Ten things you didn’t know about… real ale
19 October 2010

British pubs are famous throughout the world. These are the places where many people go to meet each other and relax at the end of a working day.

Many visitors and students like to spend time in British pubs during their stay. But not everybody knows about traditional UK beer, often called real ale. For the last three years, real ales have been becoming a much more popular drink, with 100,000 new customers.

  • Real ale is the name used to describe beers made using traditional methods.
  • Beer contains water, hops (a type of flower which adds flavour), and malted barley. Different beers will have slightly different recipes. The mixture is then fermented with yeast to create alcohol.
  • Modern brewing methods treat the beer and stop it fermenting before it goes to the pub in a barrel or a bottle. This changes the way the beer tastes. Gas is sometimes added to make this beer or lager fizzy.
  • Real ale is still alive when it goes to the pub. This means it takes skill to keep the beer good. It also means the beer has a far more interesting taste. Real ales will be kept in a barrel, usually in the cellar of the pub but sometimes behind the bar.
  • Many different types of beer are available as real ales. Traditional lagers have a very strong taste compared to those which come in cans. Ales include bitter (this is usually brown and clear) and stouts, porters and old ales which can be almost black in colour and are usually sweeter. Sometimes the beer will have white froth on top called a 'head'.
  • In the early 1970s, beer drinkers formed a group to keep traditional beers in pubs. Many small breweries had closed because huge companies were selling modern beer, which was easier for pubs to keep. This group became the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).
  • Now there are lots of brewers all over the UK making beers to their own recipes. You can try them at real ale festivals or in lots of pubs which sell them. Not every pub sells real ale, though. Try this list to find one near you.
  • If you want to try real ale, it is a good idea to start with a smaller glass (ask for a half, which means half a pint). British beer glasses come in two types. Those with a handle are called 'jugs' and those without are called 'straights'; Some pubs will ask which type you want.
  • Some real ales can be very alcoholic. Look on the real ale handpulls in the pub you are in. These will give information about the name of the beer, the brewer, and how strong the beer is. The lower the number, the weaker the beer. Be very careful about anything which has an ABV of 5 or above.
  • Ask the bar staff to give you an idea of how the beers will taste. Some are sweeter and some are strongly flavoured with hops, which means they will have quite a strong taste.

It can be good to try a beer made close to where you are staying. If you are having real trouble choosing which beer to try, it can be fun to go for the silliest name. Real beers on sale include Fursty Ferret, Old Stoatwobbler, and Piddle In The Snow.


by Susan Young (susan@englishuk.com)


Read more like this:


previous entry << >> next entry