Brew! – Old Ale

Dear Coilers, series of articles about beer continues with the style which is not strongly defined nor too usual these days but it has very rich history.

Subscribers will be presented one beer from this style in Coil’s taproom.

OLD ALE – also called Aged Ale, Stock Ale, Strong Ale, Stale Ale, is style which was developed over 400 years ago.

Long ago, beers were brewed and served fresh as they had bad habbit to turn sour. Then hops were introduced which helped to preserve beer to last longer, before it was not good to drink, but brewers came to an idea of brewing hopped beer stronger in alcohol to make it last even longer.

Those beers were kept in barrels for months and were aged in the same time which gave the beer new flavour qualities.

As beer aged in barrels was stale, flat because it lost natural carbonation, it was usually mixed with fresh beer in pubs to add carbonation to it.

After the style was introduced to consumers (named double) it became very popular. It was followed with double double which was very strong and so expensive that the Queen Elizabeth I had forbidden its production, but somewhat later the style continued to be brewed.

Old ales were known for their special aromas. The reason why those aromas develop was discovered in 20th century.

In 1904, Niels Claussen from Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen, Denmark, was investigating the differences between continental beers, fermented with one strain of yeast and British ales which had much more complex flavours.

He discovered that the strongest ales, in alcohol and flavours, were aged in wooden barrels for up to a year. He tried to replicate those ales but his brews, which used single strain of yeast, didn’t have the character of British ones. He wondered why and finaly discovered weird type of yeast which were infecting British brews.

He named that family of yeasts “British fungus” or Brettanomyces in Latin.

The wild fungi which were spoiling the brews were as a fact giving them appeal.

Old Ales differ a lot but share some common characteristics:

Aroma: Noticeably malty and sweet; Hints of fruity esters; May have notes of caramel, Dried fruit, Toffee, Nut or molasses; Little to no hoppiness

Flavour: Complex maltiness; Hints of caramel, molasses and nut; Possible notes of chocolate and roast; Noticeable bite of alcohol

Appearance: Ranges from light amber to dark reddish-brown; Head range from cream to light tan

Mouthfeel: Heavy/chewy body; Medium to full mouthfeel with little carbonation

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