American Pale Ale

Last week, we suggested that the Maibock could quite possibly be the ultimate style of gateway beer… Well, beereauty is in the eye of the beerholder so let’s play devil’s advocate this week and say “Hey jerky, what about the AMERICAN PALE ALE?!?”.   

I mean, C’MON!  One APA in particular – Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – is probably the most frequently credited beer on the planet for converting the great unwashed masses of USA macro drinkers over to the world of craft beer.   And from a personal perspective – I, too, fall into that category.  The year was 1996, the bar was Casey’s in Berwyn.  I had a SNPA sandwiched in between two standard on-draft macros (can’t even recall what they were now), and then the epiphany happened on the way home – awakened by a single BURP, one that yielded nothing but the flavorful citric, floral hop profile of that SNPA, I was instantly hooked, and headed for the nearest distributor to find me a case of that tasty belch-breath-yielding stuff.  The rest has been a torrid love affair – some one night stands even – with hundreds of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale’s hot sisters and friends across the craft beer community.


Here’s how the Brewers’ Association describes the style:

“American pale ales range from deep golden to copper in color. The style is characterized by fruity, floral and citrus-like American-variety hop character producing medium to medium-high hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Note that “floral and citrus-like American-variety hop character” is the perceived end, but may be a result of the skillful use of hops of other national origins.  American pale ales have medium body and low to medium maltiness. Low caramel character is allowable. Fruity-ester flavor and aroma should be moderate to strong. Diacetyl should be absent or present at very low levels. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures.”

Food Pairings

With a medium body, relatively low to medium alcohol levels, and a floral & citrusy quality, your best bet is to fire up some chicken on the grill to accompany this one… hold the Q sauce, though (we’ll save that for the sweeter, maltier American Amber Ale).  Saddle it up with a salad of fresh greens & veggies (or even a fruit accompaniment).  Earthy, nutty, and even some tangy cheeses will go well with the APA as well.   Finish your APA before dessert, though, as there aren’t too many happy unions there.


The American Pale Ale is one of the few craft beer styles which is totally comfortable in a standard pint glass, however may we suggest the more robust “Nonic pint”, or possibly your favorite thick, glass mug…


So which ones should you check out this week?  Sample these three, which should be generally available at your better bottle shops and distributors in and around Eastern PA:

–          Great Lakes – Burning River Pale Ale, 6% ABV (Cleveland, OH)

–          Sierra Nevada – Pale Ale, 5.6% ABV (Chico, CA)

–          Oskar Blues – Dale’s Pale Ale, 6.5% ABV (Lyons, CO)

For additional options, check out our American Pale Ale page … and leave a Comment below to let us know what you think about the style!

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