A Brief Look At The History Of Cask Ale

Posted on: 27 March 2019

If you’ve just begun on your adventure in to the world of cask ale then you may be surprised to learn that mankind has been brewing the stuff for thousands of years. With the Nottingham Ale Trails just around the corner, there’s never been a better time to dive into the rich history of cask ale. Here’s a pint-sized overview to get you started! 

The English word ‘ale' dates back more than a thousand years but our love affair with brewing goes back much further than that. The earliest evidence of humans brewing and consuming beer dates back to 7,000 years ago, in what is now known as Iran.

Brewing was mainly always conducted by women and the ale was produced on a strictly local level. It was usually made specifically for the community and is what we’d refer to these days as home brewing. In it’s humble beginnings, British ale was traditionally first brewed using only malted barely, yeast and water.

In the Middle Ages, brewing was largely adopted by monasteries and abbeys. It was at this point that ale became pretty big business! Records show that nearly half of Britain's exports were beer. 

Like many other sensational inventions, bottled ale came about entirely by mistake. In 1568 the dean of St Paul’s would pour ale into a sealed bottle so that he could take it with him fishing. One day The Dean accidentally left a full bottle of ale at his fishing spot. When he returned a few days later he found that the ale was still drinkable and tasty. Bottled beer was born! 

Fast forward to the beginning of the 19th century and cask ale is thriving. Years of experimentation has seen the arrival of mysterious dark ales and porters. India Pale Ale became extremely popular with millions adopting it as their must have drink. Even today you’ll struggle to find a bar that doesn’t serve it. 

Sadly the 20th century saw a huge decline in the consumption of real ale with the arrival of fizzy lager. Sales around the country dropped as the drink struggled to compete with it’s new fizzy cousin. The 1970’s saw a real fight back and many people dedicating theirselves to the revival of real ale. Out of that came a little group named the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA for short) who now have over 188,000 members around the world.

Today cask ale is extremely popular around the entirety of the U.K. The amount of independent brewers in the country is at a record high and they’re constantly creating new and exciting ales. 

If this blog has inspired you to try cask ale then why not take a look at the Nottingham Ale Trails?

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