The Rich Flavors of Old Ale

Old is a type of strong ale that has a rich history and unique characteristics. This style of is commonly found in England and Australia, and is known for its dark, malty flavors and high content, typically above 5% ABV.

In England, old ale is often associated with stock ale or keeping ale, which refers to the practice of aging the beer at the brewery. This aging process can take years and contributes to the beer's distinct qualities. The used in old ale undergoes an aging process either through bulk storage or bottle conditioning, which results in a rich, -like and often sweet oxidation character.

One of the defining features of old ale is its deep, copper-red to very dark color. The beer has a full malt body with a high level of dextrins, giving it a robust and flavorful profile. Old ales from centuries past were often transferred into vats to mature, hence the name “stock ale.” This maturation process allowed the flavors to develop and intensify, resulting in a beer that tasted somewhat like “liquid bread.”

Old ale also has a unique tannic taste, which is different from the typical bitterness found in other beer styles. This tannic flavor adds complexity and depth to the overall taste profile. It is worth noting that this tannic taste is often more pronounced than what can be attributed solely to the addition of oak.

The aging process of old ale, whether in bulk or through bottle conditioning, plays a crucial role in the development of its flavors. Over time, the beer undergoes a slow fermentation process, allowing the flavors to meld together and mature. This results in a beer that is rich, complex, and often has a sweet, almost fruity character.

Old ale is a style of beer that has stood the test of time. Its deep, malty flavors and high alcohol content make it a favorite among beer enthusiasts who appreciate the complexity and depth it offers. Whether you're enjoying an old ale in England or Australia, you can expect a rich, satisfying drinking experience that showcases the craftsmanship and tradition of this classic beer style.

Old Ale 1689059179

What Makes An Old Ale?

An old ale is a type of strong ale that is typically dark and malty. It is known for its higher alcohol content, usually above 5% ABV. In England, old ales are often referred to as “stock ale” or “keeping ale” due to the tradition of aging the beer at the brewery before it is released.

Here are some key characteristics that define an old ale:

1. Dark and Malty: Old ales are typically darker in color, ranging from deep amber to brown or even black. They exhibit rich malt flavors, which contribute to their robust and often complex taste profiles.

2. Strong ABV: Old ales are stronger in alcohol content compared to other beer styles. While there is no strict ABV range, they generally have an alcohol content above 5%, providing a warming and full-bodied experience.

3. Aging Potential: Traditionally, old ales were aged at the brewery before being consumed. This aging process allows for the development of more complex flavors and a smoother texture. However, not all old ales are aged, as some breweries release them for immediate consumption.

4. Rich and Full-bodied: Old ales have a thick and full-bodied mouthfeel, often described as chewy or viscous. This is due to the high malt content and sometimes the addition of specialty ingredients such as caramel or roasted malts.

5. Malt-forward Flavor: Old ales prioritize malt flavors over , resulting in a beer with a sweet, caramel-like taste. The malt character can range from toasty and nutty to dark fruit and chocolate notes, depending on the specific recipe.

6. Low to Moderate Carbonation: Old ales typically have lower carbonation levels compared to other beer styles. This lower carbonation allows the complex flavors to shine and contributes to the smoothness of the beer.

7. Aging Potential: Old ales often have the potential to age well over time. The flavors can mellow and evolve, allowing for a different drinking experience as the beer matures. However, not all old ales are designed for aging, so it's important to check with the brewery or consult expert opinions before cellaring.

It's worth noting that the term “old ale” can vary in meaning depending on the country and tradition. In Australia, for example, it can refer to any dark ale, regardless of strength. Therefore, it's always a good idea to consider the specific context when discussing old ales.

What Did Old English Ale Taste Like?

Old English ale had a distinct taste that differed from modern beer. It can be described as having a flavor reminiscent of “liquid bread,” indicating a heavier and more substantial taste. The richness of the malt would have contributed to this characteristic, giving the ale a more substantial mouthfeel and a sweeter, grainy flavor.

Furthermore, Old English ale had a notable tannic taste, which is unusual considering that it was not typically aged in oak like some modern beers. This tannic flavor suggests that the brewing process or the ingredients used may have added a significant amount of tannins to the ale. It is possible that the used in brewing, the specific varieties of malt or hops, or even certain adjuncts like herbs or fruits contributed to this tannic quality.

The taste of Old English ale was characterized by its “liquid bread” quality, with a heavier mouthfeel and a sweeter, grainy flavor. It also had a surprising tannic taste, indicating the presence of tannins that may have come from various sources.


Old ale is a robust and flavorful beer style that has a rich history and unique characteristics. This strong ale is typically dark and malty, with a deep copper-red to dark color. Old ales are known for their high alcohol content, usually above 5% ABV, which adds to their full-bodied nature.

One distinguishing feature of old ales is their aging process, either in bulk storage or through bottle conditioning. This extended aging, sometimes lasting for years, allows the yeast to develop a rich and complex flavor profile, reminiscent of a fine wine. The result is often a sweet and oxidized character, giving the beer a distinct taste that sets it apart from other styles.

Old ales were traditionally referred to as stock ales or keeping ales, as they were often held at the brewery to mature. This aging process contributes to the beer's depth and complexity, creating a full malt body with plenty of character. The old ales of the past were even described as tasting like “liquid bread,” emphasizing their richness and substantial mouthfeel.

Furthermore, old ales may also exhibit a tannic taste, which adds another layer of complexity to the beer. This tannic quality is often more pronounced than what could be attributed solely to the addition of oak, further enhancing the overall flavor profile.

Old ale is a beer style that showcases a deep, malty character, high alcohol content, and a rich aging process. Its history and unique qualities make it a favorite among beer enthusiasts, offering a taste experience that is both nostalgic and truly distinctive.

Photo of author

Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.