In your pursuit of beer knowledge, collected to ensure you enjoy every tall glass of rich suds you drink, you are sure to deal with the ales vs. lagers split. If you’re here to figure out what the difference is, and where the two types diverge, that’s a different blog. Find the Ales vs. Lagers blog here.
If you just want to know what all qualifies as an ale, you’ve come to the right blog. Folks tend to assume all ales must share a common color, or all be lower in alcohol or have a certain body characteristic. None of these are true. The only difference is in the yeast and the temperatures that yeast requires for fermentation. That’s it.
Ales come in different colors (SRMs), ABVs, IBUs, and can have a completely different mouthfeel.
Four Main Types of Ales:
- Wheat Beers
Wheat beers can be clustered into a) those with pure yeasts, b) those made with lactic fermentation, and c) those made using spontaneous fermentation.
Pure Yeast Wheat Beers are Witbiers, Weissbiers/Weizen, Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen, and Weizenbocks.
Berliner Weisse is the singular wheat beer made with lactic fermentation.
Lambic, Gueuze, Faro, Kriek, and Framboise beers, along with other Fruit Beers, are the spontaneously fermented wheat beers.
Stouts and Porters tend to be vastly similar, and were only split categorically in the late 18th century because of perceived “strength.” While Stouts can be clumped into Oatmeal, Dry, Imperial, Milk, Nitro varieties, and Porters tend to be a simply category without a multitude of varieties.
The Ale category couldn’t be more diverse. There are light and carbonated American Ales, hoppy American IPAs, fragrant Belgian Ales, like Saisons, and bold, rich Scotch Ales. Ales can be a light straw color or a deep black, they might be session or imperial, and might be incredibly bitter or very drinkable. The point is, their only common attribute is the type of yeast used to ferment them.