Pale ale might also be known to you as “bitter”. It is obviously known for its light color but has more history to it than you might think.
It was around 1703 that we first heard the word “pale ale”. It is a term used for beer brewed from malt that is dried with coal. This way of roasting