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What is Pale Ale Anyway?

What is Pale Ale Anyway?

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This style of beer is brewed with mostly pale malts

Pale ale originated in England but is now brewed and sold all over the world.

Pale ale is a type of beer that is brewed with mostly pale malts for a more equal malt-to-hop ratio. The greater amount of pale malts causes the beer to have a lighter color and flavor.

Photo Credit: Flickr/SteveR-

The beer is made through a warm fermentation process, which keeps the product at temperatures usually between 59 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo Credit: Flickr/David Blaikie

Pale ale originated in England but is now brewed and sold all over the world. The term dates back to 1703, when it referred to beers made with coke, a processed form of coal, which produced an amber- or copper-colored ale.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Elliott Brown

Different countries make different styles of pale ale. The American pale ale we drink today was developed around 1980 and tends to be cleaner and hoppier, while British versions are more malty, buttery, aromatic, and balanced.

Photo Credit: Flickr/george ruiz

Food pairings vary with the style of pale ale, but American versions typically pair best with simple dishes like grilled meat or fish.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Bernt Rostad

History of Pale Ale

Pale ale’s story begins with coke. No, not the soda pop, the fuel. Before coke became popular, wood and peat were used to roast malt. Wood and peat give malt a brown color and deep, smoky flavor – ideal for the porters and stouts popular to England at the time.

In 1642, coke, a fuel made from coal, was first used for dry roasting malt. This produced a lighter variety of malt, one which didn’t have the smoky character of wood- and peat-fired malt. The beer that came from the coke-fired malt was much paler, thus the name “pale ale.” Though the term “pale ale” didn’t become popular until around 1703. By 1784, “light and excellent pale ale” was appearing in advertisements.

By the mid-1800s folks began referring to pale ale with a different name - “bitter.” It’s likely that brewery customers began using this term to refer to the beer because the hop flavors in it were much more apparent than those in stouts, porters, and other mild beers. During late 20th century, however, the “bitter” distinction was used to refer to cask beers, while bottled beers were “pale ale.”

Brewing American Pale Ale

Whenever I visit a new brewpub, my eye is invariably drawn first to their beer lineup – how many beers do they have, and are there any unusual seasonals or specialties? But before I explore their range, I first want to check out their craftsmanship for that, I always call for an American pale ale first. Why? Well, it’s a common style that every pub should have, and it allows for some creativity. But it also takes a little bit of finesse and is a good measure of the brewer’s skill. The same holds true with homebrewers don’t tell me about all the oddball beers you can make. Show me first that you have your basic skills down. Give me an everyday American pale ale.

Originally developed as a riff on English Pale Ale using American ingredients, American pale ale is the mainstream hoppy beer all across the country, even if there is significant regional variation in the style. It’s an average strength beer, so you’d expect it to be around 5% ABV and not have a noticeable alcohol flavor or warmth. It’s a hop-focused beer, so you’d expect the balance to be less towards the malt than the hops. And it’s a pale beer, which simply means “anything lighter than brown” to most people. Within those general parameters, brewers have a lot of flexibility to experiment. However, an American pale ale should always be very drinkable.

I like to think about the “style space” a beer occupies. That is, which styles of beer are closest to the style you are discussing, and which variables are different. As far as hoppiness and strength, an American pale ale fits between a blonde ale and an American IPA. Back off on the hops (and maybe the strength) and you have a blonde ale. Increase the strength (and maybe the hops) and you have an IPA. Tweak the malt-hop balance to favor the malt a bit more, and you have either an American amber ale or American brown ale (add more crystal malt for an amber, add some chocolate malt for a brown). Play around with the varieties of malt, hops and yeast while keeping the strength and balance the same, and you have an English or Belgian pale ale. Knowing the nearest neighbors in the style space is helpful if you brew a beer but miss the mark on style. It might hit one of the neighboring styles.

Before we talk about the details of the style, let’s first discuss the most common stylistic errors that brewers make. I’m not talking about the obvious brewing or handling faults (phenolics, oxidation, light-struck, etc.) I mean balance and drinkability issues. In American pale ales, the biggest faults that harm drinkability are excessive body, too much sweetness and lingering harshness. Beers that have too much body, residual sweetness and/or alcohol are more difficult to drink. Think of barleywines they are sipping beers that you enjoy slowly. In contrast, it should be easy to drink several pints of American pale ale. The body should be no more than medium (medium-light is better). The finish should be fairly dry it can have a moderately malty palate but the finish should not have much residual sugar. Alcohol shouldn’t be noticeable. Get these three points right (body, finish, alcohol) and you should have a fairly drinkable beer.

