Ale is an ancient word for a fermented alcoholic beverage obtained chiefly from malted barley. The closest thing to traditional ale available currently is Real ale, but in Britain, "ale" is nowadays practically synonymous with "beer". At one time, it was brewed without hops, but this has not been the case for at least 400 years.
Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeasts at temperatures from 15 to 25 deg C for shorter periods and warmer temperature than lager. Generally they are higher in alcohol, more robust and complex than lagers. Ales are also usually served at higher temperatures than lagers.
Before the introduction of hops into England from the Netherlands in the 15th century the name "ale" was exclusively applied to unhopped fermented beverages, the term "beer" being gradually introduced to describe a brew with an infusion of hops. This distinction does not apply at the present time. In a number of U.S. states, especially in the western United States, "ale" is the term mandated by state law for any beverage fermented from grain with an alcoholic strength above that which can legally be named "beer," without regard to the method of fermentation or the yeast used. This distinction is not obsolete, but it is idiosyncratic.
In former times the Welsh and Scots had two distinct kinds of ale, called common and spiced ales, the relative values of which (compared to mead) were appraised by law in the following terms:
- If a farmer have no mead, he shall pay two casks of spiced ale, or four casks of common ale, for one cask of mead.
There are numerous varieties of ales in Britain and other countries, such as mild ale, which is a full, sweetish beer, of a dark colour and with relatively little hop; pale ale, which is relatively dry, of light colour and of a more pronounced hop flavour than the mild ale; and bitter and stock ales, the latter term being once reserved for superior beers.
Last updated: 02-07-2005 02:52:08
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01