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What is a pale ale?

WRITTEN ON 2 May, 2022

Pale ale encompasses a range of top-fermented beer styles characterised by malty flavours like biscuit and bread, accompanied by a hop-forward bitterness. They exhibit a pale golden to amber appearance.

The flavour profile of each pale ale is uniquely shaped by the selection of hops, offering a delightful variety of aromas and flavours.

A Brief History Of Pale Ale

Pale ales originated in the United Kingdom around 1703 when brewers started using pale malts in the brewing process. This shift was made possible by the use of coke, a type of fossil fuel, during malting, which resulted in a lighter colour compared to the darker, roasted malts used in other beer styles of that time.

The term “pale ale” was initially used to distinguish this lighter-coloured beer from the traditional dark ales prevalent during that era. As paler malts became more available, the popularity of this new beer style grew.

From the early 1800s, pale ale was commonly referred to as “bitters.” The use of English hops and the mineral-rich water from the Burton-on-Trent region in England contributed to the pronounced hop bitterness. The English-style pale ale soon gained popularity worldwide, inspiring different types of pale ales.

Over time, pale ale continued to evolve, adapting to changing tastes and brewing techniques. It became a staple style in the craft beer revolution, enjoyed both in England and across the globe.

Types Of Pale Ale

1. English-Style Pale Ale

English-style pale ale is known for its balanced flavour profile of malt and hop bitterness. The use of two-row pale malt and crystal malt gives rise to malty, caramel notes, while English hop varieties provide bitterness along with earthy, herbal flavours and aromas.

The fruity character is a result of the ale yeast strains used, which produce esters during fermentation. This beer style exhibits a gold to bronze appearance.

2. Hazy India Pale Ale (IPA)

Hazy IPA is a variation of the traditional India Pale Ale (IPA) that originated in England. It features citrus or fruity flavours with low bitterness, achieved through the use of American hops.

Hazy IPAs have a signature hazy appearance due to the use of higher protein malts such as oats and wheats, which also contribute creamy flavours and a full-bodied mouthfeel.

3. American Pale Ale (APA)

Hops play a defining role in American Pale Ale (APA), with the use of American hop varieties. This results in more floral, piney, citrus, or fruity flavours and aromas.

APA exhibits a light bready and toasty malt character, with medium to medium-high hop bitterness.