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AleAle beer has been with us for thousands of years. It has a celebrated history all over the world, from the Norse Vikings to the Mongols – and much more besides. It has gone through a wide range of changes to how it is created and brewed. But at the very core Ale beer has stayed the same.

Ale would be created by using a simple process of the recently domesticated Barley being brewed with water and wild yeast. The result would have been very varied in taste, but certainly a refreshing drink for our ancestors to sup on around a fire.

Obviously brewing processes have since changed – but it is the same concept that is used in the creation of all ale beer to this day.


At the most basic beer is split into two very distinct categories. Ale and Lager. The difference is created right from the outset, with choices of ingredients having a big part to play.

The two should never be confused. Although one or two hybrid drinks to bridge the divide the differences between ale and lager are stark. Lager is cold and crisp, often simple in it’s flavours. By contrast ale is served at warmer temperatures and has a richer, more complex taste. The colour is also a dramatic divider between the two – lager tends to be light golden in colour in comparison to the darker, richer browns and reds of ale.

There is often a divide between those that drink lager and beer, one that dates back to the time of lager starting to be brewed as well as ales. Now the divide is down more to personal taste than it is any political reasons (as had previously been the case) – but the divide is as sure now as it has ever been!

Brewing and Fermentation

Blue Moon AleThe brewing and fermentation of ales is very different to that of lager. The main difference is in the yeast – ale yeast ferments at the top of the ale, as opposed to lager yeast which is bottom fermenting.

The different type of yeast also means that it operates at different temperatures. Whilst lager yeast prefers cooler temperatures the ale yeast is best suited to temperatures around the 60 – 72 Fahrenheit mark for the fermentation period.

Once the yeast has fermented the sugars (leaving some behind as flavouring – though how much is very much dependent on the ale) it moves on to the brewing process. This process tends to take a few weeks – allowing the ale to age somewhat, enhancing the flavours of the ingredients as it does so.

This brewing process is done at slightly lower temperatures than the fermenting (which needed the heat to encourage the yeast to ferment the sugars properly), with 40 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit usually considered the optimum range for ale brewing.

So whilst lager and ale may both be beer, the method used to create ale tends to allow for a wider ranging taste – with richer and more complex flavors.

Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women's Work in a Changing World
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