We produce only ales at Hawaii Nui Brewing, from our Hapa brown ale, to the Belgian red ale. Many have asked what is the difference between a lager and an ale? Although they have a few similarities, the overall taste and way they are brewed varies widely depending on several factors, including yeast strain, temperature and fermentation process. Here are just a few of the basic differences:
Style vs. Category
The most useful thing to learn about the difference between a lager and an ale is that they do not refer to a style of beer. They are essentially two different categories of beer. Many people think that their favorite ale is called “Kauaʻi Golden Ale” because itʻs a style of beer known as “ale,” but in reality itʻs an ale because of the yeast strain that it is fermented with. Ales use a yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and are eferred to as “top fermenting” because the yeasts position during the fermentation process. Lagers, on the other hand, use a yeast called Saccharomyces pastorianus, and are often referred to as “bottom fermenting” because of the position of the yeast during fermentation process.
Hot vs. Cold
Another big difference is that ales typically ferment at warmer temperatures, and because of this (and the beautiful and perpetually warm Hawaiʻi weather) we choose to brew ales. In a lager, for instance, you are brewing at colder temperatures and as such, end up with less yeast-derived flavors, which give ales their spicy and often fruity flavors.
Taste and Flavor Profile
In terms of taste, the difference is that with a lager, you are drinking a brew that has a clearer representation of the grain and hops, which most equate to a “clean taste.” In an ale, the resulting brew is generally a bolder flavor with the fruity/spicy side being more prominent because of the warmer temperatures used in the brewing process.
While there are several styles of both lagers and ales, we are happy to offer four distinctly different ale styles to Hawaii.