Black Flannel Academy

American Blonde Ale

A light-bodied, easy-drinking beer with interesting malt notes and a subtle American hop profile. Often brewed as the most approachable beer in a brewery or brewpub’s lineup.

light malt

pine

citrus

ale

Color

Straw

Gold

Amber

Dark Amber

Brown

Black

Straw

Black

straw to Gold / 3 – 6 SRM

Perceived Bitterness

Very Low

Low

Moderate

Pronounced

Assertive

Highly Assertive

Very Low

Highly Assertive

Moderate / 15 – 28 IBU 

0%

3%

6%

9%

12%

15%

0%

3%

6%

9%

12%

15%

ABV 3.8 – 5.5% (OG 1.038 – 1.054 with FG 1.008 – 1.013)

Sweetness

Low (Dry)

Medium

High

Low (Dry)

Medium

High

Sweetness low to medium

Balance

Malty

Balanced

Hoppy

Malty

Balanced

Hoppy

Balanced between hops and malt

HISTORY

Creativity in any area tends to have a very intentional give-and-take. In school, we all learned about the story arc, with its rising action that builds toward a climax and then falls away. In the theater (theatre for those of you drinking a mild ale), soliloquies stop time for a moment, giving the audience time to reflect on one character. In classical music, this often happens through what musicians call pacing: how a piece unfolds and keeps you interested over time depends just as much on the small moments as it does on the big ones. Today, the Blonde Ale, in addition to a few other styles, fills a similar role in a brewery’s offerings.

You’re not likely to pick one of these up and have a revelation about the meaning of life based on its elegance and refinement (if you’re looking for that in beer, though, you might want to try French wine or acid). This beer is all about simplicity. It gives beer loves an option that’s interesting, but doesn’t yell over your conversation with massive flavors. In a good blonde, you’ll find an easy-going pint with light toasted malt, subtle but interesting hops, and a smooth, clean finish. To achieve that, brewers often use clean American ale yeast fermented cooler, but many also use lager yeast or cold condition this beer (it’s considered a “hybrid” style by the BJCP and BA for that reason).

All of this is a matter of perspective, though. We might call this “easy-going” today without flinching, but put this beer in front of Jack Arnold from the Wonder Years and he’s going to spit it all over that perfectly trimmed lawn (then patriarchally demand a vodka tonic). Before IPAs became as big a part of the market as they are today, these beers were a big seller in the craft industry, likely because in comparison to big beer, these things were bold and a bit challenging.

There’s a ton of variety in how brewers approach flavor, but one thing we all have in common is that we want beer with great flavors, and we want those flavors to be diverse. We had purposefully bland and homogeneous beer in the US for a looooooooong time (see our post on American Lager) and it was boring. The craft movement is about asking more from the things you buy, the people who make them, and the ingredients they use. Most of the beer you try in tap rooms now is fairly big and bold, but this beer is a quiet celebration of the ingredients and subtlety. Even more importantly, it’s a celebration of the people you share it with.

CLASSIC CHARACTERISTICS:

Aroma – Light grainy, bready malt. Subtle citrusy or piney hop.

Appearance – Pale to Gold.

Flavor – Light to medium bitterness. Balanced, clean finish.

Mouthfeel – Medium-light body. Clean, off-dry finish.

Vitals – 3.8 – 5.5% ABV, 15 – 28 IBU

Service Notes:

Serve fresh in weißier glass  or mug at 38º

BJCP DESIGNATION: 18a, Blonde Ale

Overall Impression:

Easy-drinking, approachable, malt oriented American craft beer, often with interesting fruit, hop, or character malt notes. Well-balanced and clean, is a refreshing pint without aggressive flavors.

Aroma:

Light to moderate sweet malty aroma, possibly with a light bread or caramel note. Low to moderate fruitiness is optional, but acceptable. May have a low to medium hop aroma, and can reflect almost any hop variety although citrusy, floral, fruity, and spicy notes are common.

Appearance:

Light yellow to deep gold in color. Clear to brilliant. Low to medium white head with fair to good retention.

