Even seasoned beer drinkers sometimes have trouble with this one: What’s the difference between ale and lager?
Answer: It’s all about the yeast.
Beer is brewed from a sweet liquid, traditionally including water, barley and hops. That liquid, called the “wort” is boiled, filtered, and then put into a fermentation tank where the yeast is added
Ale yeast floats on the top of the wort during fermentation. Ale yeast needs warmth and works very quickly (three to five days) leaving lots of sugar behind in the process. This gives ales a sweeter taste, which is why they tend to be fruitier, maltier, stronger or richer in taste.
Lager yeast sinks to the bottom of the fermentation tank, and lets the sugar come to it. It’s a slower process (up to two weeks), and requires cooler temperatures, but the fermentation is quite thorough and leaves very little sugar behind. This is why lagers generally have more of a crisp, dry, clean flavour.
Here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery, we are recreating the beers of 1860s Ontario, so we stick to ales. (Lagers became a proud part of our brewing tradition later in that century, but that’s another story).
We hope you can come by soon to see the process with your own eyes… and taste the results!
The Black Creek Growler