Holiday Gift Guide

Sketch of a Medieval Brewery.

Ales were the beverage of choice in Medieval times for most people, including children. Dirty river water was unpleasant to drink and milk went rancid easily. They even drank it for breakfast!

Ales are brewed using top fermenting yeast, which ferments the beer quickly producing a sweet, fruity taste. In general, they are more heavily hopped then lagers in order to balance out the malt and give them a more bitter and herbal flavor. They can run from as little as 3% ABV up to 12% ABV and can range from no bitterness to 100 IBUs.

A few common ales are the Pale Ale, Red Ale, Brown Ale, Stouts and Porters (Dark Ales).

Mirror Pond Pale Ale:

Pale ales are brewed using pale colored barley malt. Pale colored malt is achieved by simply roasting the grains for a short period of time, while darker malts are roasted for a longer period of time. You can think of roasting grains as similar to the way roasting coffee beans for different time periods creates darker and lighter coffees with lighter or bolder flavors.

The same goes for malts, where when darker in color, they produce a fuller, nuttier, and sometimes even burnt like flavor. There are many varieties of pale ale out there (English bitter, American pale ale, IPA, Double IPA…) and they can range from 3-12% ABV. Their hop levels swing a wide range as well and can go from mild – 100IBUs.

St. Rouge Red Ale:

Red ale was originated in Ireland and gets its red color by adding some roasted barley. They are generally pretty malty in flavor and have much less bitterness and hoppyness then pale ales.

Buzzsaw Brown Ale:

Brown ales are made using darker malts. You should be picking up on a pattern here. The darker malt gives them a delicious nutty flavor. One of my favorites from the US is Brooklyn Brewing Company’s Brown Ale.

Youngs Double Chocolate Stout:

Stouts and porters are made using DARK roasted barley malt which is what gives them their toasty roasty flavor and deep dark color. Guinness would be the most well known of this variety.

Hopefully I didn’t bore you with details on this. Stay tuned, because one of the next couple weeks I will be brewing a batch of something and posting on each stage of the process.


Above four pics from Must Love Beer on Flickr.
Column: Tap This


  • Very informative post Enjoyed reading this very much.

    I’m curious what you think of Sam Adams’ Irish Red ale. I tried it last night, and to be honest, found it lacking in flavor and character.

    Looking forward to reading about your homebrews. Speaking of which, this article might interest you:

    Paystyle on

  • That's exactly what I was thinking re: Sam Adams. I also tried their Black Chocolate Stout and was similarly underwhelmed. And their Oktoberfest was plain terrible.

    I really got the impression that they tasted mass produced, though I wasn't sure, b/c it didn't use to taste this way—or maybe my palette has become more sophisticated. Who knows.

    Although like you said, they get a certain amt of respect as far as mass produced beer goes, and they've been able to penetrate dive & sports bars so I don't have to resort to drinking bud anymore.

    Paystyle on

  • What to say about Sam Adams… I have to give them credit because they are a massive commercial brewery that introduced “better” beer to the masses. To be honest I feel like I can still taste the fact that it is mass produced. If you like red ale and want to try a good one, try Rouge’s Red Ale (pictured in the post). That is a good one.

    CJ on

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