What is an American Pale Ale?

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First Posted: 6/24/2014

Style: American Pale Ale (APA)

Brief history: The APA style is based upon the historical English counterpart, as are most beer styles, but the main differentiation between the two is the hop selection and slightly less caramelized malt flavor. The English Pale Ale primarily uses British hops, such as Fuggles or Kent Goldings, whereas the APA uses a wide selection of American hops, which tend to higher in alpha acids, leading to more aromatic and bittering qualities than the English counterparts. The English Pale Ale version also uses sweeter malts and gives the beer a heavier mouthfeel and more of a semi-dry finish compared to the APA, which is lighter in mouthfeel and leaves a much drier finish. This is a beer style that is based on a long British brewing tradition but has become very Americanized.

Standard characteristics: The overall impression of the APA should be refreshing and hoppy, but with a strong support of malt. The hops are present but do not overwhelm in the way that an IPA can in both the aroma and taste. The beer should be lighter in mouthfeel and leave behind a dry finish and should be both crisp and refreshing on the palate.

Nose: It has a typically moderate to strong hop aroma, leaning towards American hop aromas of citrus, but also notes from the malt should be present and typically would be described as being bready, toasty, or biscuity. The key with this beer is a balance between hops and malt.

Body: The body for this style should range between medium-light to medium, meaning it will be a bit thinner and lighter in mouthfeel with moderate to high carbonation. The beer should still have a smooth mouthfeel.

Taste: The hop presence should be moderate to high, but still below the levels typically attributed to the IPA style. The malts should be present and leave behind a clean taste while keeping the beer in balance. Hops flavors will typically be in line with citrus, pine, or floral but can range a great deal with American hops, and the taste of the malts will be bready, toasty, or biscuity, but again leave behind a clean and dry finish.

Food pairing: The APA style is fantastic with a wide variety of foods and is a very versatile beer. Food selections should be based upon what you wish to highlight within the beer. If you wish to highlight the hops, choose something a bit spicier, such as Mexican, Thai, or Indian dishes. If you are looking for something to highlight the malt and use the hops as background notes, try pairing with venison, buffalo meat, or any red meats. This is a great style of beer to have on hand all year round due to its versatility.

Recommendations: American Pale Ales are extremely approachable, whether you are new to craft beer or you are a true beer geek. This is a style that is a true showcase for the talents of the brewers, as it is a lighter beer with not as much to hide behind as compared with some other craft beer styles. This is a list of must-try APAs:

• Deschutes Brewery, Mirror Pond Pale Ale

• Oskar Blues, Dale’s Pale Ale

• Sierra Nevada, Pale Ale

• Maine Brewing Company, MO

• Flying Dog, Doggie Style

21st Amendment, Bitter American

Great Lakes Brewing Company, Burning River Pale Ale

Victory Brewing Company, Headwaters Pale Ale