Harshness is another matter entirely. It is a common problem with beers that use a lot of hops. In my experience, hop-derived harshness comes from four factors: the quantity of hops used, the amount of time the hops are boiled, the water chemistry, and the chemical makeup of the hop varieties used. While there are no hard and fast rules, be aware of these general guidelines. The more hops you use and the longer they are boiled, the harsher your beer can be. Large amounts of hops can give vegetal flavors, and long boils can extract harsh compounds. Brew water with a high pH, high residual alkalinity or high sulfate content can lead to harshness in a pale hoppy beer (John Palmer has written extensively on this topic). Hops with low cohumulone (check the varieties against data from places like HopUnion, “low” is under 30%) are known to have a smoother flavor. If your pale ales are harsh, try adjusting each of these factors and see if they make a difference for you.

So now that we’ve discussed what an American Pale Ale shouldn’t be, let’s talk about what to do to get a proper character to your beer. The water, yeast and malt are creating the blank canvas upon which your hoppy artwork will be displayed. Water is fairly simple. It should be low in carbonates, have some available calcium and have low alkalinity. If you are starting with distilled or RO water, add a little calcium chloride. It’s the most neutral form of calcium. Some sulfates are acceptable, but too much and the hops will take on a sharp edge.

Yeast selection is fairly straightforward. Any clean, neutral American strain that attenuates well will do. The obvious choices are White Labs WLP001 California Ale, Wyeast 1056 American Ale and Fermentis Safale US-05. But I like to experiment with some of the other strains. I really like the Wyeast 1272 American Ale II for pale ales and IPAs, and I’ve had good luck with the WLP060 American Blend. Keep the fermentation temperatures restrained, in the 65-70 °F (18-21°C) range. You may be able to use some of the cleaner British strains, such as White Labs WLP002 English Ale or Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale if you keep the temperatures closer to 65 °F (18 °C). Light fruitiness from yeast is acceptable in this style, but is usually restrained.

The grain bill for an American pale ale is fairly simple as well. The majority of the grist should be pale malt, typically domestic two-row (I use Briess). You might be able to use English pale ale malt (Crisp Maris Otter is my favorite) or a Belgian pale ale malt (like Dingemans). I also sometimes like to use German Vienna malt in some of my malty beers (Durst is my choice). But first use a simple grain bill consisting of mostly US two-row to get a flavor similar to most US commercial and brewpub examples.

Most all-grain brewers will add a small amount of wheat (under 3%) to aid in head retention. The base grains previously mentioned plus any wheat should constitute at least 90% of the grist, up to 100%. The remaining grains are where the brewer can experiment. Usually some crystal malt is used, but not as much as in an English Pale Ale or an American Amber Ale. Something light in color (40 °L or lower) works best. I like to use Belgian crystal malts, such as CaraVienne as well. Watch overuse of crystal malts, especially the very lightly kilned ones, as they are often designed to add dextrins (unfermentables) to the beer. Be very light-handed in the use of darker crystal malts you don’t want the color or the flavor. Too much crystal malt will make the beer too sweet and have too much body.

Some brewers add other character malts, such as Victory, Biscuit, or special roast, but I think these flavors are distracting. You do not want a muddy-flavored beer, and that’s what you can get if you use too many different types of malts. Any roasted flavors are inappropriate, even if they can add a little dryness to the beer (as in an Irish Red Ale). Keep it simple, especially when first brewing the style. Freshness of ingredients matters as well.

A single-infusion mash is appropriate for this style, keeping it on the low end of the range (148-152 °F/64-67 °C). With the simple grain bill and lack of unusual specialty grains, this style is perfect for extract brewers. Use fresh, light-colored American malt extract with good fermentability. Steep crystal-grains at 155 °F (68 °C) for a half hour before adding the malt extract. Extract brewers or all-grain brewers mashing at the high end of the range may wish to add up to 10% sugar to make sure the body isn’t excessive. I think adding a little orange blossom honey is also an interesting touch.

The choice and use of hops is the most important factor in the overall profile of this beer. Hops should be showcased in the bitterness, flavor and aroma of this style. Freshness of ingredients is very important, particularly for the late hops. The choices you have to make regarding hops are primarily the quantity and variety of hops, the level of bitterness, the flavor hop method, and the aroma hop method.

