Ale: God's Gift To Humanity

The Ale is sweet, medium to full bodied, fermented relatively quickly, and utilizes malted barley and hops. Interestingly enough, the term "ale" originally described a beer that was brewed without the use of hops but today, describes beer that is almost universally brewed with some amount of hops to not only preserve the beer, but give it the quintessentially British bitterness that varies considerably from beer to beer based on the types of hops used, the amount of hops used, and the country of origin. Ales are diverse by nature, offering beer lovers a vast array of flavors, colors, aromas, and alcohol content. Fermenting ales takes place in temperatures well above most other styles, with temperatures climbing above 75 degrees in certain cases where secondary fruity flavors are desired. Sub- styles of ale historically originate from a diverse set of countries.


Ales are served in a variety of glasses, the most common being a traditional mug, (or Stein if Sprechen sie Deutsch). German beer Steins have included lids initially to prevent the spread of the Black Plague by keeping flies out of the beer people were consuming.

Styles of Ales

Brown/Nut Brown
This style originating in London is a traditional ale using 100% brown malt (hence the color and the name). Initially, the style never became popular and was nearly brought to extinction, until a revival in the early 1900s. The original browns were low in alcohol, sweet, and lightly hopped. Today, color and alcoholic content vary considerably. Caramel and chocolate aromas and aftertastes are consistent. These beers usually are moderately bodied and contain low amounts of hops (with American examples drier due to the use of American hops). Low carbonation and a thin foam head.

Pale Ales use lighter, pale malts which give it a clearer and lighter color. Traditionally, large amounts of hops are used, giving this beer and its relatives a bitter flavor, but this can vary by style and country. Alcoholic strength can also vary depending on the style. There are many separate styles of Pale Ale, a term for a generally bitter beer first brewed in the early 1700s.

India Pale Ale (IPA)
An India Pale Ale is a beer of English origin, first brewed in the mid 1800s. These were beers originally brewed for shippers who would travel across oceans for trade. Because the trips were long and there was no way to refridgerate the beer, a lot of hops were used to preserve the beer. These beers were slightly higher in alcoholic content than traditional pale malt ales. The preserving methods were so effective that these beers could be cellared for two years. As it was popular with those traveling overseas, this was mainly an export beer. These were also better attenuated than the porters that were brewed in England.

English Special Bitter (ESB)
These are the highest strength bitters (above 4.80%) that is brewed in the traditional pale ale fashion. The color of these beers can be modified with addition of caramel color. These beers can range above 7.00% ABV. The term "Bitter" helps differentiate these beers from brews with lower hops (other pale ales that are more malty). Many of these are served in casks at pubs and stored at cellar temperature.

An Amber ale is a beer that uses crystal malt which results in a lighter color (amber). These are typically well hopped beers and will deliver fairly bitter tastes and aftertastes. Aromas can be citrusy and aftertastes can linger for moderate amounts of time. These can be cold or warm fermented.

American Pale
This is a new style from America, which is very similar to the IPA. It was the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company that first used American hops in the production of a pale ale. Cascade is the prominent hop used in American Pales. These beers usually range between 5.00-6.50% ABV. Although the amount of hops used in American Pales is higher than most, IPAs typically use more hops.

Strong Pale Ales are full bodied, high strength, top fermented beers brewed with pale malts. The alcoholic content usually starts at 5.00% ABV (usually 7.00 to 8.00%), but some beers have been known to contain above 40.00% alcohol. In England, these are pale ales with an alcholic content above 5.00% ABV.

Oud Bruin
Sometimes regionally known as Flanders (Flanders Brown), or formally Flanders Oud Bruin, this is a brown ale style beer from the Flemish Community (Region) of Belgium. These brews are medium to light bodied with a brownish, rich dark copper color with a sour overtone and some noticeable fruity aspects. These are usually blended beers with old and new brown ales, similar to Lambic production. Alcoholic strength usually ranges from 4.00 to 8.00% ABV. For more information, read our review on Liefmans' Goudenband Beer.

