What's the difference between a pilsner and a lager?

Wednesday, February 1, 2023
A pilsner and a lager are both beer styles, but they differ in their origin, ingredients, and brewing process.

A Pilsner is a type of lager, but not all lagers are pilsners.

A pilsner is a pale, crisp, and refreshing beer that originated in the Czech Republic in the mid-19th century. Pilsners are typically made with Noble hops, pilsner malt, and bottom-fermenting yeast, resulting in a clean, crisp, and hoppy flavor profile.

Lagers, on the other hand, are German influenced beers that are brewed using a slow and cool fermentation process, followed by a long aging period.

 Lagers can be pale or dark, light or heavy, and range from crisp and refreshing to malty and rich.

So, to put it in beer-y terms, pilsners are like the light and crisp pilsner malt of the lager family, while Lagers are like a beer barrel of different flavors and styles.

differences between lager and pilsner

Does brewing temperature make a difference between lager and pilsner?

Yes, the temperature during brewing is one of the key differences between Lagers and Pilsners.

Lagers are traditionally brewed using a cool fermentation process, with temperatures ranging from 45-55°F (7-13°C).

This slower and cooler fermentation process results in a smoother, cleaner, and less fruity flavor profile.

Pilsners, as a type of Lager, are also brewed using a cool fermentation process, but the temperature range is a little higher, typically between 48-55°F (9-13°C).

The slightly warmer temperature allows the yeast to work more efficiently, resulting in a faster fermentation process and a crisper, cleaner flavor profile.

It's worth noting that temperature control during the brewing process is crucial for both Lagers and Pilsners, as it affects the yeast's activity and the resulting flavor of the beer. So, whether you're brewing a Lager or a Pilsner, maintaining a consistent temperature during the brewing process is essential to produce the desired flavor profile.

lager pilsner differences

What are other differences between the two beers?

In addition to the temperature during brewing, there are several other differences between Lagers and Pilsners:
  1. Ingredients: Pilsners are made with Noble hops, pilsner malt, and bottom-fermenting yeast, while Lagers can be made with a variety of hops, malts, and yeasts, depending on the style.
  2. Flavor Profile: Pilsners are known for their crisp, clean, and hoppy flavor profile, while Lagers can range from light and crisp to malty and rich, depending on the style.
  3. Color: Pilsners are pale in color, while Lagers can range from light to dark, depending on the style.
  4. Alcohol Content: Pilsners are typically lighter in alcohol content, ranging from 4-5% ABV, while Lagers can range from light to heavy, with alcohol content ranging from 4-8% ABV or higher.
  5. Origin: Pilsners originated in the Czech Republic, while Lagers are believed to have originated in Germany.

What do pilsner and lager beers have in common?

Pilsners and Lagers both obviously belong to the same beer family and share several common characteristics.

Here are some of the things that Pilsners and Lagers have in common:
  • Brewing Process: Both Pilsners and lagers are brewed using the same two-step brewing process, which involves a slow and cool fermentation process followed by a long aging period (lagering!).
  • Yeast: Both Pilsners and lagers are brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast strains, which produce a cleaner, smoother, and less fruity flavor profile compared to top-fermenting yeast strains.
  • Flavor Profile: Pilsners and lagers are both known for their clean, crisp, and refreshing flavor profiles. Both styles tend to be balanced and have a low to medium hop bitterness.
  • Serving Temperature: Pilsners and lagers are each best served cold, typically between 35-45°F (2-7°C), to enhance their crisp and refreshing flavors.
Overall, Pilsners and Lagers share many of the same brewing techniques and ingredients, which results in similar flavor profiles. However, there are some key differences between the two styles, including their origin, ingredients, and hop profile, which give each style its unique character and flavor.


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