When you hear pale ale, what do you think of? You know what an ale is, and you know what the word pale means, so many people automatically put them together to define pale ales as weaker, lighter ales. Oftentimes people regard them as an inferior product, watery and light on flavor and complexity, and often veer toward their hoppier, more assertively structured IPA cousins.
But you can find happiness in a pale ale!
While it’s certainly true that pale ales are generally a lighter style, comparatively speaking, they are by no means lacking in flavor or power. American pale ales typically have prominent hop aromas, either from dry hopping or later additions during the brewing process, and frequently will vividly express the American hop varieties used. They are usually not overpowered by the hops, but instead are balanced with proportionate malts. English pale ales typically show more malt and caramel notes, softer hops and less-aggressive carbonation than American offerings.
Of course, the intensity of the beer depends on the brewer, but full complex pale ales are out there. They can be full of hop and malt flavors while remaining crisp and balanced, exhibiting high drinkability and refreshment. With alcohol ranging from 4–7% and a pronounced but not overpowering profile, they pair well with most foods and make an excellent choice for summer entertaining.
So remember, pale is beautiful…and very delicious. Prost!
92 Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale (American Pale Ale; Deschutes Brewing, OR); 5.0% abv, $9/6 pack. Cascade hops are noticeable, with floral and soft citrus hop aromas and delicate malty notes in the back. The mouth is light-medium weight and well balanced, with grapefruit flavors followed by malted barley, leaving a doughy impression through the crisp, somewhat tart finish. Good carbonation keeps it lively. Best Buy.
91 Fuller’s London Pride (English Pale Ale; Fuller Smith & Turner PLC, United Kingdom); 4.7% abv, $10/6 pack. Slightly hazy copper color with a cream-colored head that leaves nice lacing. The bouquet is full of resinous hop notes with a strong backbone of toasty, bready malt. Round and satisfying in the mouth, starting off with rich piney notes that transition to fresh vibrant citrus. The finish shows more fruit along with an appropriate dryness, and the moderate carbonation and overall rich, roasty character make this a balanced and enjoyable brew.
91 Widmer Brothers The Original Drifter Pale Ale (American Pale Ale; Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, OR); 5.7% abv, $9/6 pack. Brewed with Summit and Nelson hops for a unique citrus flavor and aroma: blood orange, sweet grass and roasted red apple notes abound in the nose and mouth. Light weight with medium carbonation and a nice balance of rich toasted malt, citrus and a touch of pine resin. The finish is long with dominating sweet malty notes followed by a kiss of bitterness on the finish in due time. Well-integrated and a more robust offering to pair well with food.
90 Full Sail Pale Ale (American Pale Ale; Full Sail Brewing, OR); 5.4% abv, $8/6 pack. Pours a clear, golden color with about a finger’s worth of frothy, white head. Nose is fairly mild with prominent notes of sweet malt backed by citrus rind and soft sweet spice. Fairly high carbonation with crisp acidity, green apple and earthy pine hop flavors leading through to the finish. Medium-length finish with an appropriately bitter nudge at the end.
90 Goose Island Green Line Pale Ale (American Pale Ale; Goose Island Brewing Company, IL); 5.0% abv, draft only. Pours a light, slightly cloudy light copper color with a substantial egg-white head that takes time to fall, leaving behind great lacing. Moderate aromas of fresh mint, white peach, sweet fresh-cut grass and sliced orange supremes unfold in the nose. The mouth is light but full with soft flavors that mimic the bouquet. The hops are faint and nuanced, and the finish is crisp and clean.
87 R.J. King Wingwalker Pale Ale (American Pale Ale; RJ King Wingwalker Brewing Company, NY); 5.3% abv, $8/6 pack. A light, burnt orange color with a small head. The nose is mild with faint hints of caramel and orange peel. Light and well-carbonated in the mouth with soft citrus hops, light bitterness and a clean, slightly astringent finish. Good drinkability.
86 Tap Room No. 21 Brewing Co Moe’s Backroom Pale Ale (American Pale Ale; Tap Room Brewing Co, NY); 5.3% abv, $7/6 pack. Pours a pale golden orange color with a small head. Soft floral notes are backed by hints of toasted brioche, fresh red apple slices and hints of ruby red grapefruit oil. Medium weight in the mouth with subtle hop bitters alongside notes of hay and caramel-drizzled peach pit, followed by a clean, medium-weight finish.
86 Roscoe’s Hop House Craft Ale Pale Ale (American Pale Ale; Roscoe’s Hop House, NY); 5.3% abv, $7/6 pack. Light golden amber color with an almost nonexistent nose, offering only faint hints of sweet malt and red apple flesh. Light and airy in the mouth with a soft citrus hop presence on the finish. Not a whole lot going on here, but very drinkable on warm summer days.