In praise of pale ale

Sierra Nevada describes its famous pale ale as a beer that “began as a home brewer’s dream, grew into an icon, and inspired countless brewers to follow a passion of their own.”

The refreshing, hoppy, food-friendly adaptation of classic English pale ale helped define American craft brewing, using indigenous ingredients, including citrusy Cascade hops, to create a lighter, brighter version of the style.

And even if nowadays it doesn’t enjoy the cachet of IPA (so what does?), there’s a strong sense that pale ale is having a moment, again.

Of course, some versions are assertive enough to blur the line between pale ale and IPA. Introduced in 2002, Dale’s Pale Ale is the prime example of that.

Stone Pale Ale 2.0, introduced in 2015, is more like a reinvention of the style, with a contemporary flavor profile that’s both lighter and more complex, while bringing out the kind of tropical notes found in many current IPAs.

All American Oat Pale Ale, the newest election-year special release from Terrapin, is made with all-American ingredients from three of the brewery’s hop and malt suppliers: Roy Farms, Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. and Epiphany Craft Malt. The result is a hoppy but smooth and creamy pale-ale style that plays on English tradition and American ingenuity.

Here are four more pale ales to try:

Ballast Point Grunion — A 2014 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner that still doesn’t seem to get the respect it deserves. Hoppy but not bitter, it beautifully displays floral and tropical fruit notes.

Cigar City Invasion — Dubbed a “sessionable hoppy ale,” this low-alcohol version of a modern pale is ripe with peach, mango, citrus and other fruity and tropical flavors mingling in a light malt character.

Highland St. Terese’s — You might expect that a golden pale ale named for the patron saint of headache sufferers would be on the mild side, but it’s also wonderfully aromatic and balanced with a smooth finish.

SweetWater 420 — This ubiquitous Atlanta beer might not always be noticed as a pale ale, but it is a crafty, highly drinkable, American-hopped example of what Sierra Nevada first conceived.

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