Difference Between Beer and Ale

By: | Updated: Jul-10, 2022
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Beer vs ale is a debate that has been around for centuries, with historians unable to agree on what the difference between beer and ale truly is. A common belief is that ale was once exclusively brewed with hops in medieval times, while beer was not. This does not, however, mean that beer was created before ale or vice versa. While there may have been a time when beer and ale were synonymous, this is no longer the case.

Summary Table

Beer Ale
Fermented in primary fermentation Fermented in secondary fermentation
Made with malted barley, wheat and rye Made with malted barley
Lower alcohol content Higher alcohol content

Difference Between Beer and Ale


The word “beer” is derived from the Old English word “beor”, which means “bitter” or “sour”. It’s most likely a reference to the taste of water left after brewing that was often used as a preservative.

The word “ale” is a contraction of the two words “al” and “u”, which mean “sweet” and “bitter” in Old English respectively. It’s likely that ale was used to refer to any beer with an added sugar, traditionally honey from bees found on the local farm.

Beer vs Ale

While both beers and ales are brewed with malted barley, the methods for brewing them may be different. For example, ale is often fermented in a secondary fermentation vessel while beer is fermented in the primary fermenter. The amount of time spent fermenting beer can also differ between ales and beers.

Additionally, ale is produced by adding a fermentable substance to malt in order to produce alcohol. Beer, on the other hand, is made from barley or wheat that has been milled and then fermented with yeast.

In addition to their brewing methods, ales and beers can be differentiated by the type of malt used in the brewing process. While beer is often made with a combination of malted barley, wheat and rye, ales are often made with only malted barley.

Hops are also used in ale and beer brewing, but they are added to the beer as a seasoning during the final stages of fermentation. This means that beers will have a different flavor depending on which hops are used than ales, which may be made with the same type of hops but different quantities.

Ale is produced in a wide variety of flavors and styles, including brown, porter, and stout. Beer is usually bland and less flavorful and has lower content of alcohol than ale.

Ale contains less carbon dioxide than beer, which means it bubbles less in the bottle or glass. This is why ale glasses are smaller and have a thinner neck than beer glasses do. Moreover, beer is available in many places throughout the world. Ale on the other hand is not as popular.

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