Lagers vs Pilsners: Key Differences and Similarities

A beginner’s guide to differentiating these beers

When it comes to beer, there are many different styles to choose from.

Two of the most popular styles are lager and pilsner. While they may seem similar, there are some key differences between the two that make them unique.

Lagers are a type of beer that are fermented at low temperatures, which gives them a crisp, clean taste. They are typically light in color and have a lower alcohol content than other types of beer.

Pilsners, on the other hand, are a type of lager that are known for their hoppy flavor and golden color. They are named after the city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic, where they were first brewed in the mid-19th century.

While both lagers and pilsners are brewed using similar methods, there are some key differences in the ingredients and brewing process that give them their distinct flavors.

Understanding these differences can help you appreciate the unique qualities of each style and make an informed decision when choosing your next beer.

What is Lager?

Lager is a type of beer that is brewed with a specific type of yeast and fermented at cooler temperatures than other types of beer.

The word “lager” comes from the German word “lagern,” which means “to store.”

Lagers are known for their crisp, clean taste and light body. They are typically golden or pale in color, and have a low to medium level of hops.

The fermentation process for lagers takes longer than other types of beer, which allows the yeast to work more slowly and produce less fruity flavors.

There are many different types of lagers, including pilsners, bocks, and Vienna lagers. Each type has its own unique flavor profile and brewing process.

What is Pilsner?

Pilsner is a type of beer that originated in the city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic in 1842.

Pilsner beer on the table

It is a pale lager that is characterized by its light color, crisp taste, and refreshing finish. Pilsner is one of the most popular beer styles in the world, and it is enjoyed by beer drinkers of all types.

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One of the defining features of pilsner is its use of Saaz hops, which give the beer a slightly spicy flavor and aroma. Pilsner is also known for its clarity and effervescence, which make it a refreshing and thirst-quenching beer.

While all pilsners are lagers, not all lagers are pilsners. Pilsner is a specific type of lager that is brewed using a specific set of ingredients and brewing techniques.

In order to be considered a pilsner, a beer must meet certain criteria, including its color, flavor profile, and brewing process.

Key Differences


Lagers and pilsners share many of the same ingredients, including water, malt, and hops.

beer barley and hops

However, the key difference lies in the type of yeast used during the brewing process. Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeast, while pilsners use a specific type of bottom-fermenting yeast called Saccharomyces pastorianus.

This yeast strain is known for its ability to ferment at lower temperatures, giving pilsners their characteristic crispness.

Brewing Process

The brewing process for lagers and pilsners is similar, but there are a few key differences.

Lagers are brewed at cooler temperatures, typically between 45-55°F, and are fermented for longer periods of time, sometimes up to several months. Pilsners, on the other hand, are brewed at slightly higher temperatures, around 50-60°F, and are fermented for shorter periods of time, usually around 2-4 weeks.

Another key difference in the brewing process is the use of “lagering.” This is a process where the beer is stored at cold temperatures for an extended period of time, allowing the flavors to mellow and mature.

All pilsners are lagers, but not all lagers are pilsners. Pilsners are a specific type of lager that has been brewed using a specific process and ingredients.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of lagers and pilsners can vary widely depending on the specific beer and brewing process used.

However, there are some general differences to note. Lagers tend to have a more neutral flavor profile, with a clean, crisp taste and a light body. Pilsners, on the other hand, are known for their distinct hoppy bitterness and a slightly sweet, malty flavor. Pilsners also tend to have a lighter color and a more effervescent carbonation compared to lagers.

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Overall, both lagers and pilsners are refreshing and easy to drink, but pilsners have a more complex flavor profile and are often favored by beer enthusiasts.

In summary, while lagers and pilsners share many similarities, there are distinct differences in their ingredients, brewing process, and flavor profile.

Popular Brands of Lager and Pilsner

When it comes to lagers and pilsners, there are many popular brands to choose from.

budweiser 6 pack with two bottles

Here are just a few:


  • Budweiser: This American beer is known for its signature red and white label and smooth, crisp taste.
  • Corona Extra: A Mexican beer that is often served with a wedge of lime, Corona Extra is a light and refreshing lager.
  • Miller: Miller is another American beer that is popular for its light and easy-drinking taste.
  • Coors: Coors is a Colorado-based beer that has been around since the 1870s. It is known for its clean, refreshing taste.
  • Anchor Steam California Lager: This San Francisco-based brewery produces a lager that is full-bodied and flavorful.


Of course, these are just a few of the many lagers and pilsners that are available. When choosing a beer, it’s important to consider your own personal taste preferences and the occasion.

Whether you’re looking for a light and refreshing beer to enjoy on a hot summer day or a full-bodied brew to pair with a hearty meal, there is sure to be a lager or pilsner that fits the bill.

Which One to Choose?

When it comes to choosing between lager and pilsner, it ultimately comes down to personal preference.

a line up of different kinds of beers on a bar

Both types of beer have their unique characteristics and flavors that appeal to different people.

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If you prefer a beer with a more hoppy and full-flavored taste, then pilsner might be the way to go. Pilsners are brewed using Saaz hops, which gives them a distinct flavor profile that sets them apart from other lagers.

On the other hand, if you prefer a beer with a lighter and more refreshing taste, then lager might be the better choice. Lagers tend to have a cleaner and crisper taste, making them a popular choice for casual drinking.

It’s also worth considering the occasion and food pairings when choosing between lager and pilsner. Pilsners are often paired with spicy foods, while lagers are a popular choice for pairing with burgers and other grilled foods. If you’re looking for a beer to enjoy during the summer months or at a BBQ, then a light and refreshing lager might be the way to go.

Ultimately, the best way to determine which type of beer you prefer is to try different varieties and experiment with food pairings.

Whether you choose a pilsner or a lager, you’re sure to find a beer that suits your taste preferences.


After considering the differences between pilsner and lager, it is clear that both types of beer have their unique characteristics and flavors.

While lagers are typically brewed at cooler temperatures and have bottom-fermenting yeasts, pilsners are a type of lager that originated in the Czech Republic and are known for their more aggressive use of hops. Pilsners are often described as more hoppy and spicy, while lagers are known for their clean, crisp taste.

Additionally, pilsners typically have a lower alcohol content than lagers but have a spicier taste. However, it is important to note that there can be variations in taste and alcohol content within each category depending on the specific brewing process and ingredients used.

Ultimately, the choice between a pilsner and a lager comes down to personal preference and the occasion. Whether you prefer a hoppy and spicy pilsner or a clean and crisp lager, there is a beer out there for everyone to enjoy.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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