Hops used in an American Pale Ale are typically (but not always exclusively) American varieties. One of the regional variations I mentioned earlier is the type of hop character in the beer. Many examples in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California feature strong citrusy and piney flavors. However, hops with floral and spicy qualities are also quite nice in this beer. Classic American hops used in this style are Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, and Chinook (the “C” hops). More modern choices include Amarillo, Ahtanum, Simcoe and Glacier. I sometimes like to use noble-type hops, including American varieties such as Santiam, Crystal, Liberty or Sterling, especially as flavor additions. All are fine, but beware of mixing too many different varieties of hops. Some of the flavors might clash.

Some of my favorite combinations are using Cascade and Centennial together, or using Amarillo with Simcoe. I like to use less than four varieties of late hops in an American Pale Ale, often just using two. American Pale Ale is also a great style for making as a single hop varietal beer. Nothing will teach you the character of a hop variety better than using nothing but that type of hop in your beer.

Bittering hops are usually a higher alpha variety so that less vegetal matter will be introduced into the boil. Use a clean, neutral bittering hop such as Warrior, Magnum or Horizon, or use a higher-alpha multi-purpose American hop such as Columbus or Chinook. The level of bitterness varies greatly within this style. West Coast versions tend to be at the higher end of the range (over 40 IBUs), while most moderate examples will be in the low-mid 30s. Keep in mind that a drier beer needs less bitterness to seem balanced.

There are some interesting choices for late hop (flavor and aroma) additions. The classic method is to simply add flavor hops during the last 10-15 minutes of the boil, and the aroma hops in the last 5 minutes or less. That works fine, and is the baseline for experimentation. Dry hopping is a technique where additional hop aroma can be gained by adding hops to the secondary fermentation. You can use between 0.5 oz and 2 oz (14-56 g) per 5-gallon (19-L) batch. Note, however, that dry hopping often imparts a grassy, vegetal note that some may not like. Limit contact time of dry hops with your beer to a week or less to help limit the vegetal flavors.

In recent years, I have gotten away from dry-hopping my American Pale Ales. I prefer the more refined aroma that you get from using a hopback or from adding hops at the end of the boil or in the whirlpool. Giving the hops some heat helps remove those raw aromatics, but you have to cool the beer rapidly from this point so as to keep the liberated aromatics within the beer.

I really like to use first-wort hopping with American Pale Ales. I add my flavor hop addition to the kettle and run my hot wort onto them. I calculate they give you the same amount of IBUs as a 20-minute bittering hop addition. Contrary to what some have written, I don’t find first-wort hopping gives much aroma, but it does give a ton of flavor. The flavor is different than if used late in the boil it is more refined and elegant, and seems better blended with the beer. I don’t have an explanation for this, but it’s what I perceive.

One final hop method you may want to explore is the use of nothing but late hop additions. You have to use more hops this way, but the chance of getting a harsh hop bitterness is vastly reduced. Add all your hops within the last 20 minutes of the boil, adjusting your amounts to compensate for the reduced utilization. I think this is a similar method to adding your dark roasted grains during the sparge when making a dark beer. Less contact time with heat extracts less tannins, which makes for a smoother beer.

My recommendation is to first try to brew a classic American Pale Ale to make sure your process is solid. Then start adjusting variables and trying out different hop varieties, techniques, grain bills and yeasts. Keep good records and see what you like. Don’t be afraid to experiment and to try new hop combinations. Just keep in mind that as with all hoppy beers, American Pale Ales are best enjoyed when fresh.

Classic American Pale Ale

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.050 (12.3 °P)
FG = 1.011 (2.7 °P)
IBUs = 40 SRM = 6 ABV = 5.1%

This is an all-grain version of my first American Pale Ale recipe. It won gold medals in five different competitions before my wife drank it all.

8.5 lbs (3.86 kg) American two-row malt
0.25 lb (113 g) Crystal malt (20 °L)
0.5 lb (226 g) CaraVienne malt
7 AAU Columbus whole hops (0.5 oz/14g at 14% alpha acids) (60 min.)
0.5 oz (14 g) Centennial whole hops 11% alpha acids (15 min.)
0.5 oz (14 g) Cascade whole hops 6% alpha acids (5 min.)
1 oz (28 g) Cascade whole hops 6% alpha acids (0 min.)
1.5 oz (42 g) Centennial whole hops 11% alpha acids (dry)
Wyeast 1272 (American Ale II) yeast

Step by Step
Mill grains and dough-in using RO water until a medium thickness mash is achieved. Treat mash with 1 tsp calcium chloride. Hold mash at 152 °F (67 °C) until conversion is complete. Sparge slowly with 170 °F (77 °C) RO water treated with 2 tsp phosphoric acid, collecting 6 gallons (22.7 L). Bring wort to a boil.

