Updated at: 18-07-2023 - By: John Lau

Uncertain whether to opt for a Lager or a Pilsner on your next brewery visit?

In this article, we’ll clarify the difference between these two popular beers, taking you through their distinct brewing processes and flavor profiles.

Ready to be a beer connoisseur? Let’s dive in!

Understanding Lager and Pilsner

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Lager and Pilsner are two popular beer styles with distinct differences in ingredients, brewing process, and flavor profiles.

What is Lager?

Lager is a type of beer known for its crisp and clean taste, thanks to a particular brewing process. This style of beer gets its name from the German word ‘lagern’, which means ‘to store’. It refers to the method used in creating this beverage.

Lagering involves storing and maturing the brew at cold temperatures typically ranging from 35-45°F (1.7-7.2°C), unlike other beers brewed at significantly higher temperatures.

The lower temperature slows down yeast activity during fermentation, resulting in a smoother and less complex flavor profile—making lagers notably distinct from their ale counterparts which have a more fruity or spicier flavor due to their warmer fermentation process.

Lagers encompass several sub-styles including pilsner—the hop-forward variant of lagers that originated in the Czech Republic city, Plzen—as well as dunkels, bocks and Oktoberfests among others, demonstrating its diverse range within the world of beer styles.

What is Pilsner?

Pilsner is a type of lager beer that originated in the Czech Republic. It is named after the city of Plzen, where it was first brewed in 1842. Pilsners are known for their distinctive hoppy and spicy flavor profile, which sets them apart from other lagers.

Unlike some lagers that have a clean and crisp taste, pilsners have a more pronounced malt flavor with an aggressive use of hops. This results in a refreshing beer with a slightly bitter finish.

Heineken is an example of a popular pilsner brand that you might be familiar with. If you enjoy beers with a stronger hop character and want to try something different from traditional lagers, give pilsners a try!

Key Differences in Ingredients, Brewing Process, and Flavor Profile

Lager and Pilsner, while similar, possess distinct differences in their ingredients, brewing process, and flavor profile.

Recognizing these elements can enhance your beer drinking experience and empower you to make informed decisions based on your taste preference.

Feature Lager Pilsner
Ingredients Basic ingredients like malted barley, hops, yeast, and water. The hops used in lagers are usually not too bitter. Same core ingredients as lager but with a more aggressive use of hops. Pilsners are named after Plzen, a city in the Czech Republic known for its quality hops.
Brewing Process The brewing process is standard, but the primary difference lies in the fermentation. Lagers are fermented at cooler temperatures for longer periods. Pilsners undergo a similar brewing process as lagers, including lagering, a carefully controlled process involving cold storage. This method helps to develop the beer’s clean flavors and bright, golden color.
Flavor Profile Generally smooth, crisp, and clean. Lagers are often light in flavor, making them popular for easy drinking. Typically hoppy and spicy in taste. Pilsners are often described as a lager that has been “corrected” with the addition of hops, leading to a more assertive flavor.

When exploring the world of beers, understanding these characteristics allows you to fully appreciate the nuances of each type. Be it a lager or a pilsner, your choice depends on which flavor profile suits your palate.

Taste and Characteristics of Lager

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Lagers are known for their smooth and crisp flavor, making them easy to drink and refreshing.

Smooth and Crisp Flavor

Lagers are known for their smooth and crisp flavor, making them a popular choice among beer enthusiasts. These beers have a clean taste that is refreshing and easy to drink.

With a focus on malt flavors rather than hop bitterness, lagers offer a more balanced and subtle taste experience.

Pilsners, in particular, showcase this characteristic with their delicate blend of pale malts and Saaz hops. This combination creates a beer that is light-bodied yet flavorful, with a distinctively crisp finish.

So whether you’re sipping on a traditional Czech or German pilsner or enjoying another style of lager, you can expect the same smoothness and refreshment that lagers are renowned for.

Range of Styles and Varieties

There is a wide range of styles and varieties when it comes to lagers and pilsners. Here are some examples:

  1. Pale Lager: This is the most common type of lager, known for its light color and refreshing taste. Examples include Budweiser and Heineken.
  2. Munich Helles: Originating from Munich, Germany, this style of lager is pale gold in color with a balanced malt flavor. It has a clean and crisp taste.
  3. Dortmunder Export: This is a strong and hoppy lager that originated in Dortmund, Germany. It has a rich golden color and a pleasantly bitter taste.
  4. Czech Pilsner: The original pilsner style from Plzen, Czech Republic, it has a pale golden color with a pronounced hop bitterness. Pilsner Urquell is a classic example.
  5. German Pilsner: Similar to Czech pilsners but with slightly less bitterness, German pilsners have a clear golden hue and offer a slightly sweeter malt flavor.
  6. American Lager: This style is characterized by its light body and crisp taste. Popular American lagers include Coors Light and Miller Lite.
  7. India Pale Lager (IPL): Combining the hoppy characteristics of an IPA with the smoothness of a lager, IPLs are becoming increasingly popular among craft beer enthusiasts.

