Ales vs. Lagers – The Age Old Question

New to the craft beer scene and can’t quite distinguish between all the different types of beer you see out there? You’re certainly not alone! If this sounds like you, keep reading..

With so many styles emerging in the craft beer industry these days it can be a bit of a mishmash when deciding your next pint.  From pale ales to porters, dark beers to light, the options are nearly endless. But don’t fret! We’re here to help you decipher this craft beer conundrum!

Basically every beer out there fit into one of two categories: Ales & Lagers. By now you’ve heard the names, but do you truly know what makes them different?

Let’s dive into it.

If you’re looking for the quick answer, it’s the yeast. Of course, there is a lot more that goes into it than that.

Ales are brewed with a top-fermenting yeast that thrives at mid-range (60-70F) temperatures. This type of yeast and the fermentation temperature tend to give ales a fruitier and spicier flavour than lagers. In general, ales are more robust and complex. The majority of our beers at Breton are ales.

Black Angus India Pale Ale
Red Coat Irish Red Ale
Sons of Hector Brown Ale
Seven Years Pale Ale

Lagers are fermented with a bottom fermenting yeast at lower (45-55F) temperatures which means that the fermentation happens slower. The yeast tends to have less presence in the final beer flavour, so compared to ales, lagers have a cleaner and crisper taste. Lagers tend to be more stable due to the process of lagering, holding the beer close to freezing temperature, so they can be stored for longer and still taste fresh or even improved. A few of our lagers include:

Maple Lager
Island Time Lager

When people hear ‘lager’ they tend to think of a pale yellow, light and fizzy liquid. The truth is that lagers can use the same range of malts and hops as ales. The Baltic Porter style has the malt flavours of a brown porter but is cold-fermented and cold-lagered to produce a smooth but complex beer. India Session Lagers take the crisp lager style and introduce the aromas and flavours of fresh citrus, berries and tropical fruit that you expect in an IPA. The only limit is our imagination.

As Breton Brewing grows, we plan to delve into a wider range of beer styles. One area in particular that I am excited about is expanding our selection of lagers. This is a fairly unexplored area for us, so stay tuned from some interesting and delicious beer!

Written by Iain Sutherland – Head Brewer