The Difference Between Lager and Ale

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Italy is the foremost wine capital of the world, but that doesn’t mean wine is the only thing we drink. People have brewed beer in Italy for thousands of years. Today, plenty of brands originate from Italy, and some dishes just pair better with a cool glass of beer.

But wine connoisseurs know that it’s all about pairing the right wine with the right food, and the same goes with beer. To pair the right beer with the right food, you should know the difference between lager and ale, the two main categories of beer.

Color and Taste

Ale is a darker, amber color unless it’s the paler IPA (India Pale Ale). Lagers, on the other hand, are brighter and similar in color to apple juice. As for flavor, ale has a more robust, full-bodied flavor. It’s fruitier, more bitter, and more complex than lager. Lager usually features a clean, crisp, consistent flavor perfect for beginning drinkers.


But the difference between lager and ale goes far deeper than the color and taste. It starts with how people ferment both varieties of beer.


There are two different types of yeast used for fermentation. Top-fermenting yeast is used for ales and bottom-fermenting yeast is used for lagers. Top-fermenting yeast begins fermenting sugar at the top of the container and ferments much more quickly than its bottom-fermenting cousin. Bottom-fermenting yeast ferments—you guessed it—at the bottom of the container.


Additionally, the different types of yeast require different temperatures to ferment. Ale’s top-fermenting yeast requires higher temperatures, usually between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, making temperature control for fermentation essential. Lager ferments at much cooler temperatures, which is one of the reasons why it’s more likely to be served cold.

Alcohol Content

Bottom-fermenting yeast is much more fragile than top-fermenting yeast. Top-fermenting yeast has an easier time surviving in high-alcohol environments, allowing it to produce more alcohol. Because of this, ales tend to have a higher alcohol content than lagers.

Food Pairings

Now that you have a thorough understanding of the two varieties of beers, you can move on to the fun part: pairing it with your favorite foods. While you’re welcome to form your own opinions on beer-food pairings, these are our recommendations.

For lagers:

  • Seafood
  • Spicy foods
  • Pizza
  • Light pasta dishes
  • Steak

For ales:

  • Red sauce
  • Cream
  • Tiramisu and other high-sugar deserts
  • Chicken marsala

Wine will always be our first love, but it never hurts to switch it up and reach for a Peroni instead. And whether you choose lager or ale, they’ll do the job of washing down a delicious meal.