So exactly what is Real Ale ?
Real ale is beer that is brewed using ale yeast, and which undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle or cask in which it is stored. It is a quality living food product made from malted barley, hops, water, yeast and occasionally other flavouring ingredients like fruit or herbs. It is living because live yeast is still present in the ale, and the fermentation continues in the vessel it is contained in up to the point at which it is served. The yeast remains in the container as sediment and is not dispensed into the glass. This process ensures that the ale in the glass is a fresh and natural food product. Most lagers, big brand stouts and other keg beers like those served with a cream flow head are essentially dead beers. They are beers that have been pasteurised to stop the fermentation process, and then are dispensed using a gas, CO2 or Nitrogen usually, to give it the appearance of some life. These are in no way real ales. Real ale comes as either cask-conditioned or bottle conditioned and is served ‘cellar cool’ at around 52/53º F – it should never be served ice cold as this just kills the taste. Serving beer in an ice-cold state is a ruse perpetrated by multinational brewers of ‘Eurofizz’ lagers and other ‘dead’ beers to hide the fact that their beers don’t actually have any flavour.
The term ‘real ale’ was coined in the early 1970’s along with the formation of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale). It was a term that was used to distinguish between traditional brewed beer and the bland manufactured keg beers from big brewers, epitomised by the likes of Watney’s Red Barrel. The big brewery keg beers were in danger of squeezing out totally the traditionally brewed beers but CAMRA fought back. They are one of the most successful consumer campaign groups of all time, because of them the future for real ale is a rosy one.