A classic beer style of the American craft beer movement: The Pale Ale


The Pale ale, a cousin of the IPA; People wanted a beer that was more balanced out than an IPA was, so the pale ale was born. Often times you may hear a pale ale being called a ‘bitter’ instead. This is due in part during the 19th century, ales that were pale in color were often called “pale ale” or “bitter” interchangeably. Some historians point to brewing records from about 150 years ago, when these beers were referred to as “bitter ales” to distinguish them from the sweeter brown ales and mild ales of the day. It is only in modern times that a distinction is made between pale ale and bitter, but even that division is hazy. Some consider the manner of dispensing the beer as the pivotal factor: if the beer is served on draft, it would be called a bitter; if in a bottle, pale ale.

Whether its English or American balance is the key to pale ales. The pale ale is a sociable beer, easy to drink with food or over the course of an evening. This easy-going style remains one of the most popular among craft beers, and that’s with good reason. Both styles should have low to medium bitterness. The perceived impression of bitterness is soft and well-integrated into the overall balance, and may differ significantly from measured or calculated IBU levels. With both you can expect a straw to copper colored beer with fruity, fresh citrus, pine, floral, herbal aromas and flavor, in which no one element dominates. Low to low-medium malt aroma and flavors of toast, with some caramel flavor and aroma being present in English style pale ales. The absence of diacetyl (butterscotch character) is desirable, though, diacetyl is an acceptable characteristic when at very low levels. You’ll find relatively low alcohol in these beers, usually under 6.5% ABV and as low as 3% ABV, and the IBUs can be anywhere in the range of 30-50IBU. The real difference between English style and American style pale ales comes from the hop characteristics. The American style will have a high hop aroma and flavors showcasing floral, fruity (berry, tropical, citrus, stone fruit and other), sulfur/diesel-like, onion-garlic-catty, citrusy, piney or resinous characters. English styles will show high, yet refined hop aroma and flavor characteristics of earthy and herbal notes. The use of hard water which would have a high mineral content results in a dry, crisp beer with a medium body.

In 1980 Sierra Nevada Brewing commercially brewed its first batch of an American pale ale. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was a revelation for beer lovers who were seeking something flavorful and distinctly American. There was nothing like it in the U.S. at that time. Highly aromatic, restrained malt backbone, and a clean bitterness from the use of American hops, with a crisp but fruity body, this new beer offered a tasty substitute to mainstream light adjunct lagers. Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale quickly set the bar to which all American pale ales were to be stacked up to. If you’d like to try some other examples of American pale ales besides Sierra Nevada’s; Zombie Dust by 3 Floyds Brewing Co., Double Dry Hopped Fort Point Pale Ale by Trillium Brewing Company, Pseudo Sue by Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, MO by Maine Beer Company, Sneak Box by Kane Brewing Company, or Lizard King Pipeworks Brewing Company are good ones to try out among many others. Some great example of English style pale ales are, Ipswich Original Pale Ale by Ipswich Ale Brewery, Axes Of Evil by Gigantic Brewing Company in collaboration with Three Floyds Brewing, Fuller’s London Pride by Fuller Smith & Turner PLC, Organic Pale Ale by Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster), Cross Of Gold by Revolution Brewing, or Denver Pale Ale by Great Divide Brewing Company.

Bottoms up!

Categories: Ale, beer styles, Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada BrewingTags: , , , , , , ,

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