Lager vs. IPA: The Comprehensive Comparison and Making Guidance

If you are a lover of beer, I am sure you know how you have various options to choose from, ranging from bold IPAs to classic lagers. Which one is your favorite?

These two beers vary in different ways, including taste, manufacturing, and the way they look.

Below, we shall discuss lagers and IPAs and see how they differ from each other.

What is Lager?

What is Lager

Lager is a kind of beer of German origin and is usually fermented at a low temperature for a long time. It can take between seven weeks to six months in these conditions.

Lager is a German word that means to store. ‘Lagering’ is also known as maturation, and it means storing in cold temperatures.

It is light-bodied, and the basic techniques used to craft this beer result in effervescence, crispy and refreshing product. During fermentation, you use a closed vessel, and the yeast you use settles at the bottom of this brew.

This highly carbonated beer comes in different colors such as amber, pale, or dark.

What is IPA?

What Is IPA

IPA is a short form of Indian Pale Ale. This is a kind of beer made with higher alcohol content and contains more hops.

IPA’s alcohol content is between 4.5 and 17.2%, with a bitterness level of between 25 and 120 IBU.

Hops clearly distinguish the flavors for an IPA. Most of them are bitter, earthy, piney, citrusy, and fruity, making this beer more favorable if you like bitter flavors.

IPAs color range between 6 to 14 SRM and its original gravity is between 1.05 and 1.09.

Difference between the Lager and IPA

Lager And IPA

Lager and IPA are two different brands of beer. The main difference between these two is the international bitterness Unit (IBU). While IPAs have higher hop levels between 40 and 60 IBU, lagers have lower hop levels between 20 and 40 IBU.

Another difference between these two is the yeast. When brewing ales, you ferment yeast on top of the wort (the liquid you extract from mashing process during brewing). In contrast, you use bottom-fermenting method to brew lagers. This process makes lagers come out clean and crispy compared to IPAs.

The temperatures you use to ferment ales are higher than those you use to ferment lagers. That is around 200C for ales and 120C for lagers, though they can be higher than these.

After fermenting lager, you must allow it to warm for some days, but this does not happen with IPAs. Once your IPA ferments at the required yeast temperature, it becomes ready for consumption.

Lager takes longer to ferment because of the lower temperatures though if you are making steam lagers, they ferment faster just like an ale, and within five days, they reach final gravity.

Unlike an IPA, you should store lager in a lagering/secondary vessel for at least a week at 0-40C.

Another difference between these two beers is Alcohol by Volume (ABV). Lagers have a lower ABV of not more than 6%, while IPAs like double and triple IPAs have a higher ABV of more than 6%.

Evolution of lagers

Evolution Of Lagers beer

Lagers first originated from Northern Europe, Germany, Austria 3, and the Czech Republic in the early 1800s. Helles, Vienna, and Pilsner are some of the popular brands that originated from these regions.

Pilsner Urquell Brewery, located in the Czech Republic, founded the first lager and was given the name Pilsner.

Lager gained popularity in the UK due to its low price and being an easy to drink beer. Those that wanted to drink lots of lager within a short time preferred Pilsner.

Due to its drinkability, crispy and citrus flavor, most women preferred it, and in 1989, lager was sold more than ales since its invention.

However, Lagers were known as second class beer in the USA due to an impression the media gave them as an easy to drink and cheap beer. This made people more interested in ales and lager was even nicknamed as ‘wife beater’ because people could excessively drink and cause domestic violence.

Different brands of lagers like Heineken and Stella Artois became popular to save lagers’ bad reputation, but this did not bear much fruit because of lower quality brewery and increased cheap consumption.

However, more established brewers began slowly to introduce lagers in the market. Camden Brewery, established in 2010, produced Camden Hells, followed by Samuel Adams and Shepard Neame, who produced Boston lager in 2012 in the UK.

This reinvention of lagers in the UK somehow catalyzed a change in lager production. The situation improved from a citrusy, malty, and flavorless lager to a more flavorsome drink.

In 2016, New York Brooklyn lager brewery began distributing lager in Europe, and lager became more known and loved.

