Last night I was out at the Standard Biergarten with some co-workers enjoying a few beers. Seeing that it’s located in New York’s Meatpacking District, it’s a great place to enjoy some suds and do some serious people watching as the clientele isn’t what you would find at your typical biergarten. As we sat on our bench enjoying our first beer, the question of “what’s the difference between a Lager and a Pilsner” came up, and I found myself having a tough time coming up with an answer. Being such an avid beer drinker, I was determined to gain a better understanding of the different genres of beer.
The Two Categories of Beer
It turns out there are two main categories of beer, Ale and Lager. Within each of these categories are different sub-sets of beer, but they all essentially roll up into the Ale or Lager category. The difference between Ales and Lagers has to do with what temperature the fermentation is done, the length of the fermentation process, and where the yeast “flocculates” during fermentation (fancy terminology used to describe active yeast cells gathering). The yeast for Ales typically flocculates near the top of the tank at a higher temperature and has a short aging process (a few weeks). This technique makes for a warmer and more flavorful beer. Lagers, on the other hand, are typically made by having the yeast flocculate near the bottom of the tank at a lower temperature and age for a longer period of time (a few months). The cooler temperatures and longer aging process typically make for a more refreshing and light tasting beer.
To go back to the original question, a Pilsner is actually a type of Lager. There are many different types of Ales and Lagers, such as those listed below:
- Barley Wine
- Brown Ale
- India Pale Ale (I.P.A.)
- Pale Ale
- Wheat Beer
I want to spend the next few posts going into more detail about each type of beer. I’ll start next w/ Barley Wine beer since I seem to know little about that style. Maybe I can even enjoy a sample of each beer while I write. Now there’s an idea!