Flavor:

Initial soft malty sweetness, but optionally some light character malt flavor (e.g., bread, toast, biscuit, wheat) can also be present. Caramel flavors typically absent; if present, they are typically low-color caramel notes. Low to medium fruity esters optional, but are welcome. Light to moderate hop flavor (any variety), but shouldn’t be overly aggressive. Medium-low to medium bitterness, but the balance is normally towards the malt or even between malt and hops. Finishes medium-dry to slightly malty-sweet; impression of sweetness is often an expression of lower bitterness than actual residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel:

Medium-light to medium body. Medium to high carbonation. Smooth without being heavy.

Comments:

Brewpub alternative to standard American lagers, typically offered as an entry-level craft beer.

History:

An American craft beer style produced by many microbreweries and brewpubs, particularly those who cannot produce lagers. Regional variations exist (many US West Coast brewpub examples are more assertive, like pale ales) but in most areas this beer is designed as the least challenging beer in their lineup.

Characteristic Ingredients:

Generally all malt, but can include up to 25% wheat malt and some sugar adjuncts. Any hop variety can be used. Clean American, lightly fruity English, or Kölsch yeast. May also be made with lager yeast, or cold conditioned. Some versions may have honey, spices and/or fruit added, although if any of these ingredients are stronger than a background flavor they should be entered in those specialty categories instead.

Style Comparison:

Typically has more flavor than American Lagers and Cream Ales. Less bitterness than an American Pale Ale.

Vital Statistics:

OG: 1.038 – 1.054
FG:  1.008 – 1.013
ABV:  3.8 – 5.5%
IBUs:  15 – 28
SRM:  3 – 6

Commercial Examples:

Kona Big Wave Golden Ale, Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale, Russian River Aud Blonde, Victory Summer Love, Widmer Citra Summer Blonde Brew

BA DESIGNATION: Golden or Blonde Ale

  • Color: Straw to Gold.
  • Clarity: Chill haze should not be present.
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Low malt sweetness and toast, cereal-like or other pale malt attributes should be present in flavor and aroma at low to medium-low levels.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Hop aroma and flavor should be medium-low to medium, with attributes typical of hops of any origin present but not dominant.
  • Perceived Bitterness:  Low to medium.
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity esters may be present at low to medium-low levels. Diacetyl and DMS should not be present.
  • Body: Low to medium with a crisp finish

Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.045-1.054 (11.2-13.3 °Plato)

Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.008-1.016 (2.1-4.1 °Plato)

Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 3.2%-4.0% (4.1%-5.1%)

Bitterness (IBU) 15-25

Color SRM (EBC) 3-7 (6-14 EBC)

STYLE COMPARISON:

More flavorful than American Lager and American Cream Ale, very similar to a Kölsch but with more prominent malt character.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Two-row brewers malt
  • Some use malted wheat
  • American Hops
  • Clean, American Yeast

BREWING PROCESS:

A single infusion mash is traditional, and hopping rates vary depending on desired bitterness and aroma profile. Fermented around 68º for a clean yeast profile.

SUGGESTED FOOD PAIRINGS:

AT THE BREWPUB:  Embered Endive Salad or Pretzel and Pub Cheese

TAKEOUT: Chinese dumplings

CASUAL DATE: Sushi

SUGGESTED SPIRIT PAIRINGS:

FROM BF DISTILLING CO: Lightly peated Scotch (like a Speyside or Lowlands, just stay away from Islay with this beer)

SUGGESTED MUSIC TO LISTEN TO:

NEW: Bob Dylan

OLD: Bach, Inventions and Sinfonias

BEER COCKTAIL RECIPE:

Spicy Summertime

INGREDIENTS:
  • 8 ounces Blonde Ale
  • 1.5 ounces fresh mango puree
  • .25 of a habanero pepper without seeds
  • Thinly sliced mango for garnish
  • Whole habanero pepper for garnish (if you’re a hot head)

DIRECTIONS:
Put .25 of a habanero pepper in the bottom of an old fashioned glass and top with mango puree. Muddle together for 5-10 seconds, then use a spoon to remove the habanero pepper. Top with wheat beer, then garnish with sliced mango and habanero (if desired).

BLACK FLANNEL BREWING CO. EXAMPLE:

Brewing Notes:

Coming Soon…

Tasting Notes:

Coming Soon…