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Types Of Ale: A Beginners Guide

Summer is fast approaching, which means there is no better time than now for perfecting your beer palette. But what do we even mean by that and more importantly where do you even begin? Well, when it comes to trying out new ale beers, often the easiest way to start is by looking at your current favourite and from there, picking out some subtleties of the flavour. Looking at the colour of the ale beer can be a great general indicator of the flavour, the beer brewing process and also the history behind it too.  

Dark Ale (Dark Brown)

Firstly, let's start with an often polarising type of ale, the dark ale or stout. It's normally a very dark brown or even black in colour and will often be thick and opaque. In order to get its colour, it's down to the treatment of the grains which are used. The malt or barley is scorched before being brewed and fermented, this is what gives the beer a much deeper richness in flavour, and it usually has a fairly bitter taste with hints of coffee and chocolate to go along with it, however, don't be fooled as they can also have sweeter floral notes to them as well. 

Some of our favourite dark ales include Hepworth - Red Export, Hogs Back - Old Tongham Tasty, Langham LSD and Thurston's - Chobham Treacle

Dark ale rose to its prominence in the UK back in the 1720s. It was very strong and increased in alcohol content with age, it took longer to spoil and was significantly cheaper than beer around. You can see why it became so popular. Dark ales could also be stored at warm temperatures without changing the taste of the overall product. All of these attributes made the style very popular among the British working classes, eventually spreading to Ireland which is where the famous dark ale Guinness was born. 

Pale Ale (Light Brown)

On the complete opposite side of the colour spectrum, you have the pale ale. There are made with pale malts, which provide the beer with a much more subtle and light blonde hue. This style can vary in taste depending on the types of hops which are being used during the fermentation process. Since pale ales have a very subtle and malty flavour, aromatic hops can be used to boot the sweeter and floral flavours, or bittering hops can be used to give it a more robust taste.

Pale ales have been around since the early 1700s and came about when brewers were looking for a different way to roast their grains. What they discovered was that coal burns hot and steady, and more predictably than wood does. The result was a far more pale beer which was also able to be brewed to a more consistent flavour. 

Here at Redh we have a vast selection of Pale ales for you to choose from. Our most popular being: Tiny Rebel - Cali Pale, along with Hepworth - Iron Horse and Dorking - Pilcrow Pale to just name a few. 

Amber Ale (Copper/Red) 

Amber ales have a lot of variation when it comes to their colour. These can range from a slightly darker version of a pale ale all the way through to a much deeper copper colour. Copper ales follow the same beer brewing process as a pale ale, but with the amber malts instead of pale ones. They tend to have stronger caramel notes from the amber malts, punctured lightly by citrusy hop notes.

If you fancy trying out an amber ale here are a few top ones we would certainly recommend: Tiny Rebel - Cwtch, Hogs Back - Brooklands Gold Star and Thurston's - Horsell Gold

India Pale Ale (Orange/Brown) 

In terms of colour, India Pale Ale (IPA) falls somewhere between the pale ale and an amber ale. It's brewed very similarly to the pale ale, but the level of hops is increased dramatically, giving it a more bitter and citrusy taste. 

India Pale Ale was created out of necessity. India just didn't have the right climate for brewing beer, so instead the British Empire needed a type of beer that would survive the trip to the east. They found the solution by dramatically increasing the hops, and therefore creating a beer which can age like a wine can. The beer eventually became an IPA and was found to be dramatically improved by extra fermentation.

IPAs are growing in popularity so if pale ales are your thing to sure to check out these ones: Tiny Rebel - Clwb Tropicana, Wild Beer Company - Nebula and Siren - Soundwave, Lumina and Futurist


At the end of the day, there are no right or wrong places to start experimenting with ales due to the fact there are so many shades and varieties to try out. The best thing you can do is to just dive straight in somewhere on the spectrum based on what flavours you are currently enjoying, and you'll be an ale tasting expert in no time.