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Homebrewing for Beginners: Lagers & ales


Brewing Tips

Most of us have been blessed enough to experience the warm weather and whilst a good IPA, Pale ale or Saison goes down very well there are moments when a crisper, light lager could be just what the home-brew doctor ordered. 

A little bit of googling will return a bunch of very mixed results and reviews about brewing your own lagers. If you’re tempted to brew your own, or would just like a little more information about the differences between lagers and ales then look no further. 

Yeast & Fermentation Temperature

You’ll be aware now that all beers fit into two groupings, ales and lagers. Some of the popular beers that fall into the ales category are stouts, porters, pale ales, ipas and saisons. These beers are generally more flavoursome and are fermented using a top siting yeast. The reason they are called top sitting yeast is down the fact that the yeast will rise to the top during fermentation which is where it creates a thick head. The fermentation temperature will vary depending on the strain of yeast you use but you should expect them to have fermentation temperature of anything as low as 12°C degrees celsius but most ale yeasts will ferment somewhere in the region of 15 to 25°C. Ales are the easier styles to attempt at home because you can ferment this at room temperature without the need a controlled fermentation. 

Lagers generally give off a dry and crisp finish with a varying amount of malt & hop aroma and flavour depending on the style. Unlike Ales, lagers use a slightly different yeast which is fermented at a much lower temperature (7 to 14°C) and takes a lot more time. Unlike Ale yeast, through the fermentation there is far less surface foam which means that the yeast will fall to the bottom of the fermenter which is why we refer to it as bottom fermenting beer.
Some of the most popular beers that fall into the lager grouping are Pilsners, Märzen, Bocks and Dunkels. 


The final difference between ale and largers is the amount of time it takes to brew, ferment and then condition. Whilst a some of the crispy characters comes from the lager yeast, you’ll find that a lot of the characteristics you’d expect to get from a lager come from Lagering. Lagering (groß in Germen) means to store. Typically, once a lager has reached it’s desired FG most people would then be stored for about 12 weeks. This whole process helps to dry out the beer which is why we end up with that dry crisp finish from a lager. A larger could take anything from 14+ weeks compared the an ale which could take up 3-4 weeks to before you even get to serve (depending on serving method). 

Brewing your own Lager can take a lot of resources and time but if you can get it right, your next bbq could be a real hit but if you don’t have access to the additional equipment required to create a constant cold temperature (fermentation chamber) then we’re going to have a post for you real soon when we will highlight some of the styles of beers that you can brew without the need for larger yeast e.g Kolch & Steam beer which is now known as California Common since Anchor brewing company trademarked the phrase in 1981.  

Image source: Abstract Art