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Beer 101: How to Drink Different Styles of Ale Beers

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If you are looking for one of the most traditional beers in the world, you can’t go wrong with ales. Ale beers played the important role of providing nutrients in the medieval times, and still are good pleasure sources for many beer lovers today. There are different styles of ales available on shelves, with varying characteristics and flavors.

The biggest difference between ales and other beers is how the former is brewed. Ales use top-fermenting yeast in a process that helps retain fruity aromas and flavors of ingredients. In order to enjoy the full length of ale beers, you need to use the right glasses and pair them with the right food, here’s a breakdown.


IPA Beer: IPA is the acronym for India Pale Ale; however, this doesn’t mean that the beer came from the sub-continent originally. In fact, it was brewed in east London by creating an ale that would be drinkable after enduring the long voyage to India and other lands.

American Pale Ale (APA) is the commonest IPA beer style that features neutral yeast, restrained malt character and a huge hop character for a thirst-quenching and complex beer. APAs are brewed using American hops and Citra, giving them a zesty, citrusy flavor. A good example of an APA beer is the Stone and Wood Pacific Ale.

Drink your IPA beer from a pint beer mug or glass, which are easy to use and strong enough to toast your friends. Pair IPA beers with Thai food (not too spicy though) or citrus desserts like key lime pie.

Dark Ales: Dark ales are flavorful, sweet and full-bodied since they depend on malt rather than hops for flavors ranging from nutty to fruity. Dark ales range in color from dark brown to bright amber and are usually not bitter or hoppy.

You can drink dark ales from a pint glass, mug or stemmed tulip. Best food pairings for dark ales are cheese, red meat (barbequed or roasted) or corn pastries.

Spiced or Honeyed Ales: These ales feature a huge range of ingredients that include spices like ginger, cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg as well as honey. The mouthfeel, aroma, and flavor of these ales all vary depending on the ingredients used, but there’s always a characteristic low hop feel that allows other ingredients to shine through.

Drink your favorite spiced or honeyed ale from a tulip glass to enjoy the rich flavors. Food pairings will vary depending on the ingredients. For example, hop and honey ales go well with sausages or chocolate fudge sundae.

Porter and Stout: Both beers are closely related since they are made from dark malts that give off a deep color and signature chocolate and coffee flavors. The one thing brewers agree on when it comes to differences between porter and stout beers is the kind of malt used. Porters use malted barley while stouts are primarily from unmalted roasted barley.

Historically, stout was the stronger version of porter produced in the 19th century. It was then labeled as Stout Porter, but the latter part was eventually dropped. Today, the differences between these styles have become intermingled and most brewers will use both terms interchangeably.

Drink porter and stout beers from a pint beer mug, glass or tulip glass. Favorite food pairings are grilled sausages and meat, rich chocolate desserts, or oysters.

Conclusion: Ales are some of the most prominent beers in the world. You will probably encounter one or more styles mentioned above pretty quickly as you foray into beer. The difference between ales and other beer types is the moderate hoppiness and balance of malt flavors.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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