What’s the difference between IPA and Lager

There are different types of beer in the market and they all have different tastes, bitterness and alcohol levels. But you can tell the difference between them by the type of yeast that has been used during its fermentation process. Beer has 4 main ingredients: Grains, hops, yeast, and water. Grains – can be barley,rice, wheat, oats, rye, etc. Grains give the beer its malt flavor, aroma, fermentable material, and color. Hops- give the bitterness of the beer. Yeast – is important in the fermentation process. There are different types of yeast used in different types of beers. Water- is also an important ingredient in beer and has a notable effect on the beer’s taste.

So what is the difference between IPAs and Lager?

IPA is also known as Indian Pale Ale. It uses a different type of yeast and has a stronger taste because the fermentation time is less and it is brewed in warmer temperatures. IPAs are more hoppy and they have hints of citrus and fruity flavors. They also have higher alcohol content and taste more bitter but it has a very distinct and unique taste to it, unlike other types of beer. There are different styles of IPA: British IPA- is maltier and bitter; New England IPA- is more fruity and less bitter; and the West Coast IPA- has a more balanced taste of fruity and bitterness.

IPA

If you were to find one thing that stands out about IPA, it is the hops. IPA has evolved to be the most aggressively hopped among all other types of beer. People who prefer bitter, earthy and floral taste would prefer IPA.

American IPA

Before we dive deeper, take note that there are two main categories of American IPA: East Coast and West Coast. Although this line can be blurred, West Coast IPA usually means a more aggressive and often powerfully bitter flavor. Hops tend to shine on West Coast style IPAs. You can expect flavors of citrus, pine, florals and a strong unforgiving bitterness when someone hands you a bottle or can of West Coast IPA.

East Coast IPA tend to be more balanced as they usually have a stronger malt to complement the stronger hops. While they will still have the trademarked pleasant bitterness associated with IPAs it is rounded out by a slightly sweet but clean malt.

Belgian IPA

Presently, a new hybrid style has been emerging. Inspired by the popularity of American IPAs, Belgian IPAs have their own flair and not entirely consumed by Belgians despite its name. While also heavily hopped, Belgian IPAs are made with a variety of malts and made unique with the use of Belgian yeast strains in bottle conditioning done by carbonating in the bottle by adding more sugar or yeast. Belgian IPAs may look hazy and can one can truly taste the dry yet assertive bitterness that cleanly pierces the malt and yeast-derived flavors. Belgian IPA is a good hybrid for those who love both IPA and Belgian beer as a Belgian IPA can be described as a child of classic European brewing and American craft beer.

English IPA

Oral tradition says that English IPA was a simple pale ale dosed with extra hops and malt for the journey to India which caused the higher alcohol content and bitterness people started to associate with IPA. While the story may not be entirely accurate, what’s important is the fact that England’s IPAs were the first IPAs and what most would consider the “great grandfather” of this style of beer. However, unlike American IPAs, English IPAs are less intense in their hoppiness and is more balanced in its malt and hop flavor and bitterness. English IPAs also tend to showcase more toasty and bready malt notes and the English yeast gives a more estery fruitiness.

Imperial or Double IPA

Double IPA, as its name suggests, is IPA but extreme. In the beer world, the term Imperial just means “really strong” so Double IPA, or Imperial IPA is basically “really strong IPA”. Double IPA is practically what you get when you add a bunch of extra hops and malt to get extra power in the finished product. As the name suggests, its dominating flavor profile is hoppy- bitterness overlaid with anything from fruits to florals. Since any kind of hops can be used, expect complex flavors, aromas and really strong bitterness in double IPAs. Here, hops are not just the star, they’re the divas. 

LAGERS

Lagers are the most popular and most common type of beer. The main difference between a lager and IPA is, Lagers are fermented with “bottom-fermenting” yeast and they are fermented and brewed in cooler temperatures. The cool temperature makes the yeast sink to the bottom of the barrel, and it takes a longer process. Lagers are more golden in color, and they also have a more refreshing taste unlike the IPAs. There are different variations of Lager: Pale Lager- is the most common type, and it is also known as European Lager. Pilsner – have a more translucent color and it has a hoppier taste. Bock – is made with more ingredients and has an extended fermenting time, and they also have a stronger taste and higher alcoholic content.

Lagers have been dominating the modern world. Lager came from the German word “lagern” which meant “to store” as brewers would brew batch after batch all winter and store them in large wooden barrels which they would take to their cellars (or caves) and cut massive blocks of ice to effectively create the first large scale refrigeration. These ice cellars or caves would keep the beer cool and stable all summer long.

A common misconception of lager is their color- that they are just golden colored. But that’s wrong because what majority of the beer drinkers think of lager is only thinking of one style of lager- the American style.

Other styles of Lagers

Lagers range in many colors from extremely pale to black colors. The depth of colors depends on the grains used. Darker lagers used roasted grains and malt to have a richer and slightly burnt flavor profile. Styles of lagers are commonly classified as:

  • Helles- a pale malty beer brewed around Munich in Germany
  • Pilsner- a pale hoppy beer from Czech Republic that influenced American lager style
  • Märzen- an amber-colored beer traditionally brewed in Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest
  • Bock- a type of ice beer concentrated by freezing from Einbeck, Germany
  • Vienna lager- beer whose color can range from medium amber to brown from Vienna, Austria that influenced Mexican breweries
  • Dunkel- a dark brown beer in which the word literally means dark
  • Schwarzbier- classification of lagers that have a dark brown to black color.