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What is Real Ale?

real ale


On April 4th 2014 T.E.A. Time Brewpub in Krakow opened its doors selling the first real ales to be brewed in Poland. Although the beer scene in Poland has undergone a massive transformation in recent years, the breakthrough to British style real ales takes Poland’s beer evolution to a new level.


So what exactly is ’real ale’ and how it is different to other types of beer?


Real ale

Real ale is natural, fresh beer that is brewed using traditional ingredients. The beer is not filtered or pasteurised and continues to ferment in the cask (container) from which it is served. This process means that real ale has not been tampered with, and is still full of the flavours intended by the brewer, including the subtle choice of malt, hops and yeast. Because it is a living product, real ale has a limited shelf life and needs to be looked after in the pub cellar. This involves racking and venting the beer to enable it to mature and bring out its full flavours. Real ale has to be drawn from the cask and the most usual method is via a handpump.


black prince tea time


The term ’real ale’ was first used in the 1970’s to describe the traditional style of beer that had been popular in Britain for centuries.

The phrase was introduced by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale consumer organisation) to differentiate between traditional, ’real’ ales and processed or ’keg’ beers that big brewers had started to introduce.



Keg beer

Keg beer on the other hand is not a living product. After the beer has finished fermenting, it is chilled and filtered to remove all the yeast and then pasteurised to make it sterile. This is then put in a sealed container, called a keg. Keg beer is not naturally carbonated, so carbon dioxide or nitrogen is artificially added, resulting in bland tasting, gassy beer. This style of beer was introduced by big brewers because it has a longer shelf life and was easier to manage in a pub cellar.



Craft keg

In more recent times some craft brewers have started producing beer in what is termed a craft keg. This is basically somewhere in between keg beer and real ale. Whilst craft keg beers are generally superior in taste and aroma to keg beers, they do not undergo a secondary fermentation in the cask like real ales. Craft keg beers such as those from Thornbridge and BrewDog have enabled drinkers in Poland to sample and try British beers in this format. Whilst craft keg beers have certainly helped expand the choice and availability of different beers in Poland, they are not traditional real ales.



tea time krakow


So why bring real ale to Poland?

“Traditional real ale is the best beer in the world, but it was not being brewed in Poland. No other type of beer allows the drinker to enjoy the full range of flavours and aromas, so we wanted to improve that situation,” explains T.E.A. Time co-founder James Eastwood.


tea time krakow malt


Polish drinkers are well educated, and they like to know not just what they are drinking but also how it has been made and dispensed,” cites co-founder and head brewer Jacek Spiewak. “Making that crucial step to real ale is a massive step forward for the Polish beer scene, and we are proud to bring traditional ales to Poland”.


cask cellar tea time krakow

Sylwia Spiewak continues “Having tried real ales first hand in England we realised that Polish drinkers would really enjoy such beers. Although we are the first, we do not expect to be the last real ale brewery in Poland, but we are pleased to make that breakthrough”.


Fermentation room - tea time krakow


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