Light Gold to Light Amber / 5 – 10 SRM
Pronounced / 30 – 50 IBU
Sweetness low to medium
Balanced toward hops over malt
For centuries, brewers have been a pretty weird group of people. Some brewers talk to their yeast as it ferments, keeping it positive company so that it produces exactly the beer they hope for. Some brewers even sing to their yeast for the same reason, and I’m sure more than a few monks have prayed for it over the centuries. Though I don’t personally carry any of those habits (yet), it’s hard to refute that beer provides some fairly odd and serendipitous moments in our lives (Jungian synchronists rejoice!) and today is one of those days. As I write this, I’m also brewing a pilot of the very first pale ale we’ll offer at Black Flannel. It’s truly an iconic American style, and we can’t wait to share our version with you.
When American craft brewers of the 1980s wanted to create rich, flavorful beers that challenged the macro lagers of the day, they looked to Europe’s best ale producers for inspiration. Paradoxically, lager brewing has a lot more up-front costs than ale brewing, since the beers need tanks to condition in for the long keeping period. Even before the porter craze in the early 1700s, pale beers made with top-fermenting yeast were brewed and loved all over England. Pale ales were brewed commercially, but as far as we can tell, the best versions were brewed on feudal estates (think Downton Abbey except hopefully without the spoiled daughters and drama). Estate brewers tackled a range of styles, since they weren’t beholden to profits: they were simply brewing what got workers through the day and what they loved to drink on special occasions. To be sure, these beers have gone through growing pains. Pale beers in the UK changed dramatically during and after the second world war since ingredients were scarce, and brewers were forced to lessen the malt bills of their pale ales. To this day, the low-gravity beers that resulted from that conflict remain the most popular beer in pubs around London, where they are still referred to as “bitters.”
Ken Grossman started Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in 1979, where he brewed his first batch of Sierra Nevada Pale, often credited as the progenitor of the style, in November of 1980. Boldly American in its hop character, this beer continues to be one of the most popular brews in the craft sector, and for good reason. Grossman took what he could learn from British brewing literature, which at the time largely focussed on the bitters being brewed there, and brewed a similar beer with American ingredients. While hops from the Pacific Northwest are now infamous for their wonderful pine, citrus, and resin aromatics, they weren’t always favored by brewers the world over. Take, for example, this gem from The Edinburgh Review, written in 1862: “American hops may also be dismissed in a few words. Like American grapes, they derive a coarse, rank flavor and smell from the soil in which they grow, which no management, however careful, has hitherto succeeded in neutralizing. There is little chance of their competing in our markets with European growth, except in season of scarcity and of unusually high prices.” Ken Grossman bet on American hops, and he won big. The beer that resulted is beloved in craft circles everywhere (it’s one I’ve got a pack of in the fridge more often than not).
When you walk into Black Flannel, you’re going to find at least one beer inspired by American Pale ale–be it an IPA, a pale ale, or something totally different–even if the style has gone through its own changes over the past 40 years. We’ll have hazy versions that feature newer fruity hops, brilliant versions that feature old school citrusy and piney hops, and anything we can think of in between. We love this style and the broad range of expressions it can have, and we think you’ll like our takes on it too.
Aroma – Grainy, lightly caramelly malt backbone. Citrus, pine, and resiny American hops.
Appearance – Pale to Gold to very light amber.
Flavor – Medium bitterness. Clean, hoppy finish.
Mouthfeel – Medium body. Clean, off-dry finish.
Vitals – 4.5 – 6.2% ABV, 30 – 50 IBU
Serve fresh in Pint glass at 38º
A pale, refreshing and hoppy ale, yet with sufficient supporting malt to make the beer balanced and drinkable. The clean hop presence can reflect classic or modern American or New World hop varieties with a wide range of characteristics. An average-strength hop-forward pale American craft beer, generally balanced to be more accessible than modern American IPAs.
Moderate to strong hop aroma from American or New World hop varieties with a wide range of possible characteristics, including citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon. None of these specific characteristics are required, but hops should be apparent. Low to moderate maltiness supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuit, caramelly). Fruity esters vary from moderate to none. Dry hopping (if used) may add grassy notes, although this character should not be excessive.
Pale golden to light amber. Moderately large white to off-white head with good retention. Generally quite clear, although dry-hopped versions may be slightly hazy.
Moderate to high hop flavor, typically showing an American or New World hop character (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, melon, etc.). Low to moderate clean grainy-malt character supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuity). The balance is typically towards the late hops and bitterness, but the malt presence should be supportive, not distracting. Caramel flavors are often absent or fairly restrained (but are acceptable as long as they don’t clash with the hops). Fruity yeast esters can be moderate to none, although many hop varieties are quite fruity. Moderate to high hop bitterness with a medium to dry finish. Hop flavor and bitterness often lingers into the finish, but the aftertaste should generally be clean and not harsh. Dry hopping (if used) may add grassy notes, although this character should not be excessive.
Medium-light to medium body. Moderate to high carbonation. Overall smooth finish without astringency and harshness.
New hop varieties and usage methods continue to be developed. Judges should allow for characteristics of modern hops in this style, as well as classic varieties. Becoming more of an international craft style, with local adaptations appearing in many countries with an emerging craft beer market. Hopping styles can vary from the classic large bitterness addition, to more modern late hop-bursted examples; all variations are allowable.
A modern American craft beer era adaptation of English pale ale, reflecting indigenous ingredients (hops, malt, yeast, and water). Prior to the explosion in popularity of IPAs, was traditionally the most well-known and popular of American craft beers.
Pale ale malt, typically North American two-row. American or New World hops, with a wide range of allowable characteristics. American or English ale yeast (neutral to lightly fruity). Specialty grains may add character and complexity, but generally make up a relatively small portion of the grist. Grains that add malt flavor and richness, light sweetness, and toasty or bready notes are often used (along with late hops) to differentiate brands.
Typically lighter in color, cleaner in fermentation by-products, and having less caramel flavors than English counterparts. There can be some overlap in color between American pale ale and American amber ale. The American pale ale will generally be cleaner, have a less caramelly malt profile, less body, and often more finishing hops. Less bitterness in the balance and alcohol strength than an American IPA. More balanced and drinkable, and less intensely hop-focused and bitter than session-strength American IPAs (aka Session IPAs).
Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.044-1.050 (11-12.4 °Plato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.008-1.014 (2.1-3.6 °Plato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 3.5%-4.3% (4.4%-5.4%)
Bitterness (IBU) 30-50
Color SRM (EBC) 4-7 (8-14 EBC)
Less caramel flavor, more finishing hops, and with more citrus and pine character than an English version. Less bitter and with lower alcohol than American IPA. More caramel and significantly more hop character than American Blonde.
A single infusion mash is traditional, and hopping rates vary depending on desired bitterness and aroma profile, but generally include significant late-hop and dry-hop additions for added aromatic punch. Fermented around 68º for a clean yeast profile.
AT THE BREWPUB: Veggie Burger
TAKEOUT: Burgers and fries
CASUAL DATE: Pizza
FROM BF DISTILLING CO: White Beet Spirit, Rum
NEW: Guns N’ Roses
OLD: Bach, Inventions and Sinfonias
In a cocktail shaker, combine rye whiskey and orange juice and shake vigorously with ice. Strain into an old-fashioned glass, top with 4 ounces American Pale Ale, then garnish with pine sprig and orange rind.