenheit. The second fermentation is the step that clears and mellows the lager, giving it its crisp, clean taste. The word “lager” is believed to be derived from the Germanic “lagern” meaning “to store”. Types of lagers include American lager, pilsner, bock, helles and dunkel. Popular lagers include Budweiser, Coors and Warsteiner.
- Specialty Beers can be either an ale, a lager or a combination of the two. They contain at least one ingredient that keeps them from being a “true” ale or lager. These extras may include herbs, spices, chocolate, fruits or vegetables. Popular specialty beers from Sam Adams include Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Winter Lager, Imperial White and Cranberry Lambic.
Now that you know the difference between the 3 basic types of beers, get out there and celebrate American Beer Week, Congrees decreed it so in 1993! For more local beer, click on the following cities: Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and National.