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Ale Continues to Lead the Way in American Beer

For a long time, America had been known as "lager country", with lager-focused macro-brews dominating the market. But ale has been on the uptick for a while now, with the India Pale Ale (IPA) becoming one of the most popular beer styles in recent years. From IPAs to the many other styles of craft ales made throughout the United States—and, indeed, across the globe—these beers show no sign of slowing down.

Ale Continues to Lead the Way in American Beer

For a long time, America had been known as "lager country", with lager-focused macro-brews dominating the market. But ale has been on the uptick for a while now, with the India Pale Ale (IPA) becoming one of the most popular beer styles in recent years. From IPAs to the many other styles of craft ales made throughout the United States—and, indeed, across the globe—these beers show no sign of slowing down.

What is an ale?

There are two main types of beer: lagerand ale. Both lagers and ales are made with the four key ingredients of beer: water, grain, hops, and yeast.

The main difference between the two beer styles, from a production standpoint, is that lager is produced through what's known as bottom-fermenting yeast. This type of yeast works its magic at a lower temperature and toward the fermentation vessel's bottom. Ale, on the other hand, relies on a type of yeast that ferments towards the top of the fermentation vessel and ferments at a higher temperature.

The flavors between the two are quite different as well, and within each category, there are many sub-styles worth considering. At its core, ale is a top-fermented beer that, in general, will boast a broader range and intensity of spicy and fruit-driven notes than lagers.

What is an ale made from?

Like most beer, ale is based on a recipe that includes grains, hops, yeast, and water. However, there are many different types of ales, from craft beer to more macro-brewed, including India pale ale, pale ale, stout, Belgian ale, brown ale, red ale/amber ale, porter, strong ale, barley wine, and wheat beer, which can be crafted in either lager or ale versions. Each of these styles uses different strands of yeast, hops, and grains to create the final product.

What is the difference between ale and beer?

There is no difference! Ale is a type of beer. Think of beer as the umbrella category, and beneath it, ale is one of the two main types of beer. The second type of beer is lager, which ferments using a different kind of yeast than ale.

Between ale and lagers, they each have many branches of sub-styles that help create the variety and diversity of beer options you will find on our shelves and at your local breweries.

What are the different kinds of ales?

There are many different kinds of ale, which are commonly referred to as "ale styles," and they include:

  • India pale ale(IPA)
  • Pale ale
  • Stout
  • Belgian ale
  • Brown ale
  • Red ale/amber ale
  • Porter
  • Strong ale
  • Barley wine
  • Wheat beer, which can be produced in either lager or ale versions
  • and many more!

Consumers also have plenty of low-calorie beer options, like low-calorie IPA, or low carb beer options in the ale category to browse.

Even within those categories, there are sub-styles or regional expressions. West Coast IPAs are famously distinct from Vermont and Massachusetts IPAs (which are commonly known as New England IPAs, or NEIPAs for short). Another example would be Belgian ales. Just as Belgian ales is a classic beer style, each unique beer from different regions around the world, and even through various ale-brewing abbeys, will differ in style and character.

Ale is a category full of delicious beer, no matter what the style, and it's up to you to explore all the styles and brands to find your favorite(s)!

What are the popular brands of ale?

Popular is always hard to define when it comes to beer because of one big issue: distribution. An ale may be "more popular" because it's more widely available than others, and that's due to the states/areas where that brand has distribution. Some brewers may have an extremely popular beer in their local area, but because the brewery doesn't have wide distribution outside that local area, you've probably never heard of it.

That said, some of the most popular selling ales include:

  • Founder's All Day IPA
  • Bell's Two Hearted Ale
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing IPA
  • Founder's Porter
  • Blue Moon White Belgian-Style Wheat Ale
  • New Belgium Fat Tire
  • Lagunitas A Little Sumpin Sumpin
  • Guinness Draught
  • Founders Breakfast Stout and Founders KBS
  • Firestone Walker Parabola
  • Weinstephaner Hefe Weissbier
  • St. Bernardus ABT 12
  • and many more!

What is the best ale?

It's impossible to narrow down the list, because the best ale is very much a product of personal opinion and preference. However, Belgian ales and West Coast IPAs are a great place to start your journey in the delicious world of ale. Fruity, bready, and somewhat sweet Belgian ales are at one end of the spectrum, and bitter, hoppy West Coast IPAs are at the other. Discover which you like most, and then start exploring other brands and similar styles!

What's the difference between a pale ale and an IPA?

Both pale ale and IPA are related to one another, as they are both ales. The easiest way is to envision them would be as brothers with slightly different personalities (or flavors).

Pale ale is brewed with more pale malts, as opposed to darker, often more chocolatey ones. IPA, or India Pale Ale, is also brewed with these paler malts, but with an added dose of hops content which tends to amplify the final beer's bitterness, providing more floral and citrus notes. So they're somewhat similar, but IPAs are a little bit "extra".

It's also not uncommon for IPAs to be a bit stronger in alcohol (ABV). With different flavor profiles and bitterness, it's worth tasting both styles to experience the differences and similarities, and then decide which style better fits your palate!

What are the three types of beer?

The two classic types of beer are lager and ale, though a third category exists to account for beers that don't quite fit into either of those two. The third style is often called specialty beer or experimental beer. This style includes beer with non-traditional flavorings or beers whose yeast was treated differently than other beer styles typically would be. With so much innovation in the world of beer brewing, especially craft brewing, this is a category that continues to grow in delicious and often unexpected ways.

Browse our full selection of ale online, or check out our new beer arrivals page for a tasty new beer to try this week!

Want to learn more about ale?

Visit our Guide to Beerif you're looking tolearn more about aleand all the other types of beer!