What are the differences between lager, ale and beer?
Question from Jonathan McKee
It’s a common debate and there are indeed some basic distinctions. Beer is any alcoholic beverage primarily made from grain, hops, water and yeast. Grain is heated in water to release sugar then hops are added to lend a complex flavour and bitterness to contrast with the sugar. Yeast is then introduced to ferment the sugar, producing alcohol and CO2. Lager and ale are both types of beer, but they undergo differing fermentation.
Ale is fermented using yeast that rises and works best at warmer temperatures (15-24 degrees Celsius/59-75 degrees Fahrenheit). Lager uses yeast that sinks and prefers cooler temperatures (5-12 degrees Celsius/41-53 degrees Fahrenheit). As a result, lager takes longer to ferment than ale, plus the colder fermentation inhibits the production of esters – the compounds responsible for fruity aromas and flavours often found in ale.
Answered by Rik Sargent for Brain Dump
For more science and technology articles, pick up the latest copy of How It Works from all good retailers or from our website now. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, subscribe today!