What if I told you that old ale is not necessarily stale ale? Like many things in life, Old Ale started off as a relatively negative term but has turned into something far more positive with time. Originally, Old Ales were fresh “young” beers that had not sold and were therefore aged slowly in barrels in cellars in breweries and pubs across the U.K.🍺
Due to the levels of cross-contamination in historical breweries though, these beers would become infected with Brettanomyces (originally a wild British yeast) and infused with the flavour of the wooden barrels. As we know know, these oaky, Bretty flavours are quite the acquired taste and people go crazy for them, so unsurprisingly the style stuck and people started deliberating aging beers for consumption, making Old Ale Great Again! 😋
Old Ale Beer Review
Indeed, Old Ales are also known as Stock Ales, Keeping Ales (an English version of a Bière de Garde!) or sometimes even Winter Warmers. Typically, all these names are united by a common focus on a malt-forward beer with a slightly higher alcohol content giving lots of notes of toffee and molasses. The use of English ale yeasts brings fruity esters which are more dominant due to lower-than-usual hop aromas or bitterness. In many ways, they are similar to English Barleywines but with a more subdued profile in terms of both hops and alcohol content, making them a little less aggressive. 🥮🍺
With aging, you obviously get a mixed bag of fruit and funk depending on the strains of yeasts present and the barrel-character also varies depending on the amount of time, where and how it was aged. 🪵
Later this week I’ll be delving into Veille Branche from microbrasserie La Souche to see what their aging did to their original Old Ale recipe that I tried earlier this week! Stayed tuned! 👀
Originally from England, Mike Davis came to Quebec ten years ago to study history. During this time he fell in love with the microbreweries of Quebec, which reminded him of English pubs. Now, he holds a Ph.D in History from McGill University, but works in the beer world as the Brand Ambassador for Microbrasserie 4 Origines.
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