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What is an ale?

What is an ale?

Have you ever been deep in thought, beer in hand, wondering what it is you're actually drinking? If not you have not drunk enough...

First of all, ales are made from yeast that has top-fermented (fermenting at the top of the tank...duh...), giving them unique flavour. The yeast ferments in a warm, damp environment. Because of this, it ages rapidly. Other ingredients in an ale recipe include a high amount of malt and hops. Depending on the style, an ale can be bitter, fruity, or sweet. To enhance the flavour, brewers will sometimes add adjuncts such as spices, herbs, or honey. 

In the simplest terms, an ale is a beer that is brewed using a warm fermentation process. This results in a full-bodied, fruity, and sweet taste. Historically, the term ale was used to describe a drink without hops. However, there are many variations of this traditional drink. Here are a few of the most popular types of ales, and tips for identifying an ale that will appeal to you.

Brown ales are mild and nutty. They have a low alcohol content and have a little in common with other brews; they are typically quite sweet and easy to drink. The taste of brown ale can vary significantly with the country of origin. American brown ales are typically bitterer (due to American hops varieties) and have a hint of citrus. Brown ales from the north of England are typically malty and nutty, with the south producing low ABV, sweet brown ales.

Barley wine is a particularly strong type of ale, often bottled at between six and twelve percent alcohol by volume. It is called a wine simply because of its wine-like alcohol content, but is technically an ale, as it is made using grains, rather than fruit (from which wine is made). The two main types of barley wine are the American style, and the English style. The American barley wine is often hoppier, and hence more bitter than its English counterpart.

Old ale is used to describe a dark, malty beer with an alcohol content of at least five percent. Since you can create a dark, malty beer with a very high ABV, you can create a brew that is both an old ale and a barley wine. 

Scotch ale is a term originally used to describe ales exported from Edinburgh that contained a high amount of alcohol. The term is now commonly used in the USA to describe any high ABV ale brewed in Scotland. Much like Barley wine, Scotch ale often has a sweeter, maltier taste due to residual sugars. Some Scotch ales produced have a toffee flavour to them, which has led to American breweries producing beers with a strong toffee taste, and then marketing them as Scotch ales, despite them being American.



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