Lager vs. Pilsner

What's the Difference?

Lager and Pilsner are two popular types of beer that share some similarities but also have distinct characteristics. Both Lager and Pilsner are bottom-fermented beers, meaning they are brewed at lower temperatures and for longer periods of time. This results in a clean and crisp taste with a smooth finish. However, Pilsner is a specific type of Lager that originated in the Czech Republic and is known for its pale golden color, light to medium body, and a slightly hoppy flavor. On the other hand, Lager is a broader category that encompasses various styles, including Pilsner. Lagers can range from light and refreshing to dark and malty, offering a wider range of flavors and aromas compared to Pilsners. Ultimately, while both Lager and Pilsner are enjoyable beer styles, Pilsner is a more specific and defined type within the Lager family.


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OriginGermanyCzech Republic
ColorPale to amberPale to golden
FlavorSmooth, maltyCrisp, hoppy
Alcohol ContentVaries (typically 4-6%)Varies (typically 4-6%)
IngredientsMalted barley, hops, yeast, waterMalted barley, Saaz hops, yeast, water
Serving TemperatureCold (38-45°F / 3-7°C)Cold (38-45°F / 3-7°C)
GlasswareLager glass or pint glassPilsner glass or pint glass
Popular BrandsHeineken, Budweiser, Stella ArtoisPilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar
Photo by Studio Blackthorns on Unsplash

Further Detail


When it comes to beer, there are countless styles to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics and flavors. Two popular styles that often get confused are lager and pilsner. While both fall under the larger category of pale lagers, they have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will delve into the key differences between lager and pilsner, exploring their brewing processes, flavors, appearances, and historical origins.

Brewing Process

Lager and pilsner are both fermented using bottom-fermenting yeast strains, but their brewing processes differ slightly. Lagers are brewed at cooler temperatures, typically between 45-55°F (7-13°C), and undergo a longer fermentation period. This slow fermentation process allows the yeast to work more efficiently, resulting in a clean and crisp flavor profile. On the other hand, pilsners are a specific type of lager that originated in the Czech Republic. They are brewed using a specific strain of yeast and undergo a cold fermentation process at even lower temperatures, around 40-45°F (4-7°C). This meticulous brewing process contributes to the distinct characteristics of a pilsner.

Flavor Profile

When it comes to flavor, lagers and pilsners have noticeable differences. Lagers tend to have a milder and more balanced taste, with a clean and refreshing quality. They often exhibit subtle malt sweetness and a light hop bitterness. Pilsners, on the other hand, are known for their pronounced hop bitterness and a more prominent malt presence. They have a distinct herbal or floral hop flavor, which contributes to their crisp and refreshing nature. Pilsners also tend to have a drier finish compared to lagers, making them a popular choice for those who prefer a more assertive flavor profile.


Visually, lagers and pilsners can be distinguished by their appearances. Lagers typically have a pale golden color, ranging from straw yellow to deep amber. They often exhibit excellent clarity and a moderate to high level of carbonation. Pilsners, on the other hand, have a paler hue, usually a light golden color. They are known for their brilliant clarity and effervescence, with a dense and frothy white head. The visual appeal of both styles adds to the overall drinking experience, enticing beer enthusiasts with their inviting appearances.

Historical Origins

Understanding the historical origins of lagers and pilsners provides valuable context to their attributes. Lagers, as a broader category, trace their roots back to the 15th century in Germany. The term "lager" comes from the German word "lagern," meaning "to store." This refers to the practice of storing beer in cool caves or cellars for an extended period, allowing it to mature and develop its distinct characteristics. Pilsners, on the other hand, have a more specific origin story. They were first brewed in the city of Pilsen, in what is now the Czech Republic, in the mid-19th century. The creation of the first clear, golden-hued pilsner beer revolutionized the brewing industry and set the standard for the style we know today.

Food Pairing

Both lagers and pilsners are versatile when it comes to food pairing. Due to their clean and refreshing qualities, lagers are often enjoyed with a wide range of dishes. They complement lighter fare such as salads, seafood, grilled chicken, and even spicy cuisines. The mild malt sweetness in lagers can also balance out the richness of creamy sauces or cheeses. Pilsners, with their assertive hop bitterness, pair exceptionally well with grilled meats, sausages, spicy foods, and even strong cheeses. The crisp and effervescent nature of pilsners helps cleanse the palate, making them an excellent choice for hearty and flavorful dishes.


While lagers and pilsners share similarities as pale lagers, their distinct attributes make them stand out in the world of beer. From their brewing processes to flavor profiles, appearances, and historical origins, each style offers a unique experience for beer enthusiasts. Whether you prefer the milder and balanced nature of a lager or the assertive hop bitterness of a pilsner, both styles have their place in the vast and diverse world of beer. So, next time you find yourself at a brewery or beer store, consider trying a lager or pilsner to appreciate the subtle nuances and craftsmanship behind these popular beer styles.

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