From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Ale \Ale\ ([=a]l), n. [AS. ealu, akin to Icel., Sw., and Dan.
   ["o]l, Lith. alus a kind of beer, OSlav. ol[u^] beer. Cf. Ir.
   ol drink, drinking.]
   1. An intoxicating liquor made from an infusion of malt by
      fermentation and the addition of a bitter, usually hops.
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   Note: The word ale, in England and the United States, usually
         designates a heavier kind of fermented liquor, and the
         word beer a lighter kind. The word beer is also in
         common use as the generic name for all malt liquors.
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   2. A festival in English country places, so called from the
      liquor drunk. "At wakes and ales." --B. Jonson."On ember
      eves and holy ales." --Shak.
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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Beer \Beer\, n. [OE. beor, ber, AS. be['o]r; akin to Fries.
   biar, Icel. bj?rr, OHG. bior, D. & G. bier, and possibly E.
   brew. [root]93, See Brew.]
   1. A fermented liquor made from any malted grain, but
      commonly from barley malt, with hops or some other
      substance to impart a bitter flavor.
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   Note: Beer has different names, as small beer, ale,
         porter, brown stout, lager beer, according to its
         strength, or other qualities. See Ale.
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   2. A fermented extract of the roots and other parts of
      various plants, as spruce, ginger, sassafras, etc.
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   Small beer, weak beer; (fig.) insignificant matters. "To
      suckle fools, and chronicle small beer." --Shak.
      [1913 Webster]
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