The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Real ale

Real ale is a type of beer defined by its traditional production. Also known as "cask conditioned" beer; the fundamental distinction between real and other ales is that the yeast is still present in the container from which the beer is served, although it will have settled to the bottom and is not poured into the glass. Because the yeast is still alive, the process of fermentation continues in the cask or bottle on the way to the consumer. This secondary fermentation allows for the development of greater complexity in the taste, giving real ale its distinctive flavour. Another distinction made, especially in the United Kingdom is that real ale should be served without the aid of carbon dioxide or top pressure as it is known. Common methods of dispensation are the hand pump, electric pump, or by gravity.

This fermentation process is by no means unique to ale, it is also commonly used in any number of traditional beers, notably the dopple and tripple beers from Belgium and Germany. The name was brought into widespread use in the United Kingdom, CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) work to promote real ale, as opposed to the many keg beers that were being called ales in the UK during the 1970s.

There are literally hundreds of breweries in the UK which produce real ale and the list is ever changing. There is a steady erosion of some of the older names through closure or merger, but to offset this there are many new breweries, especially microbreweries opening. Well known breweries include Adnams, Theakston and Hog's Back Brewery.

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Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04