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This is something that has been on my mind and I am wondering if I just have a statistical bias here, but it seems to me that when I peruse the shelves of my local bottle shops that I usually see a larger selection of ales versus lagers, especially among craft circles. So I guess, in a roundabout way, my question is: are ales more popular/attractive to brew than lagers and why?

Bonus points: numbers that demonstrate one way or another.

The reason I ask is because I read something a couple months ago that said lagers are better sellers than ales and it doesn't see to align with what I observe. Also, please assume that I know the differences between the styles of beer. I just meant this to be overarching.

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You have to think of the volume of beer that's actually made. The big 'non-craft' brewers produce huge amounts of lager because the tradition for last hundred years or so has been to make lighter, more 'drinkable' beers. That also happens to fit with the big business ideal of being cheap to produce (light & drinkable means corn & rice are OK!).

Craft brewer tend to make ales for a few reasons.

  • Prior to the explosion of lagers, most beer in the world was ale, and there are many more styles & different kind of yeast to choose from if you make ale.
  • Most ales can be produced faster than lagers, which is helpful when your brewery is small.
  • Ales are easier to make at home, so home brewers are quite familiar with these styles (and sometimes become pros as well).

Numbers: as of last year, the thousands of craft breweries in the US still only had 11% of market share. Big breweries still crank out ~3/4 of US consumption, nearly all lager.

  • also the most popular craft beer style in American is IPA, which is an Ale, could help explain why there are so many ale bottles on the shelves – bolnad May 5 '15 at 16:03
  • I guess I probably should have known that the shops I frequent are pretty outlier-y. – Man Of Beer Man May 10 '15 at 20:42
  • Its worth noting also that lagers brew at colder temperatures than ales and thus a brewery needs to spend more to keep them at the proper temperature. Also, if you are a small brewery the number of brewing tanks is a major constraint on your production. You can output much more beer if it doesn't need to be in the tanks as long, making ales easier for small breweries to produce. – greggle138 May 13 '15 at 15:28

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