Is stout a lager or an ale?

Unravelling the Stout Mystery: Ale or Lager?

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When sipping on your glorious Guinness, have you ever wondered, “Is stout a lager or an ale?” You’re not alone! This is a common question among beer lovers and novices alike. Stout is a type of ale, not a lager. This is due to the top-fermenting yeast and higher fermentation temperatures used in making ales, which result in rich, complex flavours characteristic of stouts.

Understanding Beer Types: Ales vs. Lagers

There are two main categories of beer: ales and lagers. As briefly mentioned, they differ mainly in the type of yeast and fermentation method used. But where does stout fit in?

Both ales and lagers are beloved across the globe. Still, each has its distinct characteristics, largely thanks to their brewing process and the yeast used.

Ales, the elder statesman of beers, have been around for thousands of years. Brewed with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, often referred to as ‘top-fermenting’ yeast, ales ferment at higher temperatures, typically between 15-24°C (59-75°F). This warmer fermentation encourages the yeast to work quickly, producing ales in a matter of days. The process imparts ales with a wide range of robust flavours, from fruity to spicy to malty, making them incredibly diverse. Be it the classic British Bitter, the hop-heavy American IPA, or the Belgian Trappist ale, there’s an ale to suit every palate.

And then, nestled under the umbrella of ales, we find the stout, a beer as bold as it is dark. Originating from the British Isles, stouts are brewed with heavily roasted malts, giving them their trademark dark colour and notes of chocolate, coffee, and caramel. You might be familiar with famous brands like Guinness, an iconic Dry Irish Stout which can be found in pubs and shops globally.

Lagers, on the other hand, are the newer kid on the block, at least in the timeline of brewing history. Brewed with Saccharomyces pastorianus, a ‘bottom-fermenting’ yeast, lagers ferment at cooler temperatures (7-13°C or 45-55°F), and they do so slowly, over weeks or even months. This results in a beer that’s crisp, clean, and often lighter in flavour, making lagers like Pilsners and Märzens the perfect companions for a hot summer day.

Knowing the difference can enhance your appreciation and enjoyment of beer, whether you’re an ale admirer or a lager lover. And if you’re keen to try brewing your own, there’s no better time than now to pick up a Home Brew Starter Kit and embark on your fermentation journey!

Is Stout Stronger Than Lager? The ABV Factor

An important aspect when comparing different types of beer is their alcohol content. So, how does stout compare to lager in terms of strength?

Ales and lagers, hand in hand.
Ales and lagers, hand in hand.

When examining the landscape of beers, you might wonder if a stout is inherently stronger than a lager. The answer is more complex than you might think. The measure of ‘strength’ in beer usually pertains to its Alcohol By Volume (ABV), which can vary substantially across different styles and brands.

Taking a look at stouts, for example, you’ll find that their ABV can range quite broadly. A typical stout, often characterised by its robust, full-bodied flavour, generally sits at an ABV of around 4-5%. However, some variants, like the formidable Russian Imperial Stout, can hit an ABV as high as 9-12%. If my sources are correct, that is a child’s drink in Moscow.

On the other side of the beer spectrum, lagers also offer a vast range of ABV levels. Your standard lager, known for its crisp, refreshing finish, tends to clock in at a similar 4-5% ABV. But then there are the strong lagers, such as the German Doppelbock, which can reach an ABV of 7-12%. Prost!

The strength of a beer is influenced by several key factors. One primary factor is the amount of fermentable sugars in the mixture before fermentation begins – more sugar equates to more food for the yeast, resulting in higher alcohol content. Additionally, the type of yeast strain used can affect the beer’s strength, as certain strains can withstand and continue fermenting in high-alcohol environments.

Ultimately, while it can be tempting to compare beer styles broadly, it’s important to remember the diversity within each category. Whether it’s a rich stout or a light lager, each beer comes with its own unique character and strength. So, as always, enjoy your journey through the world of beer, and remember to drink responsibly!

Stout vs. Irish Stout: Is There a Difference?

Stout has many variations, one of which is the famed Irish stout. So, what sets an Irish stout apart from the rest?

Irish stouts, or dry stouts as they’re often referred to, are a celebration of the art of roasting barley. The process gives these beers their dark, almost black colour and an unmistakable roast aroma and flavour. They often possess a coffee-like bitterness, rounded off by a subtle hint of dark chocolate.

One thing that sets Irish stouts apart is their smoothness. This comes from the use of nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide for carbonation. When poured into a glass, the nitrogen forms a thick, creamy head that lasts until the last sip, enhancing the beer’s texture and making for a velvety mouthfeel that’s simply irresistible.

However, it’s not just about taste and texture. Irish stouts typically have a lower ABV than many stout counterparts, usually around 4-5%. This makes them somewhat lighter and more sessionable, perfect for a long evening of relaxed, leisurely drinking.

The differences are notable in comparing Irish stouts to other stout styles. Imperial Stouts are typically higher in alcohol content, with a heavier, more robust body and a strong malt character. They often incorporate more pronounced flavours like dark fruit, chocolate, and even caramel, contrasting an Irish stout’s dry, roast, and balanced profile.

Ultimately, the world of stouts is as varied as it is delightful. From the dry, smooth charm of the Irish stouts to the potent, full-bodied allure of Imperial Stouts, there’s a stout for every palate. As you explore this fascinating beer style, remember to savour each sip, appreciating the artistry and tradition that goes into every pint.


Stout, a rich and robust variety of ale, offers a unique taste experience that sets it apart from lagers. While it can be stronger in terms of ABV, this can vary widely among individual brews. Irish stout, a popular variation, brings its own unique charm to the stout family. So next time someone asks, “Is a stout a lager or an ale?” you’ll know the answer – it’s a fascinating, complex, and delicious type of ale. Cheers!

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