Food Guide

Why is Real Ale Making a Comeback in the Craft Beer Scene?

Welcome to “Why Is Real Ale,” a series dedicated to the beers that define the various regions of the world and the processes used to make them.

The first installment focuses on England’s famous “Real Ale” movement.

You can also check out our “What Is Beer?” and “What Is Craft Beer?” guides for more info.

You’ve probably heard the terms “Real Ale” and “cask-conditioned” used interchangeably, and incorrectly, when describing beers in the UK.

1. It’s not real ale if it’s not naturally carbonated

When I hear the phrase “real ale” I think of beer that has been naturally carbonated.

In the UK, the term “real ale” is often used to differentiate between beer that has been naturally carbonated and beer that has been force carbonated.

Real ale is beer that has been fermented in the bottle or in a cask.

It’s often referred to as “live” beer because it’s still alive when you drink it.

The yeast is still active and it continues to ferment and carbonate the beer.

This gives the beer a unique, refreshing and natural carbonation.

The natural carbonation of real ale also means that the beer is usually served without the addition of extra carbon dioxide.

This is a big difference between real ale and the majority of beers on the market.

Most beers are force carbonated, which means that the brewer adds carbon dioxide to the beer after it’s been fermented.

This makes the beer fizzier and gives it a more uniform carbonation.

Real ale is often served at a slightly warmer temperature than other beers.

This is because the yeast is still active and the beer needs to be kept at a temperature that allows the yeast to do its work.

So, if you’re looking for a refreshing and unique beer experience, look for real ale.

It’s a beer that’s still alive and kicking.

2. It has to be brewed in the UK

Real ale is a traditional, unhomogenised beer that is brewed using traditional methods and ingredients.

It is brewed in the UK by independent breweries, and is often referred to as cask-conditioned ale.

One of the key characteristics of real ale is that it is brewed using traditional methods, which involve the use of natural ingredients and a slow, traditional brewing process.

This ensures that the beer is full of flavor and has a distinctive, authentic taste.

Real ale is also brewed using traditional ingredients, such as malted barley, water and yeast.

These ingredients are carefully combined and brewed to create a unique, flavorful beer.

Real ale is often served in traditional pubs and is typically drunk straight from the cask, rather than being bottled or canned.

It is usually served at cellar temperature, which allows the flavors to be fully enjoyed and appreciated.

Overall, real ale is a traditional, authentic beer that is brewed using traditional methods and ingredients.

3. It has to be brewed using only natural ingredients

If real ale is to be defined as “cask-conditioned beer that has been brewed using traditional ingredients and methods,” then it stands to reason that the use of natural ingredients is an important component of the real ale definition.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards the use of natural, organic, and locally sourced ingredients in the brewing industry.

This has been driven in part by consumer demand for products that are not only delicious but also healthy and sustainable.

Many real ale brewers have embraced the use of natural ingredients in their beer recipes.

For example, the use of fresh, local ingredients such as hops, yeast, and water is common in many real ale recipes.

In addition, some real ale brewers may also use ingredients such as organic barley and wheat, as well as spices and herbs that have been grown naturally.

4. It has to be aged for at least 28 days

Real ale is a term that describes traditional, cask-conditioned beer.

It is often associated with Britain, and is sometimes called “real British ale” or “cask-conditioned beer” by supporters of the style.

It is distinct from other styles of beer, such as “craft beer” or “American beer”, which typically use more modern methods of production.

In the UK, real ale is generally a pale, bitter style of beer that is often brewed using traditional methods and ingredients.

It is typically aged for at least 28 days, which helps to mellow the flavors and give it a smooth, rich taste.

In some cases, real ale is also blended with other styles of beer, such as a dark beer or a fruit beer, to produce a unique flavor combination.

Real ale is often served at a slightly warmer temperature than other styles of beer, which helps to bring out the full flavor of the beer.

5. It must be served from a cask, not a keg

The CAMRA definition of real ale is:
“Real ale is real beer.

It is a traditional, live fermented product, produced from traditional ingredients.

It is not produced from a “kit”, “recirculated”, cold filtered, nor is it pasteurised.

Real ales are brewed and served from traditional casks and are not available in supermarkets.

When you drink real ale you are drinking a product that has not been processed or manufactured, but is a live product that is constantly changing and developing, which makes it a unique product.

It must be served from a cask, not a keg.

It must be served using traditional styles of dispense.

It must be brewed within the British Isles.


So, if you want to enjoy the genuine article when it comes to real ale, be sure to look out for these three things.

They’re the most important qualities that real ale should have, and if a beer ticks all three boxes, then you can be sure that you’re enjoying a genuine, traditional British ale.

Emily W.

Emily Wong is an Asian-American food writer the founder of With nearly 8 years of experience, she has a passion for making cooking accessible to everyone and sharing her personal experiences with food. Emily's vision for is to create a community of food lovers who are passionate about cooking, eating, and sharing their experiences with others. Read my story
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