Taste and Characteristics of Pilsner

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Hoppy and Spicy Flavor

Pilsner beers are known for their hoppy and spicy flavor profile. The aggressive use of hops in the brewing process gives pilsners a distinct bitterness that is balanced by the crisp, clean taste.

Pilsners often have a more pronounced hop character compared to other lagers, which adds an enjoyable level of spiciness to the beer’s overall flavor profile.

This unique combination of hops and spices makes pilsners stand out among other beer styles, appealing to those who appreciate a bolder and more flavorful experience.

So if you’re looking for a beer with a hop-forward taste and a touch of spiciness, pilsners are definitely worth exploring. Cheers!

Distinctive Czech and German Styles

Distinctive Czech and German Styles:

  • Pilsners originated in the Czech Republic, specifically in the city of Plzen. They are known for their crisp and clean taste.
  • Czech pilsners, also known as Bohemian pilsners, have a slightly sweeter malt flavor compared to other pilsner styles.
  • German pilsners, also called “pils” or “pilsener,” have a more hop – forward profile with a spicy and herbal flavor.
  • German pilsners often feature hops from the Hallertau region, which adds a unique character to the beer.
  • Both Czech and German pilsners undergo a lagering process, where the beer is cold – conditioned for an extended period to develop its flavors.
  • Czech pilsners typically have a slightly higher alcohol content compared to German ones.
  • Pilsner Urquell, from the Czech Republic, is considered one of the original and most influential examples of a Czech-style pilsner.
  • Germany’s Bitburger and Warsteiner are well-known brands that produce authentic German-style pilsners.

Choosing Between Lager and Pilsner

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Personal Preferences

Your personal preference plays a vital role in choosing between lager and pilsner. While both beer styles offer distinct flavors, it ultimately depends on your taste buds and what you enjoy most.

If you’re someone who appreciates a smooth and crisp flavor with a clean finish, lagers might be your go-to choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a more hoppy and spicy flavor profile, pilsners could be right up your alley.

It’s important to experiment with different brands and varieties to find the one that truly satisfies your palate.

And when it comes to food pairings, lagers tend to complement lighter dishes such as seafood or salads, while pilsners can hold their own against spicier cuisines or grilled meats.

Food Pairings

  • Pilsners, with their hoppy and spicy flavor, pair well with a variety of foods.
  • Grilled sausages: The clean and crisp taste of pilsners complements the savory flavors of grilled sausages perfectly.
  • Spicy foods: Pilsners can handle the heat! Their hoppy profile helps balance the spiciness in dishes like Thai curry or Mexican salsa.
  • Seafood: The light and refreshing nature of pilsners makes them an ideal match for seafood dishes such as grilled fish or shrimp tacos.
  • Salads: Pilsners’ clean taste makes them a great choice to accompany salads, especially those with tangy dressings or goat cheese.
  • Cheese and charcuterie: Pilsners’ hoppy flavor cuts through fatty cheeses and rich cured meats, enhancing the overall experience.
  • Pizza: Whether it’s a classic Margherita or a meat-lover’s pie, pilsners provide a refreshing contrast to the flavors found in pizza.
  • Light desserts: Pilsners’ crispness can be a delightful pairing with light desserts like fruit tarts or lemon bars.

Popular Brands to Try

Looking to explore the world of lagers and pilsners?

Here are some popular brands to try:

  1. Heineken: A well-known brand, Heineken offers a classic pilsner with a clean and crisp taste. It’s a great option for those who prefer a lighter beer with a hint of hoppy flavor.
  2. Stella Artois: Originating from Belgium, Stella Artois is another popular choice when it comes to lagers. It has a smooth and malty flavor profile, making it perfect for those who enjoy a slightly sweeter taste.
  3. Budweiser: A household name in the beer industry, Budweiser is an American-style lager that appeals to many with its clean and refreshing flavor. It’s a go-to choice for those looking for an easy-drinking beer.
  4. Samuel Adams Boston Lager: Known for their craft beers, Samuel Adams offers a flavorful and well-balanced lager experience. With hints of caramel malt and spicy hops, it’s definitely worth trying if you’re seeking something with more complexity.
  5. Guinness Blonde American Lager: For those looking to step outside the traditional styles, Guinness Blonde American Lager provides a unique twist on the classic Irish stout brand. It offers a smooth and crisp taste with subtle citrus notes.


In conclusion, while both lagers and pilsners fall under the broader category of beer, they have distinct differences in their ingredients, brewing process, and flavor profiles.

Lagers are known for their smooth and crisp taste, while pilsners offer a more hoppy and spicy flavor.

Ultimately, the choice between the two comes down to personal preferences and desired food pairings.

So whether you’re a fan of clean and crisp or prefer something spicier, there’s a lager or pilsner out there waiting for you to explore.