After the hot break, add the first charge of bittering hops. Boil for 60 additional minutes, adding the other hops per the hopping schedule. Allow the wort to rest for 5 minutes, then chill rapidly to 65 °F (18 °C). Rack to fermenter, leaving break material behind. Oxygenate, pitch the yeast, and ferment at 68 °F (20 °C). Fermentation should be done in less than a week, but don’t rush it.

After the yeast has mostly settled, prepare a secondary fermenter (carboy). Blow in some CO2 to displace any oxygen, add the dry hops and rack the fermented beer on top of the dry hops, minimizing splashing. Leave the beer in contact with the hops for a week.

Rack to a keg and force carbonate, or rack to a bottling bucket, add priming sugar and bottle. Target a carbonation level of 2 to 2.5 volumes.

Variation: Add 0.5 lb (0.45 kg) Orange Blossom honey in the last 15 min of the boil.

Classic American Pale Ale

(5 gallons/19L, extract plus grains)

Substitute 6.4 lbs (2.9 kg) of light-colored American liquid malt extract or 5.1 lbs (2.3 kg) of very pale dry malt extract for the American two-row malt. Mill the specialty grains and put them in a grain bag. Steep the bag in the 6 gallons (22.7 L) of strike water (RO water treated with 1 tsp calcium chloride) at 155 °F (68 °C) for 30 minutes. Lift the bag from the water and rinse gently with hot water. Let the bag drip into the kettle while adding the malt extract. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil. Follow the main recipe from there.

Avant Garde American Pale Ale

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.060 (14.7 °P)
FG = 1.012 (3 °P)
IBUs = 45 SRM = 10 ABV = 6.3%

This beer won a gold medal in the first round of the 2008 NHC competition.

6.5 lb (2.9 kg) Maris Otter malt
1 lb (0.45 kg) Vienna malt
0.75 lb (340 g) crystal malt (40 °L)
0.25 lb (113 g) crystal malt (80 °L)
0.5 lb (226 g) wheat malt
1 lb (0.45 kg) white sugar
1 oz (28g) Amarillo whole hops 8% AA (FWH)
0.5 oz (14 g) Columbus whole hops 14% AA (15 min.)
0.5 oz (14 g) Columbus whole hops 14% AA (10 min.)
0.5 oz (14 g) Simcoe whole hops 12% AA (5 min.)
1 oz (28 g) Amarillo whole hops 8% AA (2 min.)
0.5 oz (14 g) Simcoe whole hops 12% AA (0 min.)
White Labs WLP060 American Blend yeast

Step by Step
Mill grains and dough-in using RO water until a medium thickness mash is achieved. Treat mash with 1 tsp calcium chloride. Hold mash at 150 °F (66 °C) until conversion is complete. Add first wort hops to kettle. Sparge slowly with 170 °F (77 °C) RO water treated with 2 tsp phosphoric acid, collecting 6.5 gallons (24.6 L). Bring wort to a boil.

After the hot break, add the sugar. Boil for 75 additional minutes, adding the hops per the hopping schedule. Allow the wort to rest for 5 minutes, then chill rapidly to 68 °F (20 °C). Rack to fermenter, leaving break material behind. Oxygenate, pitch the yeast, and ferment at 70 °F (21 °C). Fermentation should be done in less than a week, but don’t rush it.

After the beer has dropped bright, rack to a keg and force carbonate, or rack to a bottling bucket, add priming sugar and bottle. Target a carbonation level of 2 to 2.5 volumes.

Avant Garde American Pale Ale

(5 gallons/19 L, extract plus grains)

Substitute 6 lbs (2.7 kg) of light-colored American liquid malt extract or 4.8 (2.2 kg) lbs of very pale dry malt extract for the Maris Otter, Vienna and Wheat malts. Mill the crystal malts and put them in a grain bag. Steep the bag in the 6.5 gallons (24.6L) of strike water (RO water treated with 1 tsp calcium chloride) at 155 °F (68 °C) for 30 minutes. Lift the bag from the water and rinse gently with hot water. Let the bag drip into the kettle while adding the malt extract and the first wort hops. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil. Follow the main recipe from there.

