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Beer Styles: Pale Ales


Pale ale is the term used to define beer that was made with malts dried with coke (a form of coal). Although the use of coke for roasting malt dates back to 1642, the term €œPale Ale€ was first recorded around 1703.

What are pale ales?

The Pale Malts gave the beer a lighter colour compared to other beers that were brewed at the time. €œPale ale€ was often used interchangeably with €œBitter which denotes an English pale ale and was recognized for having a moderate hops flavour.  With this new technique with roasting malts with coke, brewers were able to expand the family of pale ales by modifying the alcohol content and experimenting with the different levels of hops and malt to create a wider range of new flavours.

Common types of pale ales

English bitter is the most common type of pale ale and is actually quite synonymous with the term pale ale.  Bitter beer is usually amber or golden in colour and has a moderate presence of hops.  Depending on their alcoholic content, bitter beer can be classified into session (up to 4.1% abv), best (4.2 – 4.7%) and strong (over 4.7%) bitter beer.

Burton Pale Ales are popular English bitter ales that originated in the later 19th century.  Burton upon Trent breweries made a name for themselves with their pale ales specifically because of the presence of gypsum in the water that they use for brewing.  This kind of water density and quality was unique to Burton for a long time which made them dominant in their field.

Holgate Breweries Extra Special Bitter (or ESB) is a great traditional example brewed in Australia near Melbourne. A personal favourite  this beer combines East Kent Goldings hops and dry hopping with a touch of Aussie Galaxy.

The English India Pale Ale (IPA) style is identified by the extra hops in the beer that was original crafted to be exported from England to India.  The added hops served as preservatives for the beer that was travelling on a very long voyage and needed to be kept fresh.  IPA€™s most commonly use a large amount of Fuggles and Goldings hops. A higher alcohol content (5-8%) and stronger bittering (40-60 IBU) balance the big hoppy taste.

American Pale Ale is distinguishable from other pale ales simply because of its use of American hops. The most common hops like Cascade, Chinook, and Citra give a citrus, grapefruit and passion fruit like flavour and aroma, balanced with a typically 5% alcohol, and lower bittering than an English bitter or IPA. Kooinda Brewery have great traditional American Pale Ale.

The best way to learn the about the different of pale ale beer styles is to grab a few and sample them together.

Jan 13, 2013 |

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