According to the Brewer’s Association, pale ales are the second most popular style of craft beer, trailing only IPAs. Pale ales originated in the UK in the late 1700s after reliable methods existed to produce pale barley malt, and that meant pale-colored beer. At first, the new pale malt was expensive, so the pale beers were limited to wealthier drinkers. But as pale malt became more affordable, pale-colored ales displaced dark ales in popularity, slowly overtaking porter and stout. Bass Brewery of Burton-upon-Trent, England made pale ales famous, thanks to their local hard water suited for the production of pale ale. This alkaline water not only brings an impression of dryness in the finished beer, but also rounds out the hop bitterness, a good quality in a brew with a lot of bitter character. Sierra Nevada “Americanized” the style in 1980 when they released their hoppier version of the pale ale featuring Cascade hops, which became the signature hop for the American version of style. Peaks and Pints pours five pales, including the famous Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, in our Craft Beer Crosscut 6.25.17: A Flight of Pale Ale.
5.6% ABV, 38 IBU
A tip of the cap to the iconic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that makes all the others in this flight possible. First brewed in 1980, Sierra was the craft that started appearing next to Bud and Miller handles, thus shifting the beer landscape of what people wanted to drink. It was a victory of flavor over, uh, liquid. It has a deep amber color and an exceptionally full-bodied, complex character. Magnum and Perle gives this this craft beer a clean, bitter taste. Generous quantities of premium Cascade hops give the Pale Ale its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor.
6% ABV, 38 IBU
Mackaper — an Omnipollo pale ale built from equal parts malt, wheat and oats plus hopped profoundly with Mosaic and dry-hopped with Galaxy — isn’t just a beer, it’s also the name of a Stockholm-based band fusing jazzy, proggy, organ instrumentals with dreamy synthesizer pop and punctuating it all with chaotic ramblings. Bitter grapefruit pith emerges immediately, along with resin and passionfruit — the beer, not the band.
5.2% ABV, 43 IBU
Bellevue Brewing’s Washington Trails Association Tangerine Pale Ale is brewed to be enjoyed with alpine views, summit sunsets and your favorite hiking companions. This citrus pale ale’s swirling hop aromatics, a smooth malt body, sweet orange peel and tangerine zest combine with a smooth, crisp finish. It tastes even better when you think about the one percent of proceeds from sales that benefit WTA helping power our hiking guide, trip reports and volunteer trail maintenance teams.
6% ABV, 65 IBU
Inspired by its luminous namesake, Simcoe and Mosaic hops give Ecliptic Brewing’s Quasar Pale Ale an energetic aroma swirling with green onion, garlic, tangerine and pineapple. The flavor, however, rockets across the tongue with melon and pineapple and leaving very little bitterness behind. With a soft, easy touchdown, Quasar is a stellar beer for enjoying out under the sun.
6% ABV, 66 IBU
Even the geekiest beer lover probably hadn’t heard of Jackson’s Thai Me Up Restaurant and Brewery before it won gold medals for its IPA, Melvin, and its double IPA, 2X4, at GABF in 2012 — and then took home the top honors in the Alpha King Challenge, a more underground contest that rewards the best hoppy beers each year. A good portion of the country now knows Melvin Brewing; it’s new name, and its IPAs and pale ale, Hubert MPA. Hubert is Melvin IPA’s little brother. Cut from the same cloth and/or shaken from the same tree. Hubert hits the nose with intensely sweet, fresh and hoppy bitterness and follows with juicy hop notes balanced with a little piney bitterness. It drinks like an IPA.