Anatomy of a Beer—Ales v.s. Lagers

Anatomy of a Beer—Ales v.s. LagersThere are a plethora of different types of beer on the market, and distinguishing between them can be confusing—especially considering all the hybrids being brewed today. As a generic term, beer includes all styles of fermented malt beverages. And this definition includes a vast array of different ways we brew and present beer.

But, there are a few basic distinctions that you can learn to sort through this vast array of flavors and styles. We will start by describing the difference between ales and lagers.

Ales are ancient brews that date back to antiquity. While, lagers are comparative newcomers, having only been around for several hundred years. The primary difference between the two happens during fermentation. Ales are fermented at a relatively warm temperature for shorter periods of time with top-fermenting yeasts. And, lagers ferment more slowly at lower temperatures with a yeast that sinks to the bottom of the beer. The yeast in ales has a higher tolerance for alcohol than the yeast used in lagers.

Every type of beer starts out as an ale or a lager, and their specific styles and flavors continue to expand from there.

ALES
Ale was a major source of nutrition in Europe during the Middle Ages when it was consumed in large quantities. As with most beers, ale typically has a bittering agent to balance the sweetness of the malt and act as a preservative. Contemporary ale is bittered with hops. Ale comes in a range of varieties from pale, to India Pale Ale (IPA), to brown.

Some recommend ales we carry at our store: 
Boddingtons Pub Ale
Boddingtons Pub Ale is an authentic English Cream Ale that pours with an initial clouding that clears slowly to produce a unique, pale golden color and thick creamy head. Thus, it is called the Cream of Manchester. It has been brewed since 1995 in England.

Trippel Ale by New Belgium
This golden beer opens with a bold blast of spicy Noble hops and gives way to the fruity aromas offered by traditional Belgian yeast. Trippel is classically smooth and complex, and sings with a high-note of sweet citrus before a pleasantly dry finish delivers a warm, strong boozy bite.

Liberty Ale by Anchor Brewing Company
Liberty Ale revives centuries-old ale brewing traditions. It was first introduced in San Francisco in 1975, Liberty is brewed according to traditional craft brewing methods. It stands out due to its champagne-like bubbles, distinctive hop bouquet, and balanced character.

805 Ale by Firestone Walker
805 is a light, refreshing, blonde ale crafted in Paso Robles, CA. It has a subtle malt sweetness that is balanced by a touch of hops. 805 is a versatile beer with a clean finish.

Mirror Pond Pale Ale by Deschutes Brewing Company
This refreshingly uncomplicated ale is crisp and clean with citrus hops and subtle hints of caramel. Mirror Pond is a delicious and timeless pale ale that has been brewed since 1988 in Bend, Oregon. Mirror Pond has won numerous awards in the pale ale category including the Gold Medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival and the World’s Best Premium Pale Ale in 2010.

LAGERS
Lagers are a good entry into beer for new drinkers. Lagers have less alcohol content and can taste light and a little malty. Lagers can be pale, amber, or dark. Pale lager is the most widely consumed and readily available style of beer.

Some recommended lagers we carry at Piedmont Grocery:
Heineken
Heineken is a classic pale lager produced in Holland that has been made with the same recipe since 1873. It is a straw-gold in color with a big, foamy white head.

Stella Artos Belgium Lager
This sophisticated Belgian pilsner (a style of pale lager) has a well-balanced flavor profile. It’s pleasantly bitter with a refreshing finish and is extremely versatile. Stella Artos pairs well with a variety of foods.

Kronenbourg 1664
This is a refreshing pale lager that is rich in flavor. Kronenbourg 1664 originates in the Alsace region of France where Strisselspalt (the caviar of hops) grows. This rare and aromatic variety of hop gives Kronenbourg 1664 its unrivaled taste.

Baba Black Lager by Uinta Brewing Company
This black lager has flavors of dark coffee, chocolate, and subtle wood smoke. The color makes this beer stand out while it is a leader in drinkability. Uinta Brewing Company began brewing beer in 1993 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Longboard Island Lager by Kona Brewing Co.
Longboard Island Lager is a crisp, pale-gold lager made with choice malts and aromatic hops, brewed in a traditional lager style. It’s a smooth and easygoing beer that never goes out of style—ever. Kona Brewing Company is a brewery in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island.

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