Created By: HerrGoldschmidt on February 28, 2012 Last Edited By: HerrGoldschmidt on March 4, 2012
Troped

All Beer Is Ale

In fantasy novels, everyone drinks British style beer.

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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.

Examples:

  • 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.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • February 28, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    How Did We Miss This One?

    I can't recall seeing anything other than ale in A Song Of Ice And Fire (although they also drink mead and wine).
  • February 28, 2012
    Bisected8
    Some will also include mead. Don't forget mead.
  • February 28, 2012
    animeg3282
    Yes, they will always quaff mead. We should talk about the reasons why fantasy novels do this (copying off the quite british lord of the rings) rather than the whys of beer types though in thedescription
  • February 28, 2012
    lebrel
    ^ Fantasy novels tend to do this because they are based loosely off early Medieval England, in which beer was usually called ale. The word "beer" is German and didn't become part of normal English usage until around the 13th century, at first to refer to hopped beer (which first became common at that time), and later for all beers. Lager was a minor type of beer in Medieval times as its brewing requires consistent temperatures and was thus restricted to suitable climates and seasons; it didn't become a major form of beer until the 1800s. The typical Medieval beer would have been "small beer", which is unfiltered, low-alcohol, and goes bad quickly, but is quick and relatively easy to make.
  • February 28, 2012
    zarpaulus

    Possible reason for trope, lager wasn't developed until the 1400s, ale is simpler to make.
  • February 29, 2012
    pawsplay
    Truth In Television, hops were a later (and not always popular) addition to lager-making.
  • February 29, 2012
    Routerie
    It's hardly Exactly What It Says On The Tin. Not all beers are ale. And why would you think of fantasy when seeing the title? Better put fantasy in the title, and leave "all" out of it.
  • February 29, 2012
    Chabal2
    • Averted in works set in Ancient Egypt who mention beer as, well, beer.
    • The Judge Dee novels call any alcoholic beverage wine (the author's notes say there was no distinction between what we now separate as beer, wine, liquor...)
  • February 29, 2012
    reub2000
    Well Ale is considered classier than Lager. Isn't that a trope in of itself?
  • February 29, 2012
    TonyG
    There should be a clearer explanation on the different kinds of beer for those who don't know the various distinctions.
  • February 29, 2012
    pawsplay
  • February 29, 2012
    Sular
    I think the fact that a great many people don't really know the difference between the various kinds of beer plays into this. That and 'ale' has a nice old-fashioned ring to it which is probably also a factor in the prevalence of this trope.
  • February 29, 2012
    MorganWick
    All Fantasy Beer Is Ale?

    I wouldn't have a problem with the name if it weren't genre- (and apparently medium-) specific; "All X Are Y" is an established snowclone pattern, and it doesn't imply that all X really are Y.
  • March 1, 2012
    Koveras
    Subverted in Brutal 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.
  • March 1, 2012
    DaibhidC
    • Lampshaded in 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 FourEcks seriously ... until he wakes up with little memory of the previous evening.
  • March 4, 2012
    zarpaulus
  • March 4, 2012
    Lawman592
    reub2000: Well Ale is considered classier than Lager. Isn't that a trope in of itself? ^ Not necessarily. The main difference between ale and lager is when lager is brewed, the yeast ferments at the bottom of the container whereas with with ale, the yeast ferments toward the top. Also, with lagers, fermentation occurs at a colder temperature than with ales. The fact that a beer is an ale does not automatically make it "classier" than a lager any more than the fact a berry is a blueberry automatically makes it classier than a strawberry.
  • March 4, 2012
    reub2000
    I'm not sure what the actual differences have to do with the perception that Ale is classier. At least here in America, Lager is mass produced by giant mutlinational mega corporations, while Ale is produced by the brewpub down the street. Of course, there is good Lager. I could do with a bottle of some Lagunitas Pils right now.
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