Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pale Ales

An underrated style, a well brewed pale ale brings the hoppy flavor in a smooth drinking beer palatable for the vast majority of beer drinkers.  They can also be enjoyed multiple times during a quality session and do not leave your tongue paralyzed to the flavor of other beers you may enjoy later that day or night.  Here a few of my favorites in that style, plus a special mention to one I anxiously await trying in my next trip north of the border.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, 5.6% ABV

Space Mountain of Craft Beers
To be the man, you have to beat the man.  First brewed all the way back in 1980, SNPA is still the man.  The trademark SNPA hop style first came to the forefront in what remains their flagship beer.  The hops are balanced nicely and create a smooth drinking style for a beer that is often an oasis at places that otherwise carry BMC products.  Likewise, SNPA still holds its own at some of the best beer bars in this country and deserves to be celebrated for launching a style that promotes the flavor in beers (not just the "drinkability" of light adjunct lagers).

Goose Island Green Line Pale Ale, 5.0% ABV

A Reliable L Line
One of GI's new brews for 2010, the Green Line Pale Ale is an excellent interpretation of this style and refreshingly drinkable.  After first sampling this at the Schoolyard Tavern in Chicago, I was floored by the balance in this beer and how smooth it drank (and the third one went down as easily as the first).  The hops present a stern, yet welcoming kick at the start and fade nicely as you enjoy each sip.  While my beloved Marquette Warrios proceeded to lose another heartbreaking early round game in the NCAA Tournament, the night was far from a loss after discovering this Goose Island brew (as of now, tap only).  Goose Island can do little wrong for me right now and the discovery of this tremendous brew played a big part in their current White Sox like winning streak in my beer sampling.

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale, 5.0% ABV

This beer does not remain full in my glass for long
My introduction to the fine brewery out of Bend, OR, the bomber of Mirror Pond left my Lakefront pint glass quick class quicker than Brett Favre changes his mind about retirement.  The west coast hops from this plentiful hop region blended in nicely and formed a tremendous texture that hastily disappeared into my large mouth.  One bomber could have easily been three or four and I'd have been wondering what just happened to me as I wobbled back to my room.  If Deschutes decides to start distributing to Illinois I will not complain and in the mean time will make sure that beers like Mirror Pond will come back home on my voyages to Minnesota.

Three Floyds Alpha King Pale Ale, 6.0% ABV

Crown Jewel of Three Floyd's Awesome Craziness
In the midst of a brewery that is as adventurous as any currently going, Alpha King is the rock solid foundation that allows Three Floyds to take so many risks with their other brews.  A touch hoppier then the other pale ales mention here, Alpha King remains very drinkable and worth all of the praise it has garnered in the beer world.  Though Alpha King may not create the waves of excitement as say Dark Lord, Behemoth, Apocolypse Cow and 3F's other big beers, it deserves the same recognition for its excellence and its consistent quality gives Three Floyds the freedom it needs to be a preeminent big beer brewer.

One beer that I expect to hold in this high regard once I sample it is New Glarus's new pale ale, Moon Man.  Another smooth drinker that is very sessionable, my friends from the lands of brats and beer gave it rave reviews and I anxiously await trying it myself.

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