Ales fall into a few broad categories with the boundaries being set by the brewing region. In addition to nearly all wheat beers, there are ales from the English, Irish, Belgians, northern French, Germans, eastern Europeans, Americans – I think you get the picture. There are a LOT of ales out there!
If it seems a little complicated, just think of the malt and hops used in ales as different hues of paint . . . and think of the beer styles as different pictures created with those paints. Some pictures are simple and to the point, while others are dark and complex. As with a painting, brewing ale is all a matter of blending and symmetry. I hope you find the following ale facts from your favorite Beer of the Month Club interesting.
FACT – The phrase “Mind your P’s and Q’s” originated from the English pubs where ale was sold in either Pint or Quart tankards. Patrons could run a tab, and it was up to the barmaids to keep track of what they needed to pay before they left the pub. The pub owner always reminded the barmaids to “mind their P’s and Q’s”, because the beer drinkers, of course, had to pay more if drinking quarts as opposed to drinking pints.
FACT – Eighty-five percent of all beer served in Great Britain is served in a club, pub or restaurant. Here in the United States where we like to relax at home or in the homes of friends and family, only 15% of all beer is consumed in public establishments.
FACT – India Pale Ale (IPA) was created in the late 18th century out of necessity. The five-week trip by ocean wreaked havoc on the kegs of ale being shipped to India. The constant motion and temperature fluctuations, however, enhanced the new high alcohol IPA recipe of George Hodgson, ensuring maximum fermentation and durability of his new brew.
FACT – Scottish monks began brewing in the 12th century using heather flowers. Because ergot fungus was sometimes found in the heather, some of their ales actually had hallucinogenic properties.
FACT – Talk about being able to hold your beer . . . Some old ales, most notably Thomas Hardy, can be aged up to twenty years! (The long shelf life increases the alcoholic content from 7% to 12%, giving the aged brew quite a punch!)