Before the Industrial Revolution, the typical English beer drinker had an affinity for a sort of old beer. This older style beer became known as Old Ale. English style Old Ales have been cellared in oak tuns for a year or longer and take on an astringent character from tannins in the wood and from being exposed to bacteria like lactobacillus and Brettanomyces.
Brewers don’t necessarily just brew this old world ale left and right anymore. Instead, many brewers age a portion of beer in the wood and blend it with fresh beer to add complexity and character to their batches of new beer, and whatever aged beer is not blended, then gets packaged and sold as olde ale.
Old Ale beer has a heavy malt character, full body, and slight sweetness on the finish. Brewers employ a wide variety of noble hops ands use low-attenuating Old Ale yeast with good alcohol tolerance when creating these brews. The yeast has to be able to withstand a long aging process of the brew that could last for years in bulk storage or bottle conditioning. The best Old Ales offer aromas and tasting notes of malt with lingering fruity esters, caramel, molasses, and toffee elements.
Old Ale beer often appears as medium amber to ruddy brown in color. The ABV varies from 6-12%. The Old Ales with a higher ABV closer to 12% are sometimes called old strong ales. The best Old Ale glass is a snifter to gather all the flavors and aromas. The old brown ale can be enjoyed with meals like roast lamb, cheeses like blue or white Stilton, or can be enjoyed alone with a cigar.
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