Beer is a fermented beverage that is made from wheat and yeast. It is very popular all around the globe. Although there are many types of beer available, they are generally divided into two main categories: ale or lager. In some countries, the term “lager” is used interchangeably with “beer”. This is why many consumers distinguish between ale and beer, and not lager or ale. Beer and ale differ in the way they are brewed and fermented.
Ale was an unhopped beer, while lager had hops added to it. As hops became more common in breweries, the distinction between beer or ale was no longer relevant. Brewers started to distinguish beer from ale based on where the yeast fermented in the barrel. Ale uses yeast that grows on top of the cask, while lager uses yeast that ferments at the bottom. Barley and other types of grains are malted. This means they are sown in moist conditions and dried.
Brewer’s yeast is added to the beverage and it ferments the beverage very quickly before the malt can spoil. Hops and other ingredients are added to enhance the flavor and temper the sweetness of malt.
Ale ferments at a higher temperature and matures faster. As the beer ferments, the yeast rises to top and forms a yeasty foam on top of the beer barrel. Lager ferments at a lower temperature and the yeast settles to its bottom as it matures. Lagers were traditionally brewed inside German caves that got very cold during winter.
Ale and beer can often be distinguished by their taste. Ale is more brightly colored, richer, stronger, and hoppy, with a higher alcohol level. Lager has a mild, smooth flavor and a clean, crisp finish.
Ale can be any beer that has the word “ale” in its name, porters, stouts and many German specialty beers like Abbey ales. Lagers include doppelbocks and pilsners.
Ale and beer also have different distribution patterns. Ale can be found in Belgium, the British Isles and many former British colonies, including the United States of America and Canada.
Although Lager is popular in Germany and other European countries, some German specialty beers can actually be described as ales. Modern breweries use a variety of brewing methods and flavorings in their beer, so many consumers are unable to distinguish between beer and ale.
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