Biere de Garde
This is a style from Nord-Pas-de-Calais that are copper or golden in color, cellared for a long period of time (about a year after bottled), and consumed during the fall and winter months. These are top-fermented untiltered, modertate to high alcohol strength beers (though some bottom fermented or filtered versions exist). These beers are known for using only ingredients originating from the region.

This is a Belgian beer that is simple - crisp, refreshing, filtered, dry in taste, with lower amounts of bitterness, and some sweet and fruity notes from pale or pilsner malts. These are light bodied beers with high amounts of carbonation. Alcoholic strength usually lies within 4.00 to 5.00% ABV. These are spicy and citrusy beers with fruity aromas.

These are beers from Burton upon Trent (such as Bass) which contain water from the region that was noted for having trace amounts of gypsum. This helped form a unique chemistry that beer drinkers thought produced a very high quality pale ale. So much in fact, that Burton was the only place to brew pale ales until the chemistry could be reproduced in a brewery by process of Burtonisation (adding sulfate in the form of gypsum to the water), many decades later.

Belgians call this style "Double" to acknowledge the strong alcoholic content of this beer. These are full bodied, fruity, brown ales that typically fall between 6 to 8% ABV. These were first brewed as witbiers but that were very sweet and light in ABV. In both 1836 and 1926, the formula was changed to traditional abbey beer recipies, giving it a darker color, more bitter taste, and a higher alcoholic content.

Tripels are stronger versions of Belgian strong ales (Dubbels) which usually start at 6-9% ABV, but usually put out more than 10.00%, making these on average, one of the strongest styles in Europe. It used to be a term used to describe a typical Belgian strong ale that was brewed in a Trappist brewery, but the term has evolved to include other beers as well. The term in its modern context was first used in 1956, but strong beers named Tripel were associated with strong ales before then.

These are lower alcoholic English bitters that contain up to 4.10% ABV. Many of these beers are also classified as India Pale Ales, though this is a misnomer, as the hops content and relative gravities are lower than that of traditional IPAs. These beers make up 17% of all pub sales in the UK.

These beers contain moderate amounts of alcohol (4.20 to 4.70% ABV) from the United Kingdom. These are brewed in the same manner as regular bitters, but because some brewers have retired their session brands, these are sometimes the weakest bitters made by some English brewers.

Irish Red
An Irish Red is a style very similar to English Keg Bitters, though there is an ongoing debate as to whether this is a separate style per se. In the US, certain lagers are colored with caramel to resemble Reds, but these are referred to as red lagers.

American Strong
American Strongs are high strength pale ales that contain at least 7.00% ABV. These are brewed in the same manner as English Specials.

Light Bitters are low alcohol pale ales that utilize low amounts of hops. These are crisp, low bodied and moderately carbonated beers that are mostly used as a mix with other beers to reduce their alcoholic content (market as a light beer) or can be served as a low alcohol beer by itself.

The Scotch Ale is a strong beer originally brewed in Edinburgh in the 1700s. This style is known for its toffee and caramel notes and aromas from direct fire copper malt. Because of this type of malt, these beers are sweeter than most pale ales. Some deliver smoke flavor from the use of peat-smoked malts (in France or Belgium. A stronger version of these beers is known as a "wee heavy" and usually start at 7.00% ABV. These feature a drier, stronger flavor.

Old ales are dark malty English beers that usually contain above 5.00% ABV. The term can also be used to describe any dark ale sold in Australia. Old brews are typically aged in the bottle for up to a year after the complete fermentation process. They are sometimes mixed with mild ales (or served as a complement to them) to deliver a unique blend of sharp old ale characteristics with mild ale fruitiness.

A Belgian is one of many varieties of specialty ales that usually refer to Trappist and Abbey beers. As you would imagine, you'd get more info if you go to the page on Belgium.

