Old Ale

BJCP 17b

Overall Impression
An ale of moderate to fairly significant alcoholic strength, bigger than standard beers, though usually not as strong or rich as barleywine. Often tilted towards a maltier balance. “It should be a warming beer of the type that is best drunk in half pints by a warm fire on a cold winter’s night” – Michael Jackson.

Strength and character varies widely. The predominant defining quality for this style is the impression of age, which can manifest itself in different ways (complexity, lactic, Brett, oxidation, leather, vinous qualities, etc.). Even if these qualities are otherwise faults, if the resulting character of the beer is still pleasantly drinkable and complex, then those characteristics are acceptable. In no way should those allowable characteristics be interpreted as making an undrinkably off beer as somehow in style.

Historically, an aged ale used as stock ales for blending or enjoyed at full strength (stale or stock refers to beers that were aged or stored for a significant period of time). There are at least two definite types in Britain today, weaker draught ones that are similar aged milds of around 4.5%, and stronger ones that are often 6-8% or more.
Composition varies, although generally similar to British Strong Ales. The age character is the biggest driver of the final style profile, which is more handling than brewing. May be aged in wood, but should not have a strong wood character.
Commercial Examples
Burton Bridge Olde Expensive, Gale’s Prize Old Ale, Greene King Strong Suffolk Ale, Marston Owd Roger, Theakston Old Peculier