The term Real Ale was brought about by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) in the 1970’s as a way of distinguishing between traditional beers and mass produced “bland” beers that was being pushed by the major breweries. Real ale’s can also be known as cask-conditioned ales or cask beers.
Real ale is an unfiltered, unpasteurised beer which is conditioned (second fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide. Real ale is a living product due to the second fermentation that occurs within the cask (or bottle if it is bottle-conditioned). It has a limited shelf-life and it needs to be kept at a controlled temperature and looked after in pub cellars in order for the beer to develop to its full potential. Non-real ale beers are chilled, filtered and pasteurised to make it sterile in the brewery. The removal of yeast and pasteurisation means that the beer will never have as much flavour and aroma of a real Ale.
The ingredients that go into ale include malted barley, hops, yeast and water, although sometimes ingredients such as fruits, spices and wheat are added. The sugars in the malt are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the yeast. Hops are added to add bitter, citrus and floral flavours. The use of different style hops, malts and yeast can mean that beers of with different characters can be produced.