These are the opposite of old ales in that they do not go through any aging process. There is no particular color or alcoholic strength that these beer exemplify, though most of them are dark brown and contain only 3.00 to 3.50% ABV.

Barley Wine
This is an English style that contains high amounts of alcohol (8.00 to 12.00% ABV) and is brewed with barley (hence the name; the wine distinction comes from the alcoholic content, which can be as high as wine). The has a moderate hoppiness with some fruity and toffee/caramel notes. The alcoholic strength of this beer is noticeable.

This is a brown style ale originating from Dusseldorf in Germany. The world "alt" is German for old, indicating that these lagers are conditioned for relatively long periods of time. An extension in the conditioning duration levels out any strong fruity character, creating a very well balanced brew with an average amount of carbonation, and an average alcoholic strength.

English Strong
This is a style from England which basically fits betwen a bitter pale ale and a barleywine. This is a mid range, fairly strong (5.50-8.00% ABV) amber/red beer with a complex profile mixed with fruity notes, essential malts, and a confident amount of hops. The aroma depends on how much hops are used, but overall, it showcases floral hoppy notes with some malt. Alcohol is present in the flavor. These beers are usually unfiltered and bottle conditioned.

Belgian IPA
This is a Belgian derivative of the American India Pale Ale, which is higher in hoppy bitter notes and aromas. There is a wide range of hops (mosly American) and malts used, but in general, these beers differ from their American cousins through different Belgian yeast strains which are bottle conditioned. These beers aren't local favorites as they're considered by most to be too hoppy. These beers can be quite high in alcohol (12.00+%) and have an unfiltered, cloudy appearance with a big foam head with great retention.

These are traditionally winter brewed beers produced for the summer time. Their lighter body, fruity, aromatic, and spicy character makes them a complex beer which is great for the summertime. Earthy notes round out secondary flavors depending on the yeast used, and a moderate to above average level of bitterness is expected. These beers typically range from 5.00 to 8.00% ABV.

Double/Imperial Ale
These are IPAs which are much stronger in both alcoholic strength (between 8.00 and 15.00+%) and flavor, brining very complex, robust, and bold malty, alcoholic, and bitter trailing flavors to the table. The name comes from the Imperial Stouts which were brewed specifically with high levels of alcohol in mind for the Russian market.

Belgian Dark
This is a broad group of beers originating from Belgium which are generally characterised by a malty and sweet overtone. These beers range from a lighter brown to a deep, almost opaque blackish color, with tall, long lasting foam heads. These beers are aromatic with floral hops, a wide range of malts, spices, and yeast. These aren't bitter beers, and most are between 4.00 and 7.50% ABV.

Belgian Strong Dark
Brewed in the same way as a Belgian dark ale, but with a higher alcohol content, producing bolder spicy and alcoholic flavors. These beers are also fruity and mostly malty with a very small amount of hops presence in the flavor and the aroma. These beers are complex. ABV % generally exceed 9.00%.

This is a primitive beer style in Europe which originates from Finland. The style was first brewed in the 1500s by peasants in wooden barrels. These beer's boiless lautering means that a large amount of proteins remain in the wort. This gives the sahti an unusually full body. This beer is unfiltered, with a cloudy appearance and noticable sediment feel. This beer is traditionally unhopped, and juniper branches are used in place (to balance the flavor and act as a natural preservative). These beers are tart which reminds some of Belgian lambics. Alcoholic strength usually ranges between 7.00 and 11.00% ABV.

This German style is sour with a good amount of spiciness and sour notes. This can be attributed to a large proportion of rye used in the mash. These beers also feature a clean hoppy trailing flavr. These are unfiltered, bottle conditioned beers with a large foam head, a turbid appearance, and an alcoholic range between 4.00 and 6.00% ABV.

