Real Ale

The 8th Tokyo Real Ale Festival held on Valentine’s day was yet another success for the burgeoning craft beer industry in Japan. At its launch in 2003, the festival drew 80 visitors. This past festival saw over 800 visitors and roughly 20 breweries, with Yona Yona taking home top honors from a popular vote. Isekadoya and Baird Beer took second and third, respectively.

Real Ale (and, on a larger scale, much of the Japanese craft beer industry) is not simply about quality beer and profits. There is an important social and even political dimension as small brewers endeavor to provide the drinking public with a robust range of choices. To better understand this, it is necessary to take a look at the history of Real Ale.

Definitions may vary depending on whom you ask, but most generally, real ale refers to a type of beer whose secondary fermenting activity takes place in its serving container. This could include bottle-conditioned ales, but many people (certainly purists) stipulate that real ale be cask-conditioned. The beer is “real” or “alive” because the yeast is still active and conditioning the beer. Furthermore, real ale is served without any external carbon dioxide or nitrogen, which is why you see hand-pumps for it at the bar. Since malt produces carbon dioxide during fermentation, there will be some naturally occurring amounts. However, brewers will often let much of this escape before serving. Finally, under the strictest definitions, real ale should use “traditional ingredients,” meaning no artificial preservatives or additives.

This later restriction reflects the origins of real ale. The term itself owes its existence to four British men who were vacationing in western England in 1971. They began lamenting the deteriorating quality of beer—a result, they believed, of large commercial brewing methods. They consequently launched the “Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale,” renaming it the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in 1973. As they were fiercely opposed to the homogenization of British brewing, their campaign worked to promote small brewers and related pubs. With growing membership, the group also worked to reform licensing and beer tax laws. Today, CAMRA is the largest single-issue (“real ale”) consumer group in England, boasting over 100,000 members and 200 local branches. The political power of those numbers is respectable. They are plenty high enough to ensure that small breweries thrive in greater numbers and that craft beer drinkers can enjoy a wider range of tastes.

That real ale taste—and the unique aroma— derives, once again, from the beer being “alive.” But that also makes real ale fickle. When kept at a proper temperature, it matures and the flavor comes out. When stored improperly or kept too long, it goes bad. It is therefore truly a craft beer and requires great attention and care. That, and appreciative drinkers. They shouldn’t be hard to find.




この最近の定義はリアルエールという言葉が生まれたいきさつを反映しています。その言葉自体は1971年にイギリス西部で休暇を楽しんでいた4人の男性によって生まれました。彼らは昔あったような美味しいビールが姿を消しつつあった当時の状況を嘆き、それは大手ビールメーカーが利益追求だけを考えてビールを作ってきた結果だと考えた彼らは、本物のビールのための復興キャンペーンを張り、それは1973年のCAMRA(Campaign for Real Ale)というキャンペーンに繋がっていきます。彼らは大手ビールメーカーの姿勢に真っ向から反対していたことから、そのキャンペーンは小規模の醸造メーカーやパブなどを対象に展開されました。賛同者は順調に増えてゆき、その後CAMRAは酒類販売許可法やビール税法の改正にも影響力を持つようになっていきます。現在CAMRAは一つの目的を掲げて活動する消費者団体としてはイギリス国内で最大規模の団体になっていて、会員数は10万人を超え、200以上の支部が各地にあります。政府の施策に与える影響力も大きく、リアルエールを造る小規模メーカーに対する支援が充実し、それによって地ビール愛好者がさまざまな味を楽しめるような環境作りがなされています。


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