All Beer Is Ale YKTTW Discussion

All Beer Is Ale
In fantasy novels, everyone drinks British style beer.
(permanent link) added: 2012-02-28 10:26:54 sponsor: HerrGoldschmidt (last reply: 2012-03-04 19:54:55)

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Exactly What It Says on the Tin. In fantasy novels, whenever a character is drinking beer, the beer will always be an ale rather than a lager. You can at read about the difference elsewhere.

There are a number of possible explanations for this. The difference between styles of beer isn't as immediately obvious or as much discussed as the difference between styles of wine. The word ale sounds old-fashioned, and many people assume it's simply an old-fashioned word for beer.

Medieval Europe, or something very much like it, is a common setting for fantasy stories, and the typical Medieval European beer would have been an ale; lager wasn't even invented until the the fifteen century. Most of it was probably "small beer," an unfiltered, low-alcohol beer that people drank instead of water because of the prevalence of water-born disease.

The entire fantasy adventure genre is ultimately descended from the very British The Lord of the Rings, and most British beers actually are ales.


  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, the favored alcoholic beverages seem to be wine, wine punch, and brandy. On the few occasions someone is drinking beer, though, it is ale.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire. Westeros is clearly based upon Europe in the age of chivalry.

  • In the novels of Deverry, at least some of the beer brewed in Deverry is small beer. During the siege of Cengarn, Rhodry remarks that once the beer runs out, they'll be forced to drink vinegar-sanitized water.

  • The Dresden Files. Although the series takes place in 21st century America-- where most commercially available beer is lager-- Harry actually prefers a craft ale brewed by the owner of Macanally's.

  • Lampshaded in Discworld novel The Last Continent, which notes that "Ankh-Morpork beer was technically ale, that is to say, gravy made from hops", in the context of explaining why Rincewind doesn't take the light, fizzy stuff they have in Four Ecks seriously... until he wakes up with little memory of the previous evening.

  • Subverted in Brütal Legend: upon arriving to the Age of Metal, Eddie automatically assumes that everyone there will be drinking ale and mead, but Ophelia is puzzled by these terms and says that they only have generic beer.
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