Black Ale
This is an American style which is essentially an IPA with a heavier use of roasted dark malt. These more robust flavors and ingredients change the color (to almost opaque very dark brown), add a bit of substance to the body, and impact the flavor to bring out more roasted dark malty flavors (coffee or esspresso like), balanced out with an IPA like hoppy trail. These beers range from 5.00 to 11.50% ABV.

This is an English style which has been around since the 12th century. These are made by mixing herbs and spices with mead and beer, creating a unique flavor experience which is sweet with some malty, honey character, balanced with some hoppy bitterness. Adding spices to these beers which range from 6.00 to 12.00% ABV, is optional, and not all brewers do it.

Wee Heavy
These are strong Scottish ales which have been around for at least a few hundred years. These beers go through a long kettle boil which produces a rich copperish brown color and a full bodied, sweet presence. These beers are higher in alcohol content (6.50-11.00%) and deliver pronounced caramel and roasted flavors. These beers do not show off any real levels of hops.

These beers are brewed with a high amount of rye grain used in the mash. This creates a sour, rye bread like flavor which is spicy and somewhat tart. These beers are medium to full bodied with a slightly dry finish, and a moderate amount of alcohol (4.00 to 8.00%).

American Wild
This is a Belgian influenced American style which uses, as the name indicates, wild yeast/bacteria to ferment. These uniques strains can produce a wide variety of flavors and aroma experiences, but many produce aromatic, fruity, sour, and tart profiles.

This is a Belgian style inspired by Trappist beers. These are high strength (9.00 to 14.00% ABV) beers which come with deep reddish brown colors, a full body, and bold malty flavors and aromas. Despite these beer's impressive alcohol content, the flavor and aroma are only somewhat impacted. These are sweet overall with a subtle bitter secondary note.

Biere de Champagne/Biere Brut
This is a young style of beer out of Belgium which go through a long conditioning/aging process. These beers can also be aged in the caves of Champagne, France. These are high strength (9.00-15.00% ABV) beers which have delicate flavor profiles, high levels of carbonation, and a medium body. These beers come in a wide variety of colors, and are sometimes enhanced with spices.

These are normal amber or pale ales and sometimes lagers which are kicked with the introduction of real peppers (or pepper juice/oil). The most common addition is the jalapeno pepper, which can heavily increase the heat unit scoville scale of an ale/lager. A typical spiced chile/pepper beer is around 5.50% ABV.

This is an American style of beer derived from the light lager of the same style. These are brewed with adjuncts to create a light body, though it's common for craft breweries create all malt versions. These beers are pale golden in color, and filtered. These beers have a low amount of bitter hoppy character, and are well attenuated, as well as highly carbonated.

Flanders Red
These are red colored beers from the Belgian region of West Flanders. These are tart, sour, and fruity beers which are usually lighter bodied and unfiltered. These cask conditioned beers are blended with old and young beers for conditioning which adds to the complexity of the unique sharp flavor. These beers do not showcase any bold hops. These are moderate in alcoholic strength, ranging from 4.00 to 8.00% ABV

This is a fall seasonal beer made in theUnited States which gets is trademark flavor from the use of fresh hand cut pumpkins in the mash. Sometimes brewers may opt to a puree or extract/flavoring. These are usually spiced with ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and others to reflect pumpkin pie and other fall desserts. These are typically sweet beers with very little hops presence. These are usually medium bodied, and average in strength (4.00 7.50% ABV).

Winter Warmer/Christmas
This is a seasonal style mainly brewed in The UK, America, and Belgium, which features a sweet malt based overtone. These beers offer full medium to dark malt experiences, which add to the body of the beer. These can be quite spicy and feature an alcohol induced warming after the close. These beers range in color from deep red to dark brown/black. As they feature more malty aspects, hoppy levels are generally low. Some of these beers are deliberately spiced which can make some taste like gingerbread cookies or cinnamon. Strength ranges between 6.00 and 11.00% ABV.