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Friday, July 22, 2011

Open Thread Friday: Your Best Pales

I missed my open thread last week, which is probably fine--there are more weeks in the year than styles. Since most of the country is melting in the sun's vicious heat, let's try a nice, summery beer: pale ales. (For those new to the blog, these open threads are a way for met to hone in on some of the best examples of styles as selected by you--all in the service of a book I'm slowly writing.) The guidelines are the same: The beers need to be great examples to illustrate the style (and delicious), but also need to be relatively available to people who will read the book, and at least some of the beers have to be available in every region of the country. Finally, they should be regular, established beers that will still be in production when the book comes out.

In terms of pales, I'd like the classics for style--both in the US and abroad--but I'm not averse to a little improvisation. As I look at the state of pale ales, I see some evolution beyond the usual pale-with-a-dash-of-caramel-malt-and-Cascade-hopping versions. Exotic hops and the occasional fun ingredient, like passion fruit in Kona's Wailua Wheat. (I've got a few already in the pool of potentials, including Sierra Nevada and Mirror Pond).


  1. Firestone Walker Pale 31 and DBA get my vote.

  2. How about Schlafly Dry-Hopped APA?

  3. Timothy Taylor Land Lord.

    Beer and Coding

  4. Very good American Pale Ales include, alphabetically by brewing company:
    Anchor - Humming Ale
    Bear Republic - XP Pale Ale
    Deschutes - Hop Trip Pale Ale
    Deschutes - Red Chair NW Pale Ale
    Firestone Walker - Pale 31
    Fort George- Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale
    Lagunitas - New Dogtown Pale Ale
    Ninkasi - Radiant Summer Pale Ale
    Ninkasi - Spring Reign Pale Ale
    Oskar Blues - Dale's Pale Ale
    Sierra Nevada - Pale Ale

    That said
    a. Deschutes - Red Chair NW Pale Ale is extraordinarily delicious.
    b. Fort George and Ninkasi beers may not be available too distant from Oregon.
    c. There are 3-4 other very good Oregon pale ales not listed due to lack of availability.

  5. Jaymes Descoteaux6:15 PM, July 22, 2011

    Deschutes' Red Chair NW Pale Ale has been my go-to Pale all year. I really like Magic Hat Mo. 9 "not so pale ale" when I'm back east, and Red Chair tastes pretty similar to me. Nice finish without being overly hoppy.

  6. Firestone Walker DBA
    Laurelwood Organic Pale
    HOTD Ruth
    Sierra Nevada Pale (the beer that made me think about beer)

  7. Conniston Blue Bird (though purists may say it's not as good as it used to be) and Fuller's London Pride. Both are pretty classic and widely available in different regions. For APA, you can't ignore Sierra Nevada.

  8. Firestone Walker DBA is sublime, definitely on the list. (Haven't had the Pale 31--I'll get on it.)

    Red Chair is an interesting duck. I personally dislike it, but I know many love it. My preferences are important, but not definitive. Interestingly, the suggestion, combined with Bill's, show the trouble with pales: how can you say Coniston's Bluebird and Red Chair are the same style?

    I've got a separate chapter for bitters, and that's where I'm putting Coniston. Still, those styles are very similar.

  9. I would also put Firestone Walker DBA into the bitter category; I take it to be an bitter of the English tradition.

    It won Silver Medal—Ordinary or Special Bitter at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. FWBC's website reports it is hopped by:
    o Magum-bittering
    o Styrian Golding and East Kent Golding-late Kettle
    o East Kent Golding-dry hops.

  10. I can't believe nobody mentioned Caldera Pale Ale. Not only is it a tasty example of the style, but it's readily available in cans, which is pretty handy during the summer months.

  11. @MT
    Caldera Pale Ale is excellent; there is no doubt. But, ? Is it available outside the Pacific NW ?

    btw: FWBC website reports Pale 31 is available in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada and soon in Colorado.

    Pity the other of these United States.

  12. Stone Brewing Co.'s Pale Ale is \
    - very good
    - widely available.

  13. For seasonal, I was recently impressed by Mighty Arrow Pale Ale (New Belgium Brewing). My standby for a reliable and easy drinking PA is Drifter Pale Ale (Widmer Brothers Brewing Company).

  14. Caldera's definitely a good one (I selected it in a blind tasting of pales once), but it's a Cascade-hopped pale ala Mirror Pond and SN Pale. Hard to include too many of those.

    Jack, you're right about DBA; that line between bitter and pales is tough to defend. The Maginot line of styles.

  15. @Jack R: I would offer that the dba is composed of traditionally English ingredients, but is decidedly American in spirit.

  16. @ Jeff
    For your Beer Bible, consider parsing Pale Ale into
    - 'West Coast' American Pale Ales; citrus, piney
    - English Pale Ales; earthy, herbal
    Just a thought.

    @ Dave Hayes
    David Walker the co-founder of FWBC is an expat Brit; albeit, any Brit who choices to become an American citizen demonstrates
    - American spirit
    - a willingness to embrace risk
    [I repeat myself].

  17. I think Red Chair Pale Ale is a little off...don't really care for it. Plus, I've always thought it occupied an unneeded place in the Deschutes line. Of course, I realize opinions differ.

    To me, Mirror Pond and Sierra Nevada are much closer to the top of the pale ale mark. Those are the beers I look to if I'm looking for something softer than an IPA. I haven't had the Firestone Walker Pale 31 or the Lagunitas Dogtown, but I would bet on those.

  18. Tröegs Brewing Co., Harrisburg, Penn., is a top shelf Mid-Atlantic state craft brewery. Tröegs Pale Ale rates well.

  19. Elysian Loser Pale is killer!

  20. I fear we might be overthinking this. If Sierra Nevada and Mirror Pond are the perfect exemplars of the Cascade-hopped American-style pale ale (and they are), why worry about other examples?

    The only other pale worth including might be an archetypal English-style pale, of which I'm sure you know more about than I.

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  22. If you want one that is hopped a bit differently, I think Thornbridge's Kipling South Pacific Pale Ale is a great twist on the English Pale Ale. I know it isn't an APA, but you left it open that way (as far as I can tell). The Nelson Sauvin hops make this a serious winner in my book. One of my absolute favorites.