Beer can be undeniably simple sometimes but it’s also quite complicated when you get right down to it. Wine is often considered one of the most versatile alcoholic beverages and the drink of choice for connoisseurs. But beer is certainly no slouch and that rich variety is what brings us to the subject of this piece pale ales.
A pale ale is one of the most popular types of beer and what makes this beer different is the fact that it is top-fermented and mainly made with pale malt. This higher level of pale malt is what makes the beer lighter in colour. However, like with most types/ classifications of beer, there is a lot of variety to things these days.
Not every beer classed as a pale ale will be a very light colour some have the classic amber colouring! But most pale ales will have something in common and that is the taste, which is what is really important when it comes to beer. So, let’s take a brief look at the history of pale ales, shall we?
Pale Ales: A Historical Perspective
The actual term pale ale was first recorded in the early 1700s rather interestingly some of the older beers we know of as pale ales today were actually created before the term pale ale was even invented. One of the first instance of the term pale ale being used was in adverts in the late 1700s in the Calcutta Gazette an English language weekly newspaper.
Which shows that by this period the term pale was wildly recognised amongst consumers. But like I said earlier the colour isn’t really the important part when it comes to classing a beer has a pale ale. The taste is and what do pale ales taste like?
Well as I’ am sure you can guess there is a lot of diversity to that especially nowadays but you can expect a pale ale to be bitter. Some might only have a touch of bitterness while others might be very strong but the vast majority of pale ales will have a noticeably bitter edge to them.
In the mid-1800s most breweries designated a beer that was noticeably bitter as a pale ale. Which shows the connection between the two most important characteristics of a pale ale was recognised quite early one. So, now you know a bit more about the term pale ale what are the standout pale ales you should try?
Indian Pale Ale (IPA)
One of the most historic pale ales IPAs where in some way created by accident because long voyages to India meant beer had a longer time to ferment. The beer proved popular so breweries back in the UK primarily those located near the East India Docks started producing their own. Nowadays IPAs come in many forms but they usually have a fruity flavour to them and a lighter golden colour.
This is where things get a little complex as some people class bitters has an entirely different type of beer. But while there is certainly a debate to be had I think it’s fair to say many beers can fall under bot terms and English Bitters do certainly meet the criteria of a pale ale.
In fact, the English Bitter got its name due to the growing popularity of pale ales. The English bitter is actually quite dark in most cases although there are many different varieties including lighter and stronger versions. Most English Bitters will have a hoppy flavour with a bitter edge, it’s still a very popular drink in the UK and a common order in most pubs.
Amber Ales are a growing trend in the pale ale market they have a noticeable darker amber colouring because they are made using amber or crystal malts. The term is used in Australia, France, and America to label this more distinct variant. While Amber Ales are still quite bitter they have a fruitier edge to them and a noticeable sweetness that serves to complement the bitterness.
Strong Pale Ales
Because pale ales are quite popular it should be no surprise that beer connoisseurs want a stronger ale. Strong Pale Ales are named because they have a noticeable higher alcohol content to compare the average pale ale will be around 5% in strength.
But pale ales classified as strong can be much higher, some may only be marginally higher than the average like 6 – 8%. But some can be incredibly high like the 41% strength Sink the Bismarck pale ale which was produced by multinational brewery BrewDog.
Non Alcoholic / Low Alcohol Pale Ales
If you are a beer lover then you have likely already noticed the growing presence of low and non-alcoholic beers. They are undeniably shaking up the beer industry in many ways and you will find quite a few different low and non-alcoholic pale ales.
Many of these will be designed to emulate the taste of certain varieties of pale ales like low alcohol IPAs for example. So, if there is a particular pale ale variety you like then you will likely be able to find a low or non-alcoholic option.