Nick Carr on July 22, 2015 1 Comment History of Pale Ales The American pale ale (APA) is the younger brother to the English pale. So, as you might expect, they share much of the same history, with the American version becoming a distinct and separate style only about 30 years ago. Though a relatively young branch, it grows out of a 300 year old tree. Pale ales were born with the development of coke as a fuel source. Before its development roasting malts was done over peat or wood fires. These fires created a dark brown color and infused a smoky character to the malt; great for making the common beers of the time, namely stouts and porters. But the possibility of making lighter colored and lighter flavored ales wouldn’t come about until coke came into use. This new fuel, derived from coal instead of wood, burned much cleaner, generating more heat without the soot and smoke associated with wood fires. Coke’s first recorded use is around 1642 and closely coincides with the first mention of “pale ale” in 1703. By the mid 1700’s the term pale ale and the use of coke for roasting malt had become wide spread. Though pale ales were brewed in the U.S. during the 1800’s and 1900’s they met with limited acceptance, the lager was garnering the lion’s share of brewing popularity during this time period. Then, Prohibition hit. Jump ahead some 270 years, cross the U.S., and we find ourselves over California around 1975. Prohibition, repealed in 1933, has left the U.S. mostly barren of breweries… but there’s a whisper, the beginnings of a revival start here; California, 1975. Anchor Brewing brews its first batch of Liberty Ale, reviving the art of dry-hopping and kicking off the American brewing revolution. Brewed following an English recipe, but with the substitution of cascade hops, Liberty ale, is the forerunner of both American IPA and American pale ale. A few short years later Sierra Nevada releases their American pale ale. It becomes the defining standard. The differences between American pale ale and English pale ale is defined by the ingredients. This showcasing of native ingredients creates noticeable contrast between the two. English pales (or bitters) are nutty, more robust due to the use of British pale malt, while American malt gives a softer and somewhat crisper feel. American pales are often slightly less balanced, showing a stronger hop profile, then their English brothers. The hop flavors are also different. The American hops running ever toward the citrus and pine resin profile they’ve become known for, while the English hops have that old world character of floral earthiness. Even the yeasts contribute. American yeasts often being more neutral, less fruity then the English strains. Style Profile & Characteristics The guidelines for the American Pale Ale beer style are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The below details are a summary of what you should expect from this type of pale ale. Quick Characteristics Color Range: 5 – 10 SRM Original Gravity: 1.045 – 1.060 OG Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.015 FG IBU Range: 30 – 50 ABV Range: 4.5 – 6.20% Appearance: Range from straw-like pale golden to a deep amber; May be hazy if dry-hopped; Brilliant off-white foam with decent retention Aroma: Hops should be moderate to strong; Hoppy Citrus Notes Possible; Low maltiness should support hops; Fruity Esters moderate at most; No diacetyl. Flavor: Clean malt character supports the moderate to high hop flavors; Citrusy flavors are likely; Malt character can be generous, but balance favors hops. No diacetyl. Mouthfeel: Smooth with moderate to high carbonation and medium-light body Serving & Storage: 45 – 50°F Food Pairings: Pizza; Fried Foods; Grilled Meats; Tex-Mex; Cheddar Cheese; Asiago CheeseMaple Bread Pudding The BJCP classifies the American Pale Ale beer style under category number 18, “Pale American Ale” and it can be found in the guidelines as sub-category (18B). The only other beer style within this category is the Blonde Ale (18A). Appearance: Color should be a straw-like pale golden to a deep amber. Very clear unless dry hopped, which can cause some haze. Head should have relatively good retention characteristics, be medium large, with a brilliant white to off-white coloring. Aroma: Aroma of American hops in the range of moderate to strong. A citrus-like character is very common, but is not considered an absolute requirement. This citrus stems from the hop variates often used. Fruity esters can be moderate to not at all. Maltiness is there to support the hops, but may put on a bit of a show with specialty malts bringing biscuit, bready, and toasty aromas. If dry hopping was used the ale may have some fresh grass notes, though welcomed, this character should not overwhelm. No diacetyl. Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel should be very smooth with moderate to high carbonation and a med-light to medium body. Taste: A clean malt character supports the moderate to high hop flavors. Hop character often presents with the citrusy flavors American hops are known for, but other hop varieties can also be used. Malt character can be generous with specialty malts giving notes of bready, toasty, and biscuity flavors, but caramel flavors should be low or completely absent. Balance is usually scaled toward the hop flavor and bitterness, which often lingers into the finish and aftertaste. Dry hopping may give low qualities of fresh grass. No diacetyl. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Award-Winning Examples of the Style It must be noted that I did not include any winners whose beers were unavailable at the time of this article’s writing, but many of these winners were from small microbreweries with ever rotating tap lists. To get a full list of the winners go to the Great American Beer Festival website or the World Beer Cup website. Grunion from Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits Great American Beer Festival Winner, Gold, 2014. Available Limited 22 oz. and tap. Reef Donkey APA from Tampa Bay Brewing Company Great American Beer Festival Winner, Bronze, 2014. Available year around. The Weight from Piece Brewery World Beer Cup Winner, Gold, 2014. Available year around on tap. Citra Rye Pale Ale from Joseph James Brewing Company Great American Beer Festival Winner, Bronze, 2013. Available in 15.5 Gal Kegs. 5 Popular Pale Ales: Because half the examples above were no longer available, I thought it would be advantageous to also include the top five user-rated American Pale Ales from Beeradvocate.com. All five of these pale ales are available year round. I’d recommend giving them all a try if given the chance. