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Lager and ale are the two primary subsets of beer. The main difference between the two styles of beer is that lagers use bottom-fermenting yeast, while ales use top-fermenting yeast. Ales were the first type of beer made, but as brewer's could not make it in warmer months they stored the reserves in Alpine caves, which resulted in the yeast sinking to the bottom. Lager's ferment at lower temperatures, and produce cleaner more robust beers that are less fruity than an ale.
Styles of lager include pilseners, bocks and doublebocks, Oktoberfests/Maerzen, and several other types found primarily in Germany. The most popular domestic beers in America tend to be pale lagers, although light beers, which feature reduce alcohol and carbohydrate content, have begun to take over as the lager of choice.
An ale is a style of beer made by warm-fermenting brewer's yeast. The yeast ferments quickly, creating a full-bodied and sweet beer. Many ales also include the addition of bitter hops to balance out the sweetness of the malt. Depending on the temperature it is fermented at, the yeast can produce a variety of esters and aromatic products, which may result in fruit flavors such as apple, pear, pineapple, banana or cherry.
Styles of ale include brown ale, which often has a nutty taste, and pale ale, which has become synonymous for ales that are bitter, because they have more hops than other ales. The primary difference between an ale and a lager is that ales are made from top-fermenting yeast, while lagers are made with a bottom-fermenting yeast.