Earlier this month we did a double-whammy canning run with our pals at Mile 37, getting our 101 Lager and 107 Blonde Ale into cans for Vancouver to enjoy.
Both of these beers are easy drinking, crisp and refreshing, and perfect for a sunny day of isolation in the garden. Both sit around the 5% ABV mark, both have a low bitterness of 20 IBU and both are flying out of the Tasting Room and Beervan.ca.
So, what’s the difference?
In short, it comes down to which yeasts we use, and so how the beer ferments (the process which creates alcohol and from the sugars extracted from the grains).
Ales use saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast strains that do their best work in warmer temperatures: our 107 Blonde Ale uses Safale S04, an English variety which is most effective between 15-18℃. They work quickly - generally ales’ primary fermentation takes about 4 days compared to around 10 days for a lager. Maturing is also quicker at around 2-3 weeks post-primary fermentation. The higher temperatures result in more esters produced, giving us the fruity, ripe aromas typical in ales. Lagers, by contrast, tend to register as more bitter or almost smoky on the nose.
Lager yeasts (saccharomyces pastorianus) are a little more picky - they ferment at a lower temperature and have a lower tolerance for the alcohol they produce. Saflager W34-70, used in the 101 Lager, is a classic lagering yeast from Weihenstephan in Germany, and thrives between 12-15℃.
As well as fermenting more slowly, lagers are allowed to mature for much longer than ales. The very name “lager” comes from lagern, German “to store”. Our 101 Lager spends between 4 and 8 weeks conditioning after the fermentation is done, which allows more delicate flavours from the hops to develop. In the 101 Lager, for example, we can identify herbal, earthy and floral overtones from the Saaz hops we use. Having done its job, the lager yeast is able to drift to the bottom, leaving a naturally clearer beer too.
TL;DR: Ale yeast ferments at a higher temperature and much quicker, whereas Lager is done low and slow.
Both processes give us approachable, light beers in the 101 Lager and 107 Blonde - why not take a couple home and see if you can spot the differences?