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Lager: Brewed Cold, Aged Colder, Consumed on Ice
Beer lists aren’t complete without lagers. Check out Groupon’s guide to the world’s most popular type of beer—and why it’s different from ale.
Despite having a variety of colors, flavors, and effervescence, most of the world’s beers fall into one of two types—ale and lager. The difference begins during the fermentation process. As opposed to ale yeasts, which tend to float near the top of the tank, lager yeasts form closer to the bottom, where they thrive in colder temperatures—around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. After fermentation, most lagers often age for months at around 40 degrees, resulting in a clean, pale brew that’s best enjoyed chilled.
Even among lagers, the flavor and style of beers vary wildly. Generally made with delicately roasted malts and little hops, North American lagers tend to be pale and light, ideal for sipping on a hot summer day or while waiting out a blizzard in a farmer’s greenhouse. German lagers, by contrast, include varieties such as bock, dunkel, and märzen—cold-weather lagers with darker malt, more hops, and higher alcohol content. An eisbock, for example, has almost nothing in common with an American-style lager; as it brews, the beer’s temperature dips below freezing as the yeasts consume the last of the sugar, yielding a beer whose malty, robust body smolders like a campfire in one’s belly.
Until around the mid-19th century, lager was almost exclusively brewed in Germany. Traders found it difficult to keep the fragile, bottom-fermenting yeasts used in lagers alive during the trip to the New World, and the colder temperatures the yeast demanded meant breweries had to be located in regions where ice was naturally plentiful. Today, however, almost all of the world’s best-selling beers are lagers—a demand that has bred new breweries throughout the planet. Skol lager is massively popular in Brazil, Holland’s Heineken is popular virtually everywhere, and Americans consume endless quantities of Bud Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Miller, and Corona.