“Real ale is fucking incredible and I believe it could change the relationship that people have with alcohol for the better and save lives.” -Me
Sound crazy? I hope so.
Now that I have your attention, let me explain:
Real ale is most commonly found in the United Kingdom. It is a type of beer that is typically low in ABVs and is traditionally served from a non-pressurized cask (firkin), with very little to no effervescence, at room temperature. The beer can be clear or slightly cloudy, light or dark with a small layer of foam (head) on top that dissipates over time. Real ale is non pasteurized, unfiltered, and, as a result, usually (hopefully) is very fresh since it doesn’t have a very long shelf life. I recently read an article on the interwebs about real ales which had a lot of misleading information. It stated that all beers including, real ale should be effervescent, cold and have sturdy fluffy head retention. This is quite simply not true and goes against what CAMRA (campaige for real ale) and good ol’ tradition defines as real cask ale and . First of all because carbonation only contributes a little bit to head retention and thickness. The head on a beer is mostly made from proteins that come from the malts and hops. Furthermore, it is much easier to detect all the complex tastes and aromas beer has when it is served slightly warmer. Real ale can range from being dark, complex and malty, to light and watery all the way to being quite hoppy and bitter; they are each individual, unique little gems that are extremely under-appreciated, in north America especially, and I think that’s a damn shame.
I started drinking real ale when I was 18 or so in England with my boyfriends family. As a young person who only just leveled up in life to “legal drinking age” I enjoyed bubbly, light, ice cold crisp beers, usually in extremely unhealthy quantities. I was prone to drinking something called “Fosters top”, which is Fosters lager mixed with Sprite or 7-up, and I was probably the least likely person to fall in love with real ale. One fateful day, I went for a drink with Toms mom, dad and sister to a small historic pub called The White Horse which is located in Hedgerly. The pub itself is absolutely incredible; white stone walls that are prettily decorate with hanging baskets of flowers for most of the year, a dark wooden door that might be the original copy, an antique interior and a gigantic beer garden for sunny days. It is quaint, quiet and is now one of my favorite places to have a beer. I remember being at the White horse for the first time and having my first real ale, thinking, “I don’t know if I like this… its so different to what I’m used to… is it meant to be warm and flat? This seems backwards…” It took me a few visits to the white horse to start to really appreciate what I was experiencing. The large variety of flavors made it fun and easy to try something new with each visit and eventually I started to really appreciate the beers being served flat and slightly colder than room temperature because you could actually taste the beer! Not only that, Since it had little to no carbonation you didn’t have to belch every three minutes and could also comfortably drink more. I believe that this change of attitude towards beer is the reason I no longer “drink to get drunk”.
Which brings me to my next point:
Real ale served from a firkin gives the act of drinking beer its dignity back. When people learn to appreciate what they are drinking, get excited about new flavors and pay homage to the historic relevance of beer, it changes their attitude about the act of drinking. With this change of attitude and higher appreciation, I believe that people will spend more time thinking about what they are putting into their bodies, which in turn could encourage them to eat healthier non processed foods. If we can create a “healthy attitude” about beers, why not everything else? Furthermore, since cask ale is hard to store and doesn’t really travel well, it is served locally which might in turn make communities start to think about where the rest of their food and drinks are coming from. for example, “Should I buy the orange juice that was made in the next province over, or the one which was made in a different country?” and “Where is my meat coming from? some of that locally dried sausage would pair really nicely with the local beer I just had.” I’m not saying that I want to turn everyone into a beer snob, but wouldn’t it be great if we all started drinking non pasteurized, fresh, local, low alcohol, delicious beer and started thinking the same way about our food? Not only are we stimulation local economies, lets be real, the less you eat McGross Double amonia burgers, the longer you will live and the healthier you will be.
Real ale could save lives.
Lets make it happen.