The percentage of alcohol in lager was reduced to about 5%. Many people were converted to the new breed of lager resulting in an increased availability of lager in supermarkets and malls.

Due to the increased popularity of new lager, columnists and most beer writers talked differently and better concerning lager. You can follow this link to get more information on the evolution of lagers.

Evolution of IPAs

Evolution of IPAs

In the 19th century, when India was under the British colony, British troops were stationed in India, and they were fond of British pale ales. This is how it gained its popularity in India hence the name India Pale Ale.

Ordinary beer could not survive the climatic conditions while being transported to India. At the same time, it was too hot in India to brew, and hence in the 1780s, Hudgson, a London-based brewer, tried chances by coming up with October ale, a very hoppy beer.

October ale survived the six-month journey to India from Britain and became more refreshing and paler to suit India’s climatic conditions.

Bigger brewing companies imitated Hudgson’s beer but what came out was a weaker plain pale ale. Until around 1976, American craft brewers chose to reawaken the British style, which included IPA. They repackaged the beer with better contents of hops and alcohol.

In 2009, Steven, a CEO and co-founder of the Grand Rapid breweries challenged his team to come up with tasty, low alcohol and hoppy beer since they needed a drink as they traveled around promoting their brands.

Steven’s approach was quite a challenge, since, for a beer to be well balanced and be sweeter, more hops must be used, which means a higher alcohol level.

The brewers spent up to around three years trying to balance the ratios and finally resulted in the most enjoyed, aromatic snappy All Day IPA with a 4.7% ABV. This beer, though seasonal, was released in 2012 and celebrated all-around 2013.

According to imbibemagazine.com, America’s craft beer has evolved and so also has its approach towards IPAs. Breweries like New Belgium and Victory are turning more drinks to juicy and hoppier beers such as Mandarina, Hull Melon, etc.

The IPAs people are enjoying now, are of low alcohol content, hoppy aroma, and flavorful.

How to Make Lager Beer?

Make Lager Beer

Are you a fun of lager and would like to understand the procedures you can use in making your favorite drink? Below are simple steps to follow while making a lager.

1. Prepare a starter

Prepare A Starter dry malt

A starter is a dry malt boiled in water then cooled in a small fermenter. Its essence is to populate the yeast and make it healthy enough to ferment a higher volume of beer.

You should prepare it at least a day before fermenting your lager. Since we ferment lagers at lower temperatures, it is vital to start with larger amounts of yeast.

It is crucial to ensure that your yeast is enough, not too little nor too high for the lager to have a good flavor.

2. Boil

Boil dry malt

Put all your ingredients in a pot, then boil. You can lager any beer you want and get tremendous results.

You can choose to explore by trying to lager a stout or Indian Pale Lager instead of sticking to the traditional pilsner or mailbocks recipes.

3. Ferment

Lager Beer Ferment

Between week one and three, chill your wort and starter to the same temperature, then pitch the yeast. You must ferment your lager cold, that is, at temperatures between 80C and 150C.Once they are cool, throw your whole starter to your wort, then seal to allow fermentation.

“Among the most important things a brewer must do to improve his beer is to manage the fermentation temperature. It is far more important than using all-grain brewing or fancy fermenters.” This is a quotation from The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation.

4. Diacetyl rest

Lager Beer Diacetyl Rest

After three weeks, your wort would have fermented to alcohol. During the fermentation process, the yeast creates a candy-like flavored compound known as diacetyl. The Yeast cleans this compound immediately after primary fermentation is over.For diacetyl to be produced and cleaned up faster, you will need to increase the temperature to around 250C. It can only take three days once you raise the temperatures.

You can taste your lager daily to confirm if the butterscotch is gone. If so, you can condition your lager.

5. Lagering

Lager Beer Lagering

Between week three and week seven, lower the temperatures to around 40C. Lower the temperature slowly because if you do it quickly, the yeast will be shocked then release larger amounts of esters, causing the beer to have a bad taste.During this process, solids will fall at the bottom of the vessel producing a clean final beer.

Once you are through, you can freely enjoy your drink, but before decanting to a different vessel, remember to sanitize it to avoid intoxicating your beer and making it undrinkable. This video explains more about how to make a Vienna lager.

