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Pale Ales, Pale Ales Everywhere

New American Pale Ales hit the shelves

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March 31, 2017
By Jeff Gredlein | The Beer Snob

It all began with British pale ale, which is actually the beer style known as bitter, along with the related sub-styles of premium bitter and extra special bitter (ESB) or strong bitter. These were and are the English pale ales. And, in strength, they could be as low in ABV as 3 percent with ordinary bitter, up to 6-plys percent with ESB. Where the stronger brews were very well balanced, the ordinary bitter, a relatively hoppy ale, would be nothing compared to the American versions to come.

The reining king of American pale ales (APAs) and the bar by which all others brewed in this country are measured is Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. It’s so ubiquitous that most folks think the beer style is Sierra Nevada, possibly not knowing that the brewery makes several other quality beers.

While Sierra’s Pale Ale is a go-to beer for all seasons, some beginners attempting to break out of the macro lager rut may find the brew to be too bitter and heavy, while seasoned hopheads claim the beer is too tame. There are numerous APAs available that fall on either side of Sierra Nevada’s great flagship beer, made by smaller, upcoming craft breweries.

The other APA standard is Liberty Ale, from Anchor Brewing Company. Liberty Ale is slightly sweeter and maybe a touch more citrusy than Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, with a mouthfeel that’s a bit more thin. However, this is still a classic brew. Of course, much like Sierra’s Pale Ale, this is an easy going beer.

If you are interested in trying an APA, but are not yet sold on the bitter hop flower, a great starting point is Stoudt Brewing Company’s American Pale Ale. At 5 percent ABV, this gentle, almost delicate APA, is a perfect beer to drink all afternoon. Hop smell and flavor are present, but certainly not overwhelming.

What about those of you who crave hops, but find Sierra Pale Ale to be pedestrian? Well, I’ll assume you will just go for an IPA or Imperial variety of beer. But, there are a number of delicious American Pale Ales that push the envelope of the style.

A stellar example of an APA is the canned microbrewed beer Dale’s Pale Ale, made by Oskar Blues Brewery. At 6.5 percent ABV, this tips the scale of the APA style, and with tons of hops, yet balanced by a bready, caramel malt presence, this might be my favorite pale ale available. A winner and a must for any beer connoisseur.

Closer to home and relatively new to the market, Highland Brewing from Asheville introduces Little Hump, a spring pale ale. This one is crisp and subtle, with dry malts and hints of lemon and grass notes. A very sessionable beer.

A more exciting beer is Headwaters Pale Ale from Victory Brewing Company. Caramel malts and a medium-to-light body suggest an English Pale Ale. But the introduction of leafy and breezy citrus blends well with the malt, keeping this beer from becoming a hop-dominated IPA. You want to taste the hops without being bitter-ed out, and Victory does just that. Leave that to the IPAs of the world. Enjoy the Pale Ales … Cheers.

Gene’s Haufbrau has at more than 200 beers in bottles or on tap. While they don’t have every beer the Beer Snob writes about, they probably  have most.. E-mail the Beer Snob at publisher@westof.net.

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