Monday, February 28, 2011

Beer Style of the Week - Pale Ales

Each week we examine a particular beer style and then recommend the beers that best fit that style’s profile. Week one of fifty two – Pale Ale

Pale Ale

Pale ale is a classic British style ale. Not really pale but lighter in color than Porters or Brown Ales. The style calls for an earthy medium to full malt body with a dark golden to deep copper color. The head should produce a good-sized rocky off-white to beige head. Well hopped, though not overly so, with a combination of two or more of East Kent Goldings, British First Gold, Fuggles, or Challenger hops. The malt should be brewed from pale English Two row barley. A lightly sweet caramel sweetness and a bit of a fruity taste is the norm. A taste of biscuits is quite common to the style. Some pale ales allow for a mineral and/or herbal taste to edge through the flavor profile, though preferably in the background. The United States brewers have taken liberties and developed quite a few different takes on the style. These are not “classic pale ales” and should be noted as such. Five good original classic examples are Young’s Special London Ale, Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale, Fuller’s London Pride, Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and arguably,Bass Ale.

There are several well-crafted Pale Ales brewed in New England, which respect and adhere to at least, the original style profile.

Samuel Adams Pale Ale – Boston, MA 12oz brown bottle. Freshness date on label.

It pours a shiny brass color with a thin to medium-sized white head and a fair amount of sticky lace.

A blend of doughy malt and citrusy hop aromas fade rather quickly.

Lightly roasted biscuity malt with a light caramel sweetness provides a good foundation for the generously applied hops.

Citrusy tartness and a mild metallic tang mix with a light tea-like after taste.

This Pale Ale is dry from start to finish. It could have had a little more sweetness, but still enjoyable.

Cisco Brewing - Whale’s Tale Pale Ale – Nantucket, MA 22.9oz dark brown bottle. No freshness date.

It pours a hazy orangey amber with a big lasting off-white head on top.

It smells a lot like cut fruit and macerated berries. A light hay-like aroma is present in the background.

A slight cidery, astringent tartness arrives in the sprightly effervescent bubbles. A bit like Sahti with that distinct juniper branch bitterness. As it sits for a while, tastes of ripe green apple and citrus lemon vie for attention. A light bread flavor followed by dry malty taste is noticed.

The 5.8%abv is well hidden, that is until the effects begin to kick in.

It does improve as it warms, but so do lots of other craft beers.

Tremont Ale – Brewed by Shipyard Brewing – Maine

12oz bottle. Freshness date etched on left side of label.

It pours a bright copper color with a white head that fades to a constant thin rim. Some sticky and trailing laces remain.

A floral and resinous hop smell rises strong at first pour and lasts halfway through the glass. A background smell of biscuity malt lasts throughout.

A somewhat grassy and biscuity malt reveals some caramel sweetness as it warms.

A harsh, sharp-edged citrus bitterness mingles with a taste of tea with lemon. I recommend this beer as a session beer, or a good beer to drink while watching sports.

Geary’s Pale Ale – Portland, ME – 4.5% abv

12oz dark brown bottle. No freshness date. Poured into a standard pint glass.

It pours an orange-hued amber with a light beige fluffy head, with some trailing and spotty lace. An earthy aroma, with caramel malt, slight fruitiness, resinous hops. Edgy bitterness, slightly fruity with some caramel sweetness. As in the aroma, the hops have a resinous bite. A dose of West Coast hops lend a bit more of a piney bitterness than your typical Pale Ale. Medium to light bodied with spritely effervescence. Fairly good impression of an English Pale ale with a bit more edgy bitterness!

Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale – Berkshire Brewing – S. Deerfield, MA – 5.3% abv

On draft. No freshness date. Poured into standard pint glass.

It pours a dull gold with a cascading, then fast fading white head. Plenty of lace sticks to the glass. The aroma of fresh cut hay and mild hops lasts a fair amount of time. The biscuity malt is lightly roasted and provides a nice body for the mildly citrus and metallic bitterness to dwell in. A faint flavor of apples, a touch of sweetness, and a hint of sunflower seeds make for a nice, if mildly flavored ale.

Thomas Hooker American Pale Ale – Brookfield, CT – 5.4% abv

12 oz. brown bottle. No freshness date noticed. Served in a Samuel Adams Lager glass.

The color is an orange-hued amber with a thin white head, along with some sticky and trailing lacing. Earthy dry malt, hay, and grass aroma with a hint of resinous herbal hoppiness.

The taste is fairly balanced between hops and malt. Dry and crisp at first drink, then some caramel sweetness an herbal tastes break through. A sprightly effervescence dissipates quickly and evolves nicely into harmonious blend of Pale Ale goodness. A very close cousin to an English Pale ale if there is one.

West Coast Pale Ales are a distinctively different animal. The hop bitterness is more upfront as they tend to use west coast hop varieties such as Cascade, Willamette, and Chinook with a higher alpha bitterness rating. West Coast Pale Ales tend to have a piney or resinous bitterness not found in the English style. Prime examples are; Sierra Nevada, Anchor Liberty Ale, and Stone Pale Ale.

Belgian Pales Ales are in a league of their own and will be profiled in a future Beer Style of the Week profile.

Next week: Pilsners and Pils-style Lagers.

Quote: “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” - Shakespeare 'Twelfth Night'

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