Beer 101: What is lager?

2 mins read

Lager is one of the two major styles of beer, the other being ale. The primary characteristics of a lager are:

  • It is bottom fermented, meaning the yeast settles at the bottom of the fermenter rather than floats on top.
  • It is fermented at cold temperatures, generally below 50°F.
  • It is stored, or “lagered,” for some period, usually several weeks to months, before being ready to drink.

Random facts about lager:

  • Lager comes from the German word lagern which means “to store.” Hundreds of years ago the beer was stored in cold cellars or caves to keep it fresh, hence the name “lager.”
  • Lager is generally golden colored but can be darker, particularly in Europe.
  • According to Michael Jackson, lager can mean the “most basic beer of the house.”
  • Lager is the most popular style of beer.

There are several different kinds of lager:

  • Bock (and the variations of bock)
  • Dunkel lager (Dunkel means “dark” in German)
  • Märzen (often associated with Oktoberfest)
  • Pale lager (Variations include Pilsner, which is the beer that most Americans know, e.g. Budweiser)
  • Schwarzbier (“black” beer)
  • Vienna lager (often reddish in color)
  • Kellerbier (unfiltered)

Here is a nice diagram of all beer types arranged in a sort of family tree. Michael Jackson also has a decent beer styles section on his Beer Hunter site.

Beer 101 is an ongoing series intended to help the average beer drinker learn more about the mystical beverage we call beer. If there is a topic you would like covered in Beer 101, leave a comment, visit the contact page.


  1. Michael Jackson, aka the Beer Hunter, is considered the world’s premier expert on beer. His website is It’s unfortunate that he shares a name with a certain crazy pop star.

  2. I love Lagers … I like the new Bud American Lager … Love the Sam adams … I wnat to do a Blind tasting of the two … I think they are very similar! Lord of Lagers!!!!

  3. A Pilsner is not a Budweiser nor is it any type of American beer. Miller claims to be one but is far from it. American beer is described as pale lagers.

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