With so many innovative styles in the craft beer market, it’s easy to forget about the trusted Pale Ale. Overshadowed by the more fashionable (but still delicious) India Pale Ale, Pale Ales are the industry’s silent workhorse.
Most breweries make some variation of this quaffable beer with mass appeal. Usually between 4.5–5.5% ABV with moderate bitterness, Pale Ales are an excellent ‘gateway’ brew for lager drinkers. Hops and malts should balance each other. Like Goldilocks’ preferred porridge, they are neither too heavy nor too light.
The beer style gets its name from the malts lightly kilned over indirect heat. Although pioneered by British brewers in the late 18th century, pale ales have been reimagined many times over.
“British” styles tend to have a strong malty character. While malt-forward pale ales are recreated in North America, American Pale Ales (APA) are often hoppier with distinct citrus notes due to the use of domestic hop varieties. A good example is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which is now available in Ontario. You might also notice fruity, earthy, caramel or bready flavours from your pint glass. As with any beer, water minerals and yeast also shape the final product. So much comes down to the individual brewer’s decisions.
Pale Ales pair well with most foods, including shellfish, pub grub and apple pie. So stock up on a few brands before your next dinner party or BBQ. Chances are you’ll make someone very happy.
Ontario brewers and beer drinkers find comfort in the reliable Pale Ale. One of my favourites is Refined Fool’s Pouch Envy, an “Australian Pale Ale.” Other breweries including Collingwood, Junction, Side Launch, and Sawdust City also produce formidable varieties. With dozens of brands in this great province, you’re sure to find one (or six) that tickles your taste buds.