American Pale Ale Beers

Characterized by floral, fruity, citrus-like, piney, resinous American hops, the American pale ale is a medium-bodied beer with low to medium caramel, and carries with it a toasted maltiness. American pale ale is one of the most food-friendly styles to enjoy, since the pale ale works wonderfully with lighter fare such as salads and chicken, but can still stand up to a hearty bowl of chili a variety of different cheeses, including cheddar seafood, like steamed clams or fish, and even desserts. The American pale ale’s affinity to food can be attributed to the simplicity of its ingredients, which include toasty pale malt, a clean fermenting ale beer yeast, and the counterbalance of American hops to help tease out the flavor or cleanse the palate, preparing you for another bite.

Good Question: What Can I Cook with Pale Ale?

The other day we had a question about beer cheese soup now here’s one on cooking with pale ale. In our most recent Open Thread, reggiesoang asks:

Is there any dish that could be cooked with pale ale? Brown ale is usually the choice for cooking, but since I have a lot of pale ale left that needs to be used (or drank), I wonder if I can use pale ale the same way I use brown ale in like BBQ sauce or chili (best time for a nice pot of chili). Help!

reggiesoang, we did a little searching around, and we think that pale ale would be just fine – if not as robust – in all those usual dishes.

But we also found a couple recipes that call specifically for pale ale – and one is from Jacques Pépin, one of our favorite chefs.

Do you have any other suggestions for cooking with pale ale?

(Images: Clipper City Beer, Rob Howard for Food & Wine, and The Daily Green)

Faith is the Editor-in-Chief of Kitchn. She leads Kitchn's fabulous editorial team to dream up everything you see here every day. She has helped shape Kitchn since its very earliest days and has written over 10,000 posts herself. Faith is also the author of three cookbooks, including the James Beard Award-winning The Kitchn Cookbook, as well as Bakeless Sweets. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two small, ice cream-obsessed daughters.

American Pale Ale

American brewers have always been innovators. As European immigrants brought their traditions, their tastes, and their habits to new shores, they usually tried to continue their lives as they had begun them, but new cultures, new languages, and new environments demanded that they adapt.

Brewers were no exception. The earliest brewers in the New World were Dutch and British, producing ales and porters. (Among the best, apparently, were the so-called Puritans. Although they had some strict moral standards, they had no problem with ale at dinner.) By the mid-1800s, however, a new wave of immigrants from Northern and Central Europe introduced different brewing styles and technologies.

Pale, clear lagers rapidly replaced the once-popular ales. American breweries responded by adopting the new beer styles and incorporating indigenous grains (primarily corn), which allowed them to more easily brew very pale, very bright beers. Eventually, ales had almost disappeared from the United States, although a few survived in the Northeast. Among these the finest was undoubtedly Ballantine’s, whose IPA was a serious attempt to preserve the British traditions, surviving almost to the dawn of the craft brewing age. Ballantine’s IPA was brewed to a respectable gravity (1.076), with plenty of hops (especially Brewer’s Gold, at 45 IBU), and was well-aged in oak. In time the brewery was acquired by a larger firm, the ale’s production moved to the Midwest, and the beer was toned down to a shadow of its former glory.

Other ales, of considerably less character, continued to be produced in the Northeast somewhat as novelty items. Many, in fact, were not true ales at all in the sense of being top-fermented. Fred Eckhardt, author of Essentials of Beer Style, refers to them as “sparkling ales” and notes that they were brewed to compete with the American pale lagers. Like those beers the ales had “minimal taste profile, minimal hopping, and [were] lacking in hop bouquet.”

In due time many of these beers were labeled “cream ales,” and whatever special character they possessed diminished further. Most were “bastard ales,” formulated as a standard beer (although perhaps brewed to be just a little stronger) and fermented with the brewery’s regular lager yeast at a slightly elevated temperature for a slightly harsher, slightly fruitier taste. In some states the term “ale” was a label applied to beers of barely more than normal strength and had nothing at all to do with the beer’s method of production.

By the late 1970s and early 1980s virtually no true top-fermented ales were being produced in the United States, and America’s oldest brewing tradition was in imminent danger of disappearing entirely.

The new tradition arose in California. Anchor Brewing Co. began tinkering with a real ale in 1975 (which eventually emerged as Liberty Ale), and New Albion (perhaps the first true microbrewery) introduced an ale a year later. Within a few years homebrewers Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi launched Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., also in Northern California, and the craft-brewing industry began to take its first, faltering steps. No one at the time had any idea of how much would change, of course, or how quickly.

Since California (and soon the Pacific Northwest) had no ale tradition to revive, the brewers were free to create a new one. Although they were, in a sense, emulating the British styles of beer, what emerged was a distinctly American version.

