Stout vs Lager: A Tale of Two Beer Styles (2023)

Last Updated on October 25, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Discussing differences between stout and lager leads to one of the most lively conversations among beer enthusiasts.

You might argue that stout would always be darker, while lager would have a light appearance. But there are exceptions to those general characteristics.

Even our readers who are seasoned beer enthusiasts would agree that the differences between these two beer lies beyond their appearance.

So, here is a comprehensive stout vs lager comparison. Let’s see which one is better.

In-Depth Comparison of Lager & Stout

Glass of Beer

Most beers can be categorized into two main beer styles: ales and lagers [1]. Stouts fall under the ale category, a type of beer that uses top-fermenting yeast, resulting in its dark color. 

Lagers, on the other hand, use bottom-fermenting yeast, creating a refreshing taste and crisp flavor. 

“It was as natural as eating and to me as necessary, and I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking beer.” – Ernest Hemingway, Novelist and Journalist

Both have different brewing techniques, but lagers have a longer process than stout. Lager also has a lower alcohol content and should also be served at a lower temperature than stout. 

But do you know the difference between lager and IPA?

Lager vs Stout Comparison Table

Feature Stout Lager
Fermentation Style Top-fermented  Bottom-fermented 
Alcohol Content 4 to 30% ABV 4 to 6% ABV
Ingredients Dark roasted malts, hops, yeast and water  Malted barley, hops, yeast, and water
Carbonation Low High
Serving Temperature 45 to 55°F 33 to 40°F
Popular Styles American Imperial, Irish, Oatmeal, Milk, etc.  American, Vienna-Style, Imperial Pilsner, Pilsner, etc. 
Brewing Time 8 hours or less 8 hours or less
Popularity Widely popular Widely popular
Brand Examples Guinness, Left Hand Brewing And Co. Milk Bud Light, Heineken, Corona Light 
Food Pairings Salty food, braised dishes, grilled foods Shellfish, spicy food, pasta (with meat sauces) 

What Makes Stout Different From Lager?


Lager and stout are two beer styles that have been around for centuries. Traces of lager residue could be traced back to the 1400s in Bavaria, making it older than stout.

However, some new studies claimed that the origin of lager could be in South America. Stout beer is a dark beer that originated in England during the 18th century.

Read: Top Beers for Beginners

Beer Type

Pouring Beer on a Glass

Stout beers have been commercially around since 1820 with various styles like dry, oatmeal, and cream stout [2]. American stouts have a dark chocolate and coffee taste, emphasizing the roasted malt on their ingredients. 

On the other hand, classic lagers tend to have a balanced sweet and bitter taste from using malt and hop. Some types of this beer style are American lager, with a clean and crisp taste, and Vienna lager, with malty aroma and bitter hop flavor.


Stouts tend to have higher sugar content than lagers because of the use of dark malt. As BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) stated, stouts have a full-bodied flavor with a sweet and roasted taste, similar to a sweetened espresso [3].

Meanwhile, lager is a refreshing beer style with lower sugar content than stout.

So, if you are looking for a well-balanced beer with a complex flavor, stouts would be your ultimate choice. But if you’re looking for a lighter beer style, you can choose a lager. 

Stout beers usually have higher calories, so you might need to drink water between your shots to help reduce your calorie intake.

Also Read:

Fermentation Process

The major difference between lager and stout lies entirely in their fermentation process because it directly influences their flavor profiles. 

Lager beer has a longer fermentation process at cooler temperatures, giving it its crisp and light characteristics. This process also resulted in a smoother beer. 

However, a stout beer has a shorter process at warmer temperatures, producing robust flavor and intense taste. 

Again, this category depends on personal preference, but the stout’s resulting complex flavor profile won my vote. 

Production Process

Lager and stout follow the same production process, from mashing, lautering, boiling, cooling, and fermenting. They differ in the fermentation process. 

Lager beers can take weeks to months at 10°C, while stout would be ready for at least three weeks at 15°C to 20°C.

These brewing methods greatly affect the final taste of the products. 

The production process for lager is longer than a stout, and it would also be followed by a maturation period in cold storage.

How It’s Served

Pouring Beer on a Glass

As mentioned, stout beers have more complex flavors than lager beers. This difference between the two also affects how they should be served. 

Now, most people I know would say that beers should be served chilled. While it is a refreshing way to drink your booze, dark beers like Stout, Porter, or India Pale Ale are better served close to room temperature. 

The complex flavors of these beers are more enjoyable if they are just “slightly chilled,” from 45°F to 50°F range. 

For lagers, drinking it at a colder temperature of 33°F to 40°F range would be ideal. The hops flavor would be more noticeable as the beer warms up.


Aside from the production process, the type of malts used by stout and lager beers also contribute to their distinctive flavor profiles. Stout beers use at least 10% dark malts and around 70% base malts. These ingredients produce a richer taste and darker color. 

On the other hand, the lager malt used in lager beer production produces less flavor, resulting in its lighter flavor profile.


Aside from balancing the beer’s flavors, hops also play another crucial role in beer production. It acts as a natural preservative.

“By manipulating grain, hops, yeast, and water chemistry, along with adjuncts, brewers create varied flavors, colors, alcohol levels, and textures in the final product.” – Liquor Laboratory 

Naturally, the warm fermentation of stout beers calls for more hops as a protective element. The higher concentration of hops and faster production process results in more bitterness for the stout.

But for most lagers, the fewer hops involved resulted in a lighter taste.


Lagers and stouts employ different strains of yeast that work at varying temperatures and speeds. Stouts are made of top-fermenting yeast, while lagers are made of bottom-fermenting yeast. 

The lager yeast ferments at lower temperatures and is much more fragile than ale yeast, but it can’t survive in higher alcohol content. That’s why lagers generally have a moderate alcohol content for a beer.

How to Tell the Difference Between Stout & Lager Beers

glasse of lager beer

By Smell

Stout beers often have a distinct aroma of coffee, chocolate, and roasted notes, while lagers lean towards a crisper, lighter scent.

These characteristics could be hard to distinguish at first for beginners, so you might need to take a sip of the beer to be sure.

By Sight

Distinguishing by sight may be a little tricky here. Lagers have styles ranging from light and amber to dark color, while stout is usually dark brown. 

Dark lagers are not very common, but you may occasionally encounter them. This appearance is caused by roast malt extract in the making process.


Is a stout a lager or an ale?

Stout is a version of ale [4]. It is a warm fermented beer with a rich flavor that uses roasted barley. The primary differences between the two types of beer are the use of yeast, the brewing process, and the flavor profile. 

What is the difference between a stout and a dark lager?

The differences between a stout and a dark lager are the yeast strain and brewing process. Stout used a top-fermenting or aerobic yeast, while dark lager used a bottom-fermenting or anaerobic yeast.


Stout and lager are types of beer with different yeast and brewing processes, resulting in different flavors and colors.

If you are used to bourbon or other dark liquor with a stronger flavor and characteristics, you would be pleased with stout.

On the other hand, if you want a clean, light, and simple beer with a refreshing flavor, you can go for a lager. It is a typical entry point for new craft beer drinkers that goes well with cocktails for easy drinking.

The most famous stout brand is Guinness Draught, while Bud Light is a famous lager.



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here or feel free to give Lydia a tip.

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