The term “ale” was initially used to describe a drink brewed without hops, unlike “beer”.
It has often now come to mean a bitter-tasting barley beverage fermented at room temperature. In some British usage, however, in homage to the original distinction, it is not now used except in compounds (such as “pale ale” or as “real ale”, a term adopted in opposition to the pressurised beers developed by industrial brewers in the 1960s, and used of a warm-fermented unpasteurised beer served from the cask (though not stout or porter).
Ale typically has bittering agents to balance the sweetness of the malt and to act as a preservative. Ale was originally bittered with gruit, a mixture of herbs and sometimes spices, which was boiled prior to fermentation. Later, hops replaced the gruit blend in common usage as the sole bittering agent.
The most popular and commonly available Irish brands today are Smithwicks and Macardles, both owned by the Guinness /Diageo group.
Variations include Cream Ales such as Kilkenny and Murphy’s Red.