In fact the American ale arose as the British ale was doing its best to sink. In England industrial consolidation had caused small breweries, with their distinctive beers, to disappear. New, “convenient” technologies were replacing the delicate care of the old traditions and further defusing the character of the ales. Outrageous excise taxes, levied on the original gravity of the beer wort, caused brewers to curtail the alcohol content of their beers.

In the United States, however, consumers had begun a reaction to the long trend toward homogeneity in much of what they ate and drank. Boutique wineries were blooming, and newly affluent customers were looking at everything from mustard to pizza, coffee to bread, in search of new, more interesting flavors. The radical approaches of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Liberty Ale, and all the pale ales to follow, met with a surprisingly positive reception.

In many ways Sierra Nevada’s ale can be taken as the prototype of the new American pale ale (in fact there are two Sierra Nevada Pale Ales, the draft version and a slightly different bottled version both are classics). With an original gravity near 1.048 to 1.052, Sierra Nevada’s ale is 10 to 15 points higher than a British equivalent. It is an all-malt beer, and the malts are very American (two-row pale, caramel, and dextrin). And significantly, the hop flavor is unabashedly American. In fact they are primarily the signature Cascade hops, citrusy and floral. Of all the American hops, Cascade and her sister varieties are the most obvious stamp of an American pale ale, unmistakable in their assault on the palate.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale falls smack in the middle of the style’s color range, somewhere between very pale golden and ruddy copper. Unlike many British ales the Sierra Nevada yeast finishes very crisp and dry, with none of the characteristic British fruitiness. (The yeast is Sierra Nevada’s one serious link to the old American ale tradition — it is the same strain once used to brew the classic Ballantine’s ales.)

Within a few short years American pale ales in their myriad variations began to appear throughout the Pacific Northwest and, eventually, around the country. In its purest form the style seems to still be a West Coast beer, with Eastern brewers slightly more influenced by British brewing revivals and traditions.

For a time it seemed as though the brewers around Portland and Seattle were competing to produce the most intense, most bitter, and most hoppy beer imaginable. Amazingly, there were a lot of us willing to egg them on, and the mid-󈨔s hopping rates went up and up. Among the great Cascade-drenched beers of the time were Grant’s Scottish Ale, Portland Ale, and the real Cascademonster, Pyramid Pale Ale. Other beers emerged with different blends of hops, and different character, but always with an eye to challenge and engage a new style of beer drinker.

With very few exceptions these first American pale ales were draft-only beers. Not only were bottling lines expensive and demanding, but liquor laws in Oregon and Washington had ensured that few drinking places served anything but beer and wine. An unusually high percentage of beer sales were in taverns, and drinkers were already used to the notion of going out for a beer.

As the craft-brewing movement spread and the demand for market share increased, brewers began to scale down the intense characters of their beers, and those that survive today are far more restrained than they once were. Admittedly, many of those beers were out of balance and one-dimensional, but for avowed hop freaks it was something of a Golden Age.

Plenty of American pale ales survive, of course. Like amber ales, American pale ales appear regularly on the lists of brewpubs and microbreweries. As amber ales are defined by their malt — caramel malt giving a characteristic copper color and sweet taste — American pale ales are defined by their hops. More specifically they are defined by the assertive use of American hops — good, pronounced bitterness and a noticeable, floral hop nose. Although various hops are used, Cascades are nearly a clichŽ for the style.

American pale ales can vary in color from very pale to copper and are generally medium-bodied and well-attenuated (dry). They are invariably all-malt, based on very pale American two-row malt, with some caramel and dextrin malts. Original gravities range from 1.045 to 1.060, generally in the middle of the range. Mash cycles are very simple: single-step infusions at 152° to 154° F.

Yeast strains are typically very neutral, although some rare examples such as Bert Grant’s Scottish Ale have a fruitier, more obvious contribution. Sierra Nevada’s strain is one of the most widely used in the microbrewery industry. This yeast is aggressive, neutral, and capable of fermenting at relatively low temperatures (around 60° F). It is variously known as 1056 (Wyeast’s number), Chico (Sierra Nevada’s hometown), and American Ale. Since the brewery bottle-conditions its beer, the bottled products can be a source for the yeast, but nowadays its bottling procedure leaves very little to harvest.

Anchor uses open fermenters but most craft breweries use closed, cylindro-conical fermenters. Homebrewers can exercise their own options: open primary fermenters or carboys with blow-off hoses.

