By Derek Warren
Glassware: The bright flavor of the beer is aided by the hop forward aromatics and a glass that can help contain that aroma is best for the beer. The IPA glass from Spiegelau is a great option, but not always practical for everyone as many bars do not stock this glass. However, snifter glasses will suite this beer quite nicely and many bars do offer this glassware as a common choice.
Description: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale pours a clear golden amber hue with bright white frothy head that leaves a thick layer of lacing on the glass. The aroma is filled with juicy citrus fruit and floral hop notes backed by semi-sweet malts. The taste follows the nose with citrus fruit notes coming through up front in the form of grapefruit predominantly backed with floral and spicy hops. The malts follow quickly with sweet caramel and bread-like notes that sooth and coat the palate and keep the hops in perfect balance. The finish is perfect dry and leaves the palate refreshed and wanting more. The medium body and moderate carbonation give this beer a creamy mouthfeel that is perfect for the style. This is a beer that helped kick off the craft beer revolution and set the standard for Pale Ale’s and IPA’s that were to come, yet it is still a beer that holds its own against many of the beers it inspired. It is a must try for all beer fans.
Food pairing: The crisp, light body of the beer with a touch of sweetness and mild hop kick make this a great beer to have on hand for the summer months. It pairs very nicely with a wide array of summer favorites. Try having Pale Ale with your next salad. The beer has enough light qualities to not overwhelm the daintiest of summer salads while still providing a wonderful citrus-like backbone of flavors and the ability to scrub the palate clean. This is also a great beer to offer up at your next backyard cookout. The beer is a dream pairing with ribs, burgers, and barbecue chicken as the caramel malts will sink their teeth into the natural caramelization of the meat and the hops will bring a wonderful citrus touch and add flavor depth. This is also a great beer for many spicy dishes whether it be Mexican, Indian, or Thai, the beer will highlight the spices and the malt bill will sooth the palate and keep it front overheating. Pale Ale is a true workhorse of a beer with food pairings and can handle most dishes thrown at it so this is a great one to use for experiments.
The Final Word: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a world class beer and it serves as a tent pole beer for the entire craft beer industry. This beer is as a gateway beer for many to get into craft beer, including many current brewers. It is a beer that many still return to no matter how many craft beers they have enjoyed. It offers a lot of flavor and is a standard go to beer no matter the occasion. Considering that this beer was first brewed in 1980 it is quite the statement to say that it is still one of the best pale ales available. Sometimes a brewery can truly do it right the first time and this is most definitely the case for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Whether you are a craft beer newbie or a jaded old soul with craft beer Pale Ale will still spark an interest and is a great beer to always have stocked in your fridge.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.