How to Make an IPA

Make an IPA

Though somehow complicated, It is possible to brew an IPA at home. Below are the steps you can follow, and this video link explains more.

1. Find equipment

Find equipment

You will need a container to boil water in, another to ferment, and some bottles to package.

2. Bring water to boil

Bring water to boil

Heat about 2.5 gallons of water, then add your weighed grains in the water.

3. Add malt syrup

Add malt syrup

After heating your mixture to boiling, please remove it from the heat, then add the syrup. Stir the mixture, and now you will have the wort. Bring it to boil again.

4. Add hops

Add the hops packets following the specified times.

5. Cool

Remove your container from the heat, then cool it in an ice bath.

6. Adding yeast

Add cold water in a clean fermenter followed by the wort, then add yeast. Place your mixture in a warm place and leave it to ferment.

7. Bottling

Sanitize your bottles, then put some sugar inside. Fill the bottles with beer the leave for like three weeks. After 21 days, you can freely enjoy your IPA.

Types of lagers

There are different types of lagers, and we can categorize them into;

Pale lagers

Pale lagers

Pale lagers have a varying hop bitterness and a well-attenuated body. They include Pilsner, Munich Helles, American light lager, and Dortmunder.

Amber lagers

Amber lagers

These include Oktoberfest, Rauchbier, and Vienna lager. They are medium-bodied with a malt-like character and hop bitterness ranging from low to medium.

Dark lagers

Dark lagers

Dark lagers have German vollbier style. They are clean and get their color from darker malts. They include Munich Dunkel and Shwarzbier.

Bock lagers

Bock lagers

Bock lagers spend more time in lower temperatures during winter to smoothen their flavors. They include Eisbock, Maibock, Helles bock, and traditional bock.

Speciality lager

Speciality lager

Specialty lagers are regular lagers that you add new flavors such as smoke or spice. They include fruit, smoke, herb and holiday beers.

Types of IPA

After introducing IPAs, different brewers came up with different recipes and made slightly different forms of IPAs. Below are some of the different styles.

The English IPA

The English IPA beer

These are the original IPAs where others stem from. They have citrus, grassy, earthy character, and hoppy flavors.

The West Coast IPA

 

The West Coast IPA

This was founded in California. It has a big citrus aroma with some piney and weed-like smells. The American ‘C’ hops: Chinook, cascade, and Citra give the beer its flavor.

You must use crystal malt, and this makes the IPA less dry, but they are significantly bitter.

The East Coast IPA

The East Coast IPA

The difference between the East and West Coast IPAs is the yeast. East Coast IPA is made using mutated British yeasts, while West Coast is made using flavorless clean yeast and focuses more on hops.

Double IPA

Double IPA

This IPA is hoppier than earlier IPAs, and these hops balance the sweetness of the alcohol and the bitterness of malt. Drinkers wanted more hops and dry finishes; hence brewers responded by making this IPA.

The Triple IPA

The Triple IPA

When drinkers became more used to double IPA, brewers increased the aromas and dryness of the double IPAs to even 13%. Only a few can stand this IPA.

The Session IPA

The Session IPA

These are very drinkable IPAs since they are dry-hopped, producing maximum aroma and minimum bitterness. The hops therein are less than 5%.

The Belgian IPA

 

The Belgian IPA

Brewers use a Belgian style of yeast to make this IPA. Examples include Stone Cali-Belgique and many others.

The Grapefruit IPA

The Grapefruit IPA

This seasonal IPA contains some acidity level that makes the beer sour and gives it a unique grapefruit aroma. An example is Siren Pompelmocello.

Conclusion

Generally, lagers are very different from IPA. You use the top-fermenting method to make IPA while the bottom-fermenting method when brewing lager.

While IPAs are hoppy, lagers are clean, well made, and have a consistent flavor. IPAs contain higher alcoholic content, carbs, and calories. Therefore, lagers are better, especially if you are looking for healthier, lower-calorie, and lower sugar level beer.

Now that you know how these two beers differ, you can bravely choose either to refresh yourself and quench your thirst.

 

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