Very good American pale ales can be produced at home with malt extracts and grains, as long as plenty of care is taken with sanitation and a good, healthy yeast starter is pitched. Hopping rates for partial-wort boils should be increased to make up for a lower extraction rate. Dry hopping is particularly useful in brewing this style of beer, as it really emphasizes the hop nose. Another alternative is the use of a hop back, passing hot wort through a screen or basket of fresh, whole hops.

American Pale Ale


  • 8 lbs. Alexander’s Extra Pale Liquid Malt Extract
  • 1 lb. two-row pale malt
  • 0.5 lb. crystal malt
  • 0.5 lb. cara-pils malt
  • 2.5 oz. American Perle hops (6.5% alpha acid), for 75 min.
  • 1.75 oz. Cascade hops (5.4% alpha acid), 0.75 oz. for 15 min., 0.5 oz. at end boil, 0.5 oz. dry hopped in secondary or keg
  • 1 qt. Wyeast 1056

Step by Step:

Soak crushed grains in 0.5 gal. of 150° F water for one hour, then rinse with one gallon hot (170° F) water into kettle. Add malt extract and water to bring volume to 2.5 to 3 gals., depending on kettle size. Boil for 15 minutes. Add American Perle hops and boil an additional 60 minutes. Add 0.75 oz. Cascade hops and boil 15 minutes more. Add 0.5 oz. Cascade hops at end boil. Total boil is 90 minutes. Add wort to sufficient amount of pre-boiled, chilled water to bring volume to 5 gals. Aerate thoroughly and pitch yeast.

Ferment in open primary at 65° F for one week or until head falls. Rack to carboy and finish fermentation at same temperature. If bottling, dry hop with 0.5 oz. Cascade hops in carboy and hold in secondary for two weeks. If kegging, add dry hops (in hop sack) at kegging time and condition cold for two weeks before tapping.

5 Gallons, All-Grain


  • 8 lbs. Great Western two-row pale malt
  • 0.5 lb. crystal malt
  • 0.5 lb. cara-pils malt
  • 1.5 oz. American Perle hops (6.5% alpha acid), for 75 min.
  • 1.5 oz. Cascade hops (5.4% alpha acid), 0.5 oz. for 15 min., 0.5 oz. at end boil, 0.5 oz. dry hopped insecondary or keg
  • 1 qt. Wyeast 1056

Step by Step

Mash in 3 gals. of 170° F water for 90 minutes or until iodine test is negative. Sparge with 170° F water to 6 gals. Boil for 15 minutes. Add American Perle hops and boil an additional 60 minutes. Add 0.5 oz. Cascade hops and boil 15 minutes more. Add 0.5 oz. Cascade hops at end boil. Total boil is 90 minutes. Cool, aerate thoroughly, and pitch yeast.

Ferment in open primary at 65° F for one week or until head falls. Rack to carboy and finish fermentation at same temperature. If bottling, dry hop with 0.5 oz. Cascade in carboy and hold in secondary for two weeks. If kegging, add dry hops (in hop sack) at kegging time and condition cold for two weeks before tapping.

Notes about this recipe

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Cascade Pale Ale

Size: 6.0 gal
Efficiency: 65%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Original Gravity: 1.050 (1.045 – 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.012 (1.010 – 1.015)
Color: 8.3 (5.0 – 14.0)
Alcohol: 4.87% (4.5% – 6.0%)
Bitterness: 38.87 (30.0 – 45.0)


12.0 lbs 2-Row Brewers Malt
1.0 lbs Crystal 15
0.6 oz Chocolate Malt
1.5 oz Cascade (5.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
1.5 oz Cascade (5.5%) – added during boil, boiled 10 min
1.5 oz Cascade (5.5%) – added during boil, boiled 1 min

1.0 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05
1.0 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 min

Simple Maple Syrup Pale Ale

We are in the midst of summer and the heat is pouring on us, hopefully you have been keeping cool. It is a pretty good time to start thinking of beers that are going to be good for September though. I know, crazy talk! You figure 2 weeks in Primary, 2 weeks in Secondary, and ample time for the bottles puts us right in the midst of September. Don’t worry though. If you are having brewers block not know what direction you should go for brewing up a batch of beer, I got just the one for you.

This is a Maple Syrup Pale Ale. One of our first recipes for this blog was a Maple Syrup Amber. It’s pretty good. I really like to go with the maple syrup route in the fall and really lean on the earthy flavors, it’s just a personal preference thing. This beer is best suited for the warm days where you can wear either shorts or pants and then in the evening you start to get those first crisp breezes from fall. This beer is made for just that. The reason why I will be making this one pretty soon is, I like to let this one sit for a bit and I try not rush it too much. The Maple syrup can bump up the ABV quite a bit depending on how much you add and it may taste a bit hot if it gets rushed, so giving it some time really does help it out.

