In the last couple of weeks we covered the major different types of Lager available here in Thailand. Over the next couple weeks, we will be covering the different types of Ales available here in the Kingdom. As we stated in an article a few weeks ago, “Ale is a top fermented beer, meaning the fermentation happens at the top of the fermentation tank. Ale is also fermented at a higher temperature which results in a beer that is darker in color, and generally stronger in taste than Lagers”.
Ale: A brief history of the good stuff
Ale is a drink older than any current civilization. As far as we know, a drink similar to ale was first brewed around 4,000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq and Syria). It was also brewed by the ancient Egyptians and eventually spread throughout Europe by Roman Legions, making it to the UK around 55 AD.
During the Middle Ages, Ale was a common drink consumed by nearly everyone, children included, for its nutritious value and the fact that it was safer to drink than water. Much of the Ale consumed in Medieval Europe was actually brewed and improved upon by monks. By the 1400s Hops had made it over to the UK, brought by the Dutch, and brewers started to integrate them into Ales.
Throughout the years, various different styles of Ale were developed but for the most part, Ale has remained largely unchanged in hundreds of years. This week, we will look at the first four major styles of Ale.
Bitter Ales are a popular style of beer brewed in the UK and usually range from gold to amber in color and are slightly fruity with a bitter taste from hops. Bitter varies from light to full bodied, yet is a perfectly drinkable beer. When bitter Ales have a strong, full-bodied taste they are labeled as ESB (Extra Strong Bitter) – a personal pub favorite in the UK. One of the most popular bitter ales is Fuller’s ESB.
Pale Ale is a style of Ale that is usually lighter in color. Pale Ales have well balanced malt and hops flavors which makes a beer that can be slightly fruity and range from light to pungently dry and bitter.
Pale Ales are similar to bitter Ales, but they tend to be a little more dry and less hoppy – making for a beer that appeals to a larger taste palate. A great example of a pale ale is Yo-Ho Brewing’s Yona Yona Ale.
Brown Ales are a lightly hopped, somewhat sweet beer often brown to dark amber in color. Many brown Ales tend to be somewhat nutty in taste, especially if they come from Northern UK. American brown Ales tend to be drier than their British counterparts and can be a bit more citrus forward.
One of the most popular brown Ales is Newcastle Brown, which sadly isn’t available in Thailand. If you are looking for something similar, you could try Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown.
India Pale Ales
India Pale Ales (IPAs) are really a subset of pale Ales, but this style has really become one of the most popular Ales out there. IPAs originated as a beer that could be exported from the UK to India in the early 1800’s. Because this was before refrigeration, beer would spoil before it got to India. The answer to this problem: Add hops, lots of hops, which act as a natural preservative. What came out of this was a hoppy beer with the same flavors of a Pale Ale that was tasty and refreshing in hot climates.
IPAs became the beer drunk by soldiers, sailors, adventurers and privateers alike, and when they returned home, they brought demand with them. It was largely because of this that hops started being added to British Ales. If you haven’t tried this style of Ale yet, we strongly recommend that you do. Start with Brewdog’s Punk IPA.
Now, some of you have been asking, and you may be wondering why we didn’t talk about the different Ales from Belgium. Well, stay tuned because we’ll be talking about them next week!
Wish of the week
This beer from Belgium is served in one of the most interesting beer glasses out there. If you had time to try only one Belgian beer in your life, this should be among your list of top choices. To me, it’s quintessentially Belgian – it has a strong malty flavor that manages to be slightly sweet while remaining seductive to the end. Try it today!