Lager vs. Ale: Different Beer Types Explained

Beer is ubiquitous, the working man’s everyday drink of choice for over two millennia. For many, it’s a satisfying thirst quencher, a good friend always there for you, symbolizing reliable, unpretentious loyalty. As a result, aside from countries prohibiting alcohol, most of the world’s nations enjoy beer. It represents the largest segment in the alcohol sector in volume and value1 and is predicted to grow to $303.11 billion in 20272.
According to Kirin Holdings, global 2021 beer consumption grew from $219.48 billion in 2022 to $235.69 billion in 20233. China topped the top ten of the top 25 out of 180 spots, which also included the USA, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Vietnam, Spain, and South Africa4.
However, not all beers are the same, with over 100 beer and beer sub-styles available. The two main types are lagers and ales, depending on the type of yeast used in the fermentation process. Lagers use bottom-of-the-barrel fermenting yeast which takes longer and needs cooler temperatures. Ales use top-of-the-barrel fermenting yeast with a higher alcohol tolerance. Beer style also depends on other ingredients, appearance, region of origin, and brewing method.
Lagers vs. Ales
While all beers begin as a lager or ale, the styles and flavors are limitless from there, leading to a head-spinning array of options. These variants include pale, golden, brown, and dark ale, pale and dark lager, Irish and sweet stouts, English and American porter, roasted and caramelized malt, and more. Lagers have the largest USA market share, followed by other or hybrid beer types, ales, and stouts5. So, while we can’t explain the entirety of this enormous range, let’s talk about a few favorites.
Lagers taste light, clean, and slightly malty and represent a good starting option for new drinkers entering the category. The segment includes beers such as pale ales, pale pilseners, India pale ales (IPA), stouts, wheat, porters, Belgian styles, dark American lagers, and German Helles.
Indian Pale Ales
One of the largest sub-styles, IPAs embrace various styles flavored with hops, herbs, fruits, and citrus. While some of these beers are fruity and citrusy, others offer a stronger, more bitter taste.
Pale Ales
This style incorporates blonde, English pale, and American amber ales. Pale ales are lower in alcohol, medium-bodied, malty, and easy to drink.
Pilseners originated in the Czech Republic but can also be German. German pilsners are golden and crisp, while Czech pilsners are darker and more bitter.
Another dark option, Irish and English stouts, such as Ireland’s famous Guinness brand, can be less bitter than other beers, even sweet, thanks to unfermented sugars. In contrast, American stouts can be highly roasted, dark, hoppy, and bitter, reminiscent of dark chocolate or strong coffee.
Other Styles
Other styles include chocolaty porters, pale or dark, sour or fruity Belgian beers, tangy and fun-flavored wheat, and tartly sweet sour beers.
Fruity-flavored beer sales, too, are anticipated to increase, expanding from $266.9 million in 2022 to $ 379.5 million in 20286. Driving these trends is a growing consumer demand across categories for healthier products – less sugar, fewer calories – and purer, more natural ingredients, such as those produced by Advanced Biotech. Also increasing in popularity are low or no-alcohol beers and flavored variants. According to, the Non-Alcoholic Beer market is valued at US$34.65 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow7.
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