Ale vs Bitter: Difference and Comparison

Beer is a common term. Everyone knows what it means.

Mostly. Somewhat. Beer is an alcoholic drink that has cemented its place as one of the most consumed drinks in the world.

It is brewed using cereal grains such as malted barley, rice, maize, corn, oats, and wheat. It uses the process of fermentation to compress the sugar starch present in the grains.

Ale and bitter refer to different types of beer.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ale is a beer that uses top-fermenting yeast and ferments at higher temperatures.
  2. Bitter is a specific style of ale characterized by its hoppy taste and amber color.
  3. Both ale and bitter are part of the larger beer family but differ in flavor profiles and brewing techniques.

Ale vs Bitter

Ale is a type of beer fermented at warmer temperatures using a kind of yeast called “top-fermenting” yeast. Ales are fruitier and spicier and are served at warmer temperatures. Bitter is a type of ale brewed with more hops than ales, giving them a distinctly bitter flavour.

Ale vs Bitter

Ale can be referred to as a light form of beer brewed by using a fermentation process that uses yeast that supports the making of ale.

The word is said to be coined as early as the twelfth century, making it a drink that has withstood the trials of time.

It is an alcoholic beverage that is made using malt.

Bitter is the term used to refer to pale ale that falls under the category of an English drink. This term has been in existence since the nineteenth century.

This alcohol-induced beverage gained momentum in the twentieth century, making it a house must in every pub and bar ever to exist.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAleBitter
DefinitionBitter is an alternative term used about pale ale.Ale is a type of beer. Therefore, it has a broader scope.
OriginAle has been around since the twelfth century.Bitter was introduced in the nineteenth century.
EtymologyOriginates from the language of Common Germanic.An English word.
CompositionIt consists of an unhoped brew of yeast, water, and malt.It is hopped using flowers, cones, and plants.
ScopeBitter is a subsidiary of Ale, making the margin lesser.Bitter is a subsidiary of ale, making the margin lesser.

What is Ale?

Ale is a type of beer that uses a warm fermentation method to brew the drink.

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The fermentation process includes converting glucose in the wort by the yeast into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.

This is the most poignant aspect of making ale as it gives ale the alcohol content and carbonation. 

The etymology of ale dates way back. It is said to be derived from the Common Germanic language, giving it the name ale.

The word has existed since the twelfth century, stating its presence on the unshakeable ground.  

Ale is confused with a lager made by the yeast rising to the top surface after fermentation. It lends a calm and slow process. 

As opposed to this, the fermentation process of ale is considered warmer and more rapid. 

Predominantly brewed using malt with minimal or no use of hops, ale is a popular alcoholic beverage.

Ale is a pleasing pale brown colour and remains a staple European drink. It also uses barley, rye, oats, wheat, and millet in its production.

It also includes a mixture of herbs and spices boiled in the wort before fermentation.


What is Bitter?

Bitter is confused with bitters, which refers to a distilled aromatic liquid added while making mixed drinks.

Bitter is a subsidiary of Ale. It is a type of ale that undergoes a heavy hopping procedure for its creation. It is observed to have a dry feel and taste to it.

It is an alternative term used in place of pale ale. Furthermore, the taste gained from the hops lends it a unique flavour, making it stand out from milder ales.

Bitter is an English staple drink served on draft in almost every pub and bar. It is synonymous with mild ale and beer, although the latter differs from bitter in several ways.  

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The less astringent brews of bitterness can be considered to be mild. It is a commonly used idiom where drinking beer is referred to as “to do bitters.”

This drink was initially founded in the nineteenth century but peaked during the twentieth century. The term “bitter” can be traced back to the verb bītan, an Old English word used to denote biting.

Bitter as a kind of ale is not to be confused with bitters, the aromatic distilled liquor used in mixed drinks.

This drink is cask-conditioned traditionally and then dispensed via a tap in the cask or a beer engine. The temperature rests between eleven to fourteen degrees Celsius.

bitter beer

Main Differences Between Ale and Bitter

  1. Ale is an alcoholic drink categorized under beer as one of its many types. Pale ale is referred to as bitter. However, bitterness can also be found in various other forms.
  2. The earliest records of ale date back to the twelfth century, making it one of the oldest drinks present. By comparison, bitterness is relatively new, with its mention in the nineteenth century.
  3. The term ale is derived from Common Germanic, whereas bitter gets its name from the word from an Old English term bītan.
  4. Ale is made of yeast, water, and malt that is mostly unchopped. Bitter is hopped and uses flowers, cones, and plants.
  5. Ale is a more popular drink, while bitter is less popular.
Difference Between Ale and Bitter

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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6 thoughts on “Ale vs Bitter: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I’m disappointed to have wasted my time reading such a basic article about beer. The writer could have included more original content.

  2. I’m glad to see a very informative article about the origin and history of beer. I now know a lot more about the differences between ale and bitter!


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