Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Pale Ale- Session #64

For this issue of The Session #64, The Beer Babe decided it was time to focus on a over-utilized, yet under-appreciated style, the Pale Ale:
What is the one beer style usually makes up the first position in the sample flight, but yet is usually the one that we never get really excited about? The Pale Ale.

While this style serves as the foundation to its big-hoppy-brother the India Pale Ale, lately “Pale Ale” has become a throwaway term. I hear bartenders and servers using it to describe everything from Pilsners to unfiltered wheat beers (I wish I was kidding). 

While I am not taking her advice to sample and do a comparison review of two pale ales, I will chip in my feelings.

First, a brewpub needs to have a pale ale. It is a simple base beer, that can be embraced by almost any drinker. I love to promote my idea of Base Beers. These are beers that set that baseline on whether or not another beer is bad, ok, good, or great. For me, when I walk into a brewpub/brewery/bar and order a pale ale, I like to put it up against Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Is it the best? No, but I don't think there is one person on earth that can say that is it bad.

For our Memorial Day cabin weekend, we always make sure to bring some selection of pale ales. This year, a friend picked up some Sierra Nevada cans (yes, we were in the woods, so cans were very appropriate) to go along with all the other good stuff (including another friend's beer of the month club selections, my Founder's variety case, and multiple homebrews). What is amazing about a quality pale ale is that it can cross the boundaries.  One friend who was at the cabin drinks whatever is basically the cheapest. Another enjoys the Shocktop variety, while two more, would rather an enamel stripping IPA. But the common theme was that everyone was enjoying the pale ale.

Finally, what I think I enjoy the most about the basic pale ale is the drinkability. Many are in the 4-6% abv range. And that is where I like to be. My homebrews are (for the most part) 5.5-6%.  I know that in that range, I can have a few and still be fully coherent.  Most people would be ok. Sure it is no "pure session" beer (under 4%), but for a group of people not leaving the cabin for the day it is perfect.

So if I walk into a place that has their own pale ale, I look for them to make a good one. It might not be the absolutely best beer I ever had, but it should be a beer that many people can enjoy.

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