Monday, December 21, 2009

Getting Old (ale) and Loving It

The Wort Hog is on temporary life support at the moment. I don’t have anything going on for the holidays this year, and I’m busier than ever. Not too busy to have some beer, however. Though I don’t have a specific Beer of the Week, this post is an abbreviated Style of the Week:  Old Ale. For me, it’s the quintessential winter style. Yeah, Spiced Ales, Barleywines, and Imperial Stouts abound – as do other seasonal styles. And trust me, I drink those too. But Old Ale has a special place in my heart, for whatever reason, and has become my favorite beer to drink during winter over the past 2 years. (I do, however, reserve the right to change my mind!)

It’s traditionally an English style that is a sub-style of Strong Ale; in addition to drinking straight, Old Ale was also used for blending. This beer shouldn’t be too hoppy or roasty; instead, it should be sweet, full-bodied, and a little warming/alcoholic.Winter Warmers fit into this category, though are typically a bit maltier than a traditional Old Ale.

There should also be quite a bit of dried-fruit and caramel aroma and flavor. Molasses is usually in there as well, but not always. Most often, I get an impression of raisin or prune puree (yes, that’s a good thing!) and caramel. Old Ale is typically aged, meaning it may contain flavors attributed to oxidation such as sherry or port – but well within style guidelines. Hoppiness will vary by the beer; Great Divide & Founder’s are hoppier than Bell’s or Samuel Smith’s.  If you’re not a hop lover, or if you enjoy strong malty beers, Old Ale is a great fit.

Another reason to love Old Ale? Availability! No getting in line at 4:30am or running around town to locate a bottle. Any good liquor store in town will carry them, as will most of the beer bars in KC. Some examples available to us, in order of my preference (most to least preferred), include:  Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale, Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome, Founder’s Curmudgeon,  Avery Old Jubilation, Great Divide Hibernation Ale, and JW Lee’s Moonraker. I know I’ve had Fuller’s 1845 and Theakston Old Peculiar, but it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten where they might fit in that list. I'd been told that Old Peculiar was no longer being distributed in Missouri. I'm not sure that's true, but it's worth trying it before it disappears (what was I just saying about availability?).



  1. Had a Hibernation from last year tonite- wonderful! Don't forget about the Harvieston Ola Dubh...

  2. Does Lagunitas Brown Sugga' count? I think it was classified as an old ale. Old ale vs. stong ale? whats the difference! Glad they distribute to ks/mo now! Really a great brew! Pick it up! I think it fits into old ale style!

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