: a beer that is brewed by fast fermentation with a quick-acting yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) at relatively high temperatures

Note: Ales tend to have a complex, slightly fruity or spicy flavor with a usually darker appearance than lagers and usually with a more intense, bitter flavor of hops. The yeast used to ferment ale is often referred to as "top-fermenting" since it tends to rise to the top of the brewing vessel during fermentation. This yeast also has a tolerance to higher alcohol concentrations, resulting in a beer with a usually higher alcohol content than a lager.

ale can be produced more quickly because it is fermented at higher temperatures—from 60 to 70 degrees.Frank J. Prial
compare pale ale, porter, stout
: an English country festival at which ale is the principal beverage

Examples of ale in a Sentence

The bar serves two very different ales.
Recent Examples on the Web Images of people visiting pumpkin patches, ordering pumpkin spice lattes, sipping crisp pumpkin ales and baking pumpkin pies color autumn days and cottage-core social media posts. Andrea Aliseda, Los Angeles Times, 20 Oct. 2023 Narrow Path had distinct brews, like A Better Burden, a Norwegian-style farmhouse ale that transported all of us to a countryside barn. The Enquirer, 27 July 2023 Belgian dark strong ale or other dark flavorful beer 1 cup (or more) chicken stock 1 bay leaf 1 tsp. Jonathan Miles, Field & Stream, 15 Nov. 2023 This 7,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor brewery has 20 taps with a mix of lagers, ales, ambers, blondes and IPA craft beers, along with a full kitchen with menu item like burgers, ceviche and vegetarian options. Carlos Rico, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Nov. 2023 But no visit is complete without sampling a classic Southern Pecan brown ale from Lazy Magnolia Brewing. Jared Ranahan, Travel + Leisure, 19 July 2023 Like ales, lagers can be light or dark depending on how the grain malt is roasted. Leslie Shapiro, Washington Post, 19 Sep. 2023 Also in 2018, the brand released a chestnut-brown ale and an IPA, and the beers were soon carried by stores around the state. Jasmine Ting, Travel + Leisure, 25 Aug. 2023 Past flavors have included blueberry matcha IPA, maple créme blonde ale and a midnight American porter. Julia Moore, Peoplemag, 16 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ale.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Old English ealu; akin to Old Norse ǫl ale, Lithuanian alus

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of ale was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near ale

Cite this Entry

“Ale.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ale. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: an alcoholic drink made from malt and flavored with hops that is usually more bitter than beer
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