Ale vs Lager - What's the Difference? 

Ale vs Lager - What's the Difference? 

As a beer lover, this is the best of times to be alive - with local breweries opening everywhere and so much great craft beer available. However, in the face of this abundance, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed by the choices: pilsners, IPAs, bocks, browns, stouts, porters and so on.

Each of these styles are uniquely wonderful, but it can be overwhelming to understand them all. So, let’s take a step back for a moment…

Your Beer Education Begins

Your Beer Education Begins

Don’t worry, Craft Brew U is school as you wish it would have been. Here, we all major in beer! There are no tests, but we will have homework, which will consist of drinking beer (to better understand what we have learned).

Craft beer is booming! New breweries open daily and innovative variations of our favorite beer styles are flooding the shelves and taps. The abundance is exciting and the more we learn about beer the more we can appreciate the effort of these brewers and enjoy the insanely good beer they create. Shall we begin?

We will start with the basic curriculum: styles, ingredients and the parameters of beer. Future (and one previous) posts will cover these topics in greater detail.



How many beer styles are there in the world?
Including all the major beer styles and all of their sub-styles, there are believed to be over 100 different beer styles in the world. A prime example of a major beer style would be stout; its sub-styles include Irish dry stout, London sweet stout (also known as milk stout), oatmeal stout, tropical stout, foreign extra stout, and Russian imperial stout.

From which three countries do the majority of the world’s beer styles originate? 
The great majority of all recognized beer styles originated in Belgium, Britain, and Germany. Because grains and hops (two of the most important ingredients in beer) are indigenous to northern Europe, it stands to reason that most beer styles would originate there. Most technological brewing advancements in history also took place in Europe, further establishing the region’s dominance in the beer world.

Because America is much younger than these European countries, only a scant few beer styles, such as cream ale, California common (steam beer), imperial IPA, and black IPA, originated in the United States.

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What is the difference between ales and lagers?
The basic difference between these two major beer classifications is how they are fermented. Ales are fermented with top-fermenting yeast at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F), and lagers are fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast at cold temperatures (35˚–50˚F). Because of their warm fermentations, ales can generally ferment and age in a relatively short period of time (3-5 weeks). Lagers, because they are cold fermented, take much longer to ferment and age up to 6 to 8 weeks.

Are dark beers stronger than pale beers?
No, that’s an oft-repeated myth. The flavor intensity of a dark beer might lead one to think that beer is strong, but there is no correlation between darkness and alcohol content. The color of a dark beer simply comes from the roasted grains used to make it. (Read more about dark beer here.)

Are ales stronger than lagers?
No, that’s also a common misunderstanding. While there are many ales with higher alcohol contents, there are also quite a few ales with very low alcohol contents. Conversely, there are also a few lager beer styles with very high alcohol contents. Some examples of strong ales are barley wine, old ale, Scotch ale, and Imperial stout. Some examples of strong lagers include doppelbock, eisbock, and Baltic porter.  

Are ales darker than lagers?
No, that’s a widespread misconception. While there are a lot of ales that are dark, there are plenty of lager beer styles that are equally dark. Some examples of dark ales include stout, porter, and Belgian quadrup. Some examples of dark lagers include doppelbock, schwarzbier, and Munich dunkel


What four primary ingredients are used to make beer?
Though used in varying proportions depending on the style of beer being made, beer is made from grainhopsyeast, and water.

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The grains (barley, wheat, rice, corn, oats, rye, etc.) are much the same as those that are used to make many breakfast cereals. The barley and wheat must undergo a malting process before they can be used to make beer (the others do not). The malting process simulates grain germination, which metabolizes the natural grain sugars (called maltose), which is what the yeast feeds on during fermentation.

The hops provide beer with piquant aroma, a variety of flavors, and a delicate-to-intense bitterness that balances the sweetness of the malt.

During fermentation, yeast consumes the sugars derived from the malted grain and excretes ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide in return.

Considering that beer consists of up to 95% water, the quality of the water is of great importance. Depending on its source, water can have varying levels of mineral content, and this minerality can have a significant effect on the taste of the beer.


What are the three parameters by which all beer styles are measured?
All beer styles are measured and categorized by their colorbitterness level, and alcohol content.

Beer color can range from pale straw to opaque black, depending on the style. This color can be measured on the Standard Reference Method (SRM) scale, anywhere between 1 and 40.

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Bitterness in beer is measured in International Bittering Units (IBUs), a scale that can run from 1 to 100+, but the human palate cannot discern much differentiation in bittering past 70 or 80 IBUs.

Alcohol content, which is expressed as Alcohol by Volume (ABV), can be as low as 0.5% and as high as around 20% in a naturally fermented beer. Any beer that contains an ABV above this level did not achieve it by natural means, as normal beer yeast is incapable of fermenting that high.

Lesson one: done! Future posts will explore beer styles, ingredients and the parameters for measurement, and everything else about beer, in greater detail.

The more we understand the tremendous variety of beer styles and flavors offered by craft brewers the better we can enjoy the outrageously good beer they create.