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, CA) Zombie Dust from 3 Floyds Brewing Company (Munster, IN) Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Grill & Brew (Longmont, CO) Alpha King from 3 Floyds Brewing Company (Munster, IN) Mirror Pond Pale Ale from Deschutes Brewing Company (Bend, OR) How to Brew a Pale Ale Recipe Brewing your own American pale ale recipe is generally straight forward and easy to do, but there are some general tips you should keep in mind when brewing this style. Pale Ale Recipe Kit (All-Grain) Pale Ale Recipe Kit (Extract) The Grain Bill: Keep it simple. It’s an American pale so 85% to 100% of your grain bill will likely be some sort of American pale malt. Domestic 2-row is the standard. This will make a beer close to most of what’s commercially available. But, you could also go further afield, using British pale, Belgian pale, or German Pilsner malts; on their own or mixed in some proportion with the 2-row. If this is your first go at the style, I’d advise keeping it as simple as possible. Crystal malt is generally used to make up 5% to 10% of the total bill. A color rating of 40°L the average, though the whole spectrum has been used successfully, but remember the darker the color the higher the caramel flavors and the less you should use. Sugar and/or wheat are often used in pale ale recipes to the tune of about 5% of the grain bill. Wheat can help with head retention and sugar with a slight drying. Specialty malts, such as Munich or Vienna, can be used to create a bit more maltiness, but keep it below 10% otherwise you enter the realm of British bitters. Biscuit malt is also an option, but again keep it below half a pound per 5 gallons. Chocolate and roasted malts can be used at less than 3% to add some color to be beer without creating too much of a roasty profile. In my experience of brewing pale ales, keeping it simple is best. Don’t try to use every specialty grain you can get your hands on. Always ask yourself exactly what you expect to get out of each addition and if it is really necessary. And remember hops are the showcase here. When it comes to brewing pale ales, the malt profile should never overshadow your hops. Water: Really any good tasting water should give you a good pale ale, but if you want to get nit-picky about things… At the very least carbon filter or treat your water with Campden tablets (Potassium Metabisulfite) to get a chlorine compounds out. In most cases everyone filters or buys their water so this should be a foregone conclusion. Ideally, the brewing water you decide to use should be low in carbonates (>50ppm) and high in calcium (100-250ppm). If you have high carbonite water you can dilute it with distilled water and increase the calcium with an addition of gypsum or calcium chloride. Getting specific isn’t necessary most of the time. Get in the general arena and you’ll brew a good pale ale. The Mash: Pale malts are highly modified and low in nitrogen making them perfect of a single infusion mash. A water-to-grain ratio of approximately 1 quart per pound at a temperature of 150°F to 154°F will put you in the sweet spot. Hops: The balance of hops to malt and the distinctive American hops are probably the most noticeable difference between an American pale and an English pale. An American pale has fairly high bittering rates, but even more prominent in your mind when designing a recipe, should be the flavor and aroma from late kettle additions or dry hopping. You have plenty of choice when it comes to what hops to use. The classics include the “C hops” Chinook, Cascade, Columbus, and Centennial. It’s hard to go wrong with any of these four. But really, this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. A few other varieties you should consider include Amarillo, Willamette, Perle, Sorachi Ace, Simcoe, Warrior, Palisade… well you get the idea, and with so many new hop varieties coming out all the time, there is always new ground to explore. Always decide what aromas and flavors you want to exhibit and make your variety choices around these characteristics. Some varieties do clash, so make thoughtful choices. Your bittering varieties should be a higher alpha acid hop so that a minimum of vegetal matter is introduced into your wort. These are usually added at the beginning of the boil with 60 minutes left until flame out. Your flavoring hops, added 10–15 minutes before the end of the boil; and your aroma hops, added just before flame out will be lower alpha acid varieties. A good base-line or starting point for a pale ale and further experimentation is: 1 oz. for bittering (60 min) 0.5 to 1.0 for flavoring (15 – 20 min) 0.5 to 1.0 for aroma (1 – 2 min) 0.75 to 2.0 dryhopped (2 – 7 days)(optional) If dry-hopping, leave the beer on the hops for no more than a week to reduce vegetal uptake. Also, remember that dryhopping can impart grassy notes that not all drinkers may appreciate. Yeast: Use any neutral, clean, well attenuating American strain. Probably the most popular is the “chico” yeast used by Sierra Nevada, sold as White Labs California Ale (WLP001), Wyeast American Ale (1056), or the dried Safale US-05. Other options could include, White Labs San Diego (WLP090), Wyeast Northwest Ale (1332), or Danstar American West Coast Ale (BRY-97). Use a yeast starter of 1–2 liters, at around 1.040 SG, to ensure a healthy and abundant cell count before pitching. Hold your fermentation temperature as steady as possible throughout. The fermentation is where most homebrew goes awry and it is often due to temperature control issues. An American pale ale is simple to brew but hard to perfect. Brew a simple, no nonsense recipe until you have your brewing process dialed. Once this is done you can start expanding into the arena of art, experimenting with hops, changing variables. Keep good notes so you’ll know what you’ve tried, what worked, and what didn’t and before long you’ll be brewing something all your own and truly special. Cheers and happy brewing!