Binary Mg-Al alloys with varying content of aluminium from 0.5 to 12mass% have been studied. The proof stress increase in two steps whereas the ductility exhibits two correlated stepwise drops, as the aluminium content increases. The first increase in strength, and attendant drop in ductility, is observed between 4 and 5 mass% Al. The second stepwise change is observed between 10 and 12 mass% Al. These effects are connected with well defined changes in the microstructure: at 4 mass% a dispersion of β-phase intermetallic particles appears in the core region and a closed cell structure develops near the surface; at 12 mass% Al, the increased volume fraction of the β- phase intermetallics extends the interconnected network of intermetallics to include the core region as well. The micromechanics of the strengthening and decreased ductility are discussed.