It’s malty, it’s golden or amber in colour, it’s clear and pure and it’s the original inspiration for the longstanding American craft beer tradition. What is it? It’s pale ale. This is the drink that filled a large gap in the market place because not everyone enjoys a rich, dark stout, and lagers might not be your thing either. That’s why brewers came up with pale ales, which stand somewhere in between the two. Not heavy to drink, and a wide range of flavours to try, there are plenty of reasons why you should test drive a pale ale to see what you think.
Brewing Pale Ale
Technological advances are often the catalyst behind product development, and this is no less the case in the brewing industry. This particular type of drink was first created in the English city of Burton-on-Trent, which has a long and proud heritage of beer making. Back in those earlier brewing days, wood-burning kilns were used, but they were notorious for producing inconsistent results, sometimes burning the barley, which distorted the taste of the finished product. So expert brewers tried using different a range of different fuels to achieve a steadier heat, and they discovered that a form of coal called coke gave the best outcome for brewing. The ale that was brewed this way had a clarity and beautiful copper colour that was much purer and lighter than with wood burners. And so pale ale was born.
Because of its English origins, brewers worldwide work hard with techniques to create water that tastes like the naturally sourced water first used in Burton-on-Trent. They achieve this using chemicals and additives to harden the water. Ironically, there’s far less strictness in the industry concerning the types of yeast used for pale ale, or even the choice of hops. The water is the main thing. Makes all the difference.
It's all in the malt!
So what kind of malt do you need to use to make authentic pale ale? Pale malt is the answer to that. Not too high a percentage of dark malt, and, normally, only a maximum of a fifth of crystal malt can be used to create the drink. The hops used tend to be things like Northern Brewer, Mt. Hood, Kent Goldings, among others.
The taste of English pale ale is subtler and lighter than Aussie or US versions, which can be spicier and stronger flavoured. Because there are so many varieties of pale ale, it’s hard to say which are the best drinks to choose with different foods, but here’s a rule of thumb: if you’re having a barbecue, you should reach for an American pale ale, whereas if you’re having a curry, you’re probably better off pairing it with an English variety instead.
Some of our favourite pale ales you might like to try include things like Langham, Firebird Pale Ale, Magic Rock, and of course Tiny Rebel Pale Ale. The general style and basic characteristics remain very similar. It’s only by trial and error that you’re going to find your favourite, but you can have a lot of fun experimenting.