What is the difference between an IPA and a lager ?

| 4 min read

What is the difference between an IPA and a lager ?

Craft beer has become increasingly popular in recent years, with a wide variety of styles available to suit different tastes. Two of the most popular beer styles are India Pale Ales (IPAs) and lagers. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are some key differences between the two.

All beers, no matter how great or small, are made from a basic combination of watermaltshops, and yeast. So then what really distinguishes an ale from a lager?

The difference is yeast. Not whether or not it’s used, but the specific type. But from this relatively small variant comes a whole slew of changes and differences that make these two beers very unique.

Hops in the water with bubble


Ales are brewed with a top-fermenting yeast that thrives at mid-range room temperatures. For this reason, ales are typically stored between 60° and 75° Fahrenheit during the fermentation stage. This type of yeast and the fermentation temperature tend to give ales a fruitier and spicier flavor than lagers. In general, ales are more robust and complex. Common styles of ale include pale ale, India pale ale, amber ale, porters, and stouts.


Lagers are a type of beer that is fermented and conditioned at low temperatures, usually between 35 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This slow and cold fermentation process produces a beer that is crisp and clean, with a smooth finish.

Lagers are typically light in color and have a lower alcohol content than ales. They are also known for their bubbly carbonation and refreshing taste.

Fermentation happens more slowly and the beer is more stable, so it can be stored (or “lagered”) for longer than ales. This yeast tends to have less presence in the finished beer. As compared to ales, lagers have a cleaner and crisper quality with emphasis on the hops and malt flavors. The lager family includes pilsners, bocks, and dunkels.

One of the most popular types of lagers is the pilsner, which originated in the Czech Republic in the 19th century. Pilsners are light in color, with a slightly bitter taste and a crisp finish. Other types of lagers include bocks and dunkels, which are darker and richer in flavor.


India Pale Ales, or IPAs, are a type of beer that is characterized by its hoppy flavor and high alcohol content. They are typically brewed with a higher proportion of hops than other types of beer, which gives them a bitter and floral taste. The use of hops also gives IPAs a distinctive aroma.

There are many different types of IPAs, including West Coast IPAs, New England IPAs, and Double IPAs. West Coast IPAs are known for their strong hoppy flavor and bitterness, while New England IPAs are hazy and have a fruity taste. Double IPAs, also known as Imperial IPAs, have an even higher alcohol content and a stronger hoppy flavor.

The Difference

So what is the main difference between IPAs and lagers? It all comes down to the yeast and fermentation process. Lagers are fermented at a cooler temperature using bottom-fermenting yeast, while ales (including IPAs) are fermented at a warmer temperature using top-fermenting yeast. This gives lagers their crisp and clean taste, while ales have a fruitier and spicier flavor.

While there are some differences between the two, both IPAs and lagers have their own unique characteristics that make them popular among beer drinkers. Whether you prefer a crisp lager or a hoppy IPA, there's a beer out there for everyone.

Is one style better than the other?

Definitely not. It’s all a matter of personal taste or what we’re craving at that particular moment. Personally, we love all beers equally – just so long as they’re good!

Now that we’ve explored the basic differences between IPAs and lagers, let’s take a closer look at some specific types of each beer and what makes them unique.

Popular IPA styles

American IPA:

This is the style that most people think of when they hear “IPA.” It’s hop-forward with a strong bitterness and often features citrus or piney notes. Examples include Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.

New England IPA (NEIPA):

Also known as a “hazy IPA,” this style is brewed with fruity and juicy hops and features a hazy appearance. It’s often described as having a “juice-like” quality. Examples include Tree House Julius and Trillium Congress Street.

Double IPA (DIPA):

As the name suggests, this is a stronger version of the American IPA, with a higher alcohol content and even more hops. Examples include Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and Russian River Pliny the Elder.

Belgian IPA:

This style combines the Belgian yeast and spice characteristics with American-style hop flavors. It’s often described as having a spicy or floral flavor profile. Examples include Stone Brewing’s Cali-Belgique IPA and Boulevard Brewing’s Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale.

Popular lager styles


This is a light, crisp, and refreshing beer that originated in the Czech Republic. It’s a highly carbonated beer with a mild bitterness and a clean, dry finish. Examples include Pilsner Urquell and Victory Prima Pils.


A traditional German beer, bocks are typically strong, malty lagers with a slightly sweet taste and a low hop profile. Examples include Samuel Adams Winter Lager and Shiner Bock.


This is a dark lager with a sweet, malty taste and a slight roasted flavor. It’s a popular style in Germany and pairs well with hearty foods. Examples include Warsteiner Dunkel and Paulaner Munich Dunkel. Partnering with breweries and beer shops can be a great way to earn revenue fees. If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of beers and partnering with businesses in the industry, contact us today.

In conclusion, the difference between an IPA and a lager comes down to the type of yeast used and the fermentation temperature. IPAs are typically brewed with top-fermenting yeast at warmer temperatures, while lagers use bottom-fermenting yeast at cooler temperatures. IPAs tend to have a stronger hop flavor and bitterness, while lagers are often characterized by a crisp and clean taste. Ultimately, both styles offer a wide range of flavors and are beloved by beer enthusiasts around the world.

For this reason we invite you to taste our Trappist and Draft Beers to Le Trappiste Brugge.