Lager beers are traditionally made at lower temperatures (6-14 degrees C) than ales (15-25 degrees C). At low temperatures, lager strains (Saccharomyces pastorianus) ferment faster than ale strains (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Two lager and two ale strains had similar maltose transport activities at 20 degrees C, but at 0 degrees C the lager strains had fivefold greater activity. AGT1, MTT1 and MALx1 are major maltose transporter genes. In nine tested lager strains, the AGT1 genes contained premature stop codons. None of five tested ale strains had this defect. All tested lager strains, but no ale strain, contained MTT1 genes. When functional AGT1 from an ale strain was expressed in a lager strain, the resultant maltose transport activity had the high temperature dependence characteristic of ale yeasts. Lager yeast MTT1 and MALx1 genes were expressed in a maltose-negative laboratory strain of S. cerevisiae. The resultant Mtt1 transport activity had low temperature dependence and the Malx1 activity had high temperature dependence. Faster fermentation at low temperature by lager strains than ale strains may result from their different maltose transporters. The loss of Agt1 transporters during the evolution of lager strains may have provided plasma membrane space for the Mtt1 transporters that perform better at a low temperature.