If you plan on doing this recipe all-grain we do have a conversion chart. There is one thing to note though. Since this recipe does have amber malt extract take the conversion of all-grain, 95% of that is Pale malt and 5% is going to be 80L.


6 oz Maple Syrup (last 5min)

  • Steep grains in about 2.5 gallons of water for 30min
  • Take out grains
  • Add LME
  • Bring to boil
  • In the beginning of the boil add 1 oz Mt. Hood hops
  • Boil for 30min
  • Add .5 oz Simcoe hops
  • Boil for 15min
  • Add .5 oz Cascade cops
  • Boil for 10 min
  • Add Maple syrup
  • Boil 5 min
  • End boil
  • Cool down, put in fermenter pitch yeast.
  • After 7-14 days rack into secondary and dry hop for 7-14 days
  • Bottle using 5 oz of corn sugar and keep in bottles for 3-4 weeks before you drink

This can be a bit on the sweet side by adding a pound of 40L as well as using amber malt extract. The beer will have a nice hop aroma by dry hopping and you should pick up on a faint maple syrup flavor. If you have a keg, and plan on kegging this beer, you can always add 6 oz of maple syrup directly to your keg to give it a bigger maple syrup flavor. Since you are adding hops to this beer in the secondary, it will give the illusion of a hoppier beer then what is actually there. It’s a pretty good beer for those that are into IPA’s but want to please friends that do not have the same appreciation for hops that you do.

The Best Craft Beers to Try This Season

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As bars open back up around the country, a lot of people are easing back into the idea of popping into their local drinking establishment for a cold one. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stop drinking at home&mdashin fact, you may have already stocked up your mini fridge and prepped a full-on home bar for the long haul.

Truth is, there’s never been a better time to try out the best craft beers from some of the best breweries in the country. For one, it’s now easier than ever to get local favorites, limited edition IPAs, and seasonal beers delivered straight to your door. You don’t have to worry about long lines, or removing your mask to take a frosty sip. Plenty of craft breweries have upped their game with beers you can buy online&mdashalong with all the other wine, and tequila, and more you can order now.

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So if you don’t want to extend your brewmaster wings and go through the hassle of making your own at home, save the brewing for the professionals. We’ve rounded up some of the best craft beers to try this season, whether you crack them open at a long-awaited BBQ with friends, or just from the comfort of your own home.

A bonus: use our links to buy these craft beers online and have them delivered in as little as 30 minutes. Right now, you can also get $5 off your purchase at delivery site/app with code MEMORIALDRINKS. Valid 5/1-6/1.

1. New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale


Now this is a beer that tastes as good as you can feel about drinking&mdashNew Belgium brewing company, known for their crowd-pleasing favorites such as their Voodoo Ranger and Sour IPA, are also notable for their sustainable manufacturing processes and their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But their standout is clearly the sweet yet herbal Fat Tire Amber Ale (named after the co-founder’s bike drip across Europe), which was dubbed “America’s first Carbon Neutral certified beer.”

A little spicy, a little fruity, this is a well-balanced 5.2% ABV beer that is great for grilling season, since the woodsy flavor pairs so well with barbecued foods. Think of it like the rosemary roast chicken of the craft beer world. There’s truly something for everyone, though, whether you like a more hops-forward drink, something sour, or something fruity. For a beer with a light footprint, and a refreshingly light taste, we can choose no other than Fat Tire Amber Ale.

Right now, you can also get $5 off your purchase at Saucey with code MEMORIALDRINKS. Valid 5/1-6/1.

2. BrewDog Clockwork Tangerine Citrus Session IPA


If BrewDog‘s Clockwork Tangerine was a movie, we would give it all the awards for best summertime blockbuster. The fresh, fruity, and citrus-infused flavors tick all our boxes for a solid summer beer, something you can lightly sip at the beach or crack open after a long day of yard work.

This 4.5% ABV is a stand-out IPA, considering it took the crown in Brewdog’s 2017 Prototype Challenge under the pseudonym of ‘Tangerine Session IPA’. Normally fruity beers will try to lean into the citrus by going full-on sour, or mash a bunch of tropical fruit flavors together until it feels more like a smoothie than a hard beverage. But Clockwork Tangerine has a citrus kick with mellow tropical notes, and a toasty background that rounds it all out. As with all BrewDog beers, Clockwork Tangerine is carbon negative and BrewDog removes double the CO2 it takes to make.