Difference between Ales, Lagers and Bitters
All types of beer generally fall into two broad categories: lager and ale. Furthermore, there is a type of ale known as bitter beer, and these three form the triumvirate around which most beer drinkers revolve. The key differences between each broad category lies primarily in the brewing process, when the characteristics of each type of beer are determined by the type of yeast used and the temperature in which the brew is fermented.
Lagers are brewed with the use of bottom yeast, which has a tendency to sink to the bottom of the vat, hence its name. The brew is also fermented at comparatively lower temperatures, usually 53º to 64ºF. Since bottom yeast ferments at colder temperatures-usually lower than 50ºF-the slightly higher fermentation temperature results in a more pronounced malt and hops flavor.
Ales on the other hand are fermented with top-fermenting yeasts at much higher temperatures, usually 59 to 77ºF. In addition, ales go through a warmer and shorter maturation process.
Bitter beers are basically types of ales that have undergone a slightly different brewing process. Instead of the wood kilns traditionally used in other types of beer, coke or processed coal is used to produce a lighter colored brew.
Generally speaking, lagers are a bit more pale and dry than other types of beer. In addition the alcoholic is usually lower. In fact, some German-style lagers are commonly described as pale or blond.
Ales on the other hand usually have higher alcohol content, and the flavors are more robust and complex. In addition, such beers often have a darker hue.
The brewing process of bitters result in a clear pale liquid that is a lot lighter than other types of beers. Its color is often described as amber or copper, and the resultant flavor is quite a bit lighter as well.
Among the more popular varieties of lager are the German beers Bock and Marzen. These and other German beers are subject to government laws that ensure they are made entirely with malt and no sugar, and flavored with various aromatic hops.
The beers in the Ale category include the more robust beers such as porters and stouts, and they have a characteristically dark color. That being said, there are certain types of ales-such as pale ales and wheat beers for example-that have considerably lighter color.
Similarities and Differences
- Stronger malt and hops flavor
- Pale golden color
- Goes well with chicken, pork, and fish
- Darker in color
- Stronger alcohol content
- More robust flavors
- Ideally suited for roasts, meats, steaks
- Lighter in flavor than other types of ales
- Light golden color
- Goes well with almost anything