This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Ale is beer of a certain strength, light in colour, being brewed from malt dried at a low degree of heat. Andrew Boorde, in 1542, distinguished ale (as made of malt, water, and nothing else) from beer as brewed with malt, hops, and water. The hop converted our English ale into beer. But the terms ale, and beer are really synonymous now as applied to the paler malt liquors, whilst the darker drinks are porter, and stout. These latter are made in the same way as ale, or beer, but the malt is first roasted in cylinders, much as coffee berries are treated, which process has the effect of producing some caramel (or partially-burnt sugar); also by killing the fermenting principle this prevents further production of sugar in the mashing. It is probable that a tumblerful of good, brisk ale may actually help digestion by increasing the appetite, and calling out a more abundant secretion of gastric juice, with more active movements of the stomach. But malt liquors must be regarded as frequent predisposers to gout by provoking acetous fermentation in persons liable thereto.