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What is real ale?

In the early 1970s, CAMRA coined the term ‘real ale’ to describe traditionally kept beers, served from a specific type of barrel called a cask. A vocal effort, launched by the campaign, sought to promote these ahead of the mediocre and artificially carbonated brand name beers backed by extensive advertising campaigns, that had come to dominate the beer trade, reducing consumer choice and threatening to eradicate a part of British brewing history that could trace its origins back over a thousand years.

The term “real” was used to define an ale that was a living product, typically stored in and served from an open cask, in contrast to other types of draught beer that were often pasteurised to kill off the yeast and then injected with carbon dioxide prior to serving. A “real” draught ale contained live yeast that continued to ferment (or condition) the beer until it was served.

In the decades since, the principle of continuing the fermentation of a beer in its serving container has expanded to include beers that develop in their bottle, can, cellar tank, or single-use membrane kegs. 

Well-kept real ale, served at the right temperature should be naturally carbonated and flavourful. Like any artisan product, a real ale requires special handling and storage to ensure it is consumed at its best.

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