Craft Brew U meets weekly—right here at this blog site. Join us and elevate your beer knowledge. If you prefer the hands-on approach, Red Arrow Tap Room hosts private beer school classes that introduce participants to the basics of craft beer and various beer styles. Classes can be scheduled for groups of 10 or more and last about an hour. For information to book your event, please email


What is Craft Beer?

What is Craft Beer?

Every year, numerous craft breweries go on tap, giving beer lovers more choices than ever (a good thing in our opinion). However, with all the talk of craft beer one must ask: What is craft beer?

Embrace Independence with us

Embrace Independence with us

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On your next visit to our tap room, you'll notice an emblem of a large flag with 13 hops positioned in a circle with the slogan, “Embrace Independence.” Our team receives many inquiries on “what does it mean?” or “what are you embracing independence from?” Everyone knows that the Thirteen Original colonies declared their independence from Britain in 1776. At Red Arrow, our emblem is symbolic of their independence.

Our emblem represents the core values that we share with a broader community of beer advocates, innovators, risk takers, technology enthusiasts and fellow entrepreneurs. Changing the status quo is always a challenge, but we are resolute to show that there is a better way to run a hospitality establishment, with personalized choice while delivering a one-of-a-kind experience for each guest. Our products, service model and technology reinforce our mission to connect small independent craft breweries with patrons through an engaging and educational experience.

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We embrace independent beer. Most of the beer that we serve is local, and certified independent by the Brewer’s Association. The brewers who innovate and produce the amazing craft beer that we are proud to serve have made personal sacrifices to fulfill their personal dreams. They are helping their own communities by creating jobs and revitalizing industry. Their personal stories are heartfelt, inspiring and motivating.


In addition, we help to promote and support local independent breweries. Much of the beer that we source is purchased directly from the brewery. Our tap room walls are decorated with photography from local craft breweries. Our passionate beer ambassadors share the stories of breweries with guests.


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We embrace independence from the status quo. The advancement of technology has disrupted the consumer experience on how beer is selected, dispensed and purchased. At Red Arrow, we removed the barriers between the customer and great beer. The bar is now gone, so customers can get closer to the product, the bartender is replaced with a beer ambassador there to educate the customer while they pour their own beer. Fancy tap handles and pint pours are now gone, replaced by ounces and digital screens that are interactive providing imagery and information about beer.

Red Arrow customers can choose and sample by the ounce which becomes a game-changer for the independent brewer. Brand loyalty is less important, and the quality of the product reigns supreme in the new, here-to-last model for craft beer dispensing. The risk of purchasing a flight or pint of a non-desired beer is non-existent when all beer is sold by the ounce.

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We haven’t forgotten about bartenders, the traditional server of craft beer and the original beer ambassador. At Red Arrow, we’ve reinvented their role by arming them with education on craft breweries and harnessing their passion. We’ve empowered them to engage guests by removing the distraction of pouring beer. The beer ambassadors that we employ are passionate and knowledgeable about beer and happy to share with our guests.

We embrace independence from the antediluvian restaurant experience.  The restaurant experience is broken. We’ve all had less than ideal experiences at restaurants. The guest experience that we’ve implemented powered by our technology and gratuity-free model all but eliminates most of the common pain points in the contemporary restaurant experience.


The Red Arrow guest experience reigns supreme. Guests check-in upon arrival in our establishment, after an ID check and credit card pre-authorization, they are issued a Pour Pass which tabulates their beer samplings and food purchases. Table-tablet ordering increases the accuracy and efficiency of food orders. The entire menu is available on the table-tablet which delivers a one-of-a-kind experience through customization of menu choices.  

Guests that are ready to leave can check-out at the host station in less than 10 seconds. Our gratuity-free model makes check-out fast and efficient. No credit card receipts to sign, no paper (unless a receipt is requested). No waiting for the server. It’s very fast!

Our team members, including our kitchen team are incentivized through revenue-sharing. They are paid fair compensation and receive incentives based on the overall weekly revenue of the establishment. This team-based approach is directly focused on creating an exceptional guest experience. The old way of a server only paying attention to their section is over. The entire team at Red Arrow is focused on every guest, not just a section or table.

At Red Arrow, we are doing things different to create the ultimate guest experience. It’s not easy implementing change. We know!


Our vision is clear, and we believe that the future of an entire industry is being formed at Red Arrow. We know that not everyone that visits Red Arrow will like us, but the ones that do like us will really love us. The love they have when they visit Red Arrow is our inspiration each day!

Embrace Independence,

Joseph B. Tota, Founder & CEO

Red Arrow Tap Room

Don't Fear Dark Beer

Don't Fear Dark Beer

Welcome to Craft Brew U, our blog on the art of craft beer. Every week we’ll take a look at interesting beer styles, discuss key ingredients, answer common questions about beer and offer insights to help you fully enjoy the beer revolution.


Welcome to Craft Brew U

Welcome to Craft Brew U


Craft Brew U is the university of Red Arrow Tap Room. Our mission is to educate on craft beer and provide content that makes craft beer approachable and fun. Craft Brew U delivers classroom sessions at our tap room and also provides online educational content.

Interested in a private beer class? Click here to learn more.

Pour your own, sit back and drink knowledge. Embrace independence with us!

Embrace Independence,

Joseph B. Tota, CEO, Red Arrow Tap Room