What is the difference between ale and lager?
Ale, Ben explained, is significantly older than it's more popular sibling, the lager, and the main difference between the two is the type of yeast that is used to ferment it, and therefore the production method.
Ale uses a 'top-fermenting' yeast which rises and only needs a few days to ferment, whilst lager uses a 'bottom-fermenting' yeast that needs longer - usually up to a month - to ferment, producing a fizzy, clear beer.
Different types of ale, namely pale ale and dark ale, depend on the malt that is added, and how long the malt has been roasted for.
In simple terms, I asked, ale is a flat beer that gets it's favouring from the added malt? Gotcha.
So far so good, but why is London witnessing such a sudden uptake in beer from the fairer sex?
There are, Ben explained (sliding a third of ale in my direction), more breweries on record in the UK since WW2 (over a thousand!), many of which are creating more exciting and varied beers that are more attractive to the female palate.
The younger breweries are also savvier to their audience and have designed more accessible labels and advertising campaigns, making ale less about old men in country pubs and more urban chic bars.
Lastly, the trend for Londoners to try, and experience craft-based things (knitting, lampshade making etc.) has led to an increased interest in how alcohol is made, with ale falling well and truly within the hobby and crafts category.
And the trend doesn't stop at simply drinking beer. Our sisters in arms are making waves in the ale-making world too. An ale called Brains Bragging Rights was launched when someone challenged a girl at Brains' marketing to pass her brewery exams. She proved the challenger, a he, wrong with the Bragging Rights sweet ale - I swear I could taste bubblegum in it - and got the final say. Hurrah!
Meanwhile, Project Venus is a group of female-only brewers, and Dea Latis is running ale tasting events in London just for ladies.
If, as a lady, you want to get involved in drinking beer but don't know where to start, here are my top tips for enjoying beer properly:
- Don't drink anything else beforehand. Your taste buds will be confused and that's often why, if you take a quick sip of your mate's pint, you'll end up scrunching your nose at the 'hoppy' taste.
- Embrace the 'hoppyness'. It's not going to go away but if you get can past it, ales have real depth of flavour and some really interesting tastes. Think citrus, bubblegum, spices, even chocolate and caramel.
- Take advantage of Nicholson's Autumn Beer Festival (on until 17th November ) to try out a few different ales. You can buy three thirds of different ales too, so you can actually remember what you did and didn't like at the end of the night.
- Start with a pale ale - such as the Pale Whale - and build your way up to the darker ales. It's worth trying the Cottage, Norman's Conquest just to experience the chocolate and orange flavours. If there ever was an ale for the ladies, this is it!
Are you a woman with a keen interest in beer? Or perhaps a lady who just hasn't found an ale she can drink yet? If you have an opinion or suggestion to make, share it in the Facebook comment field below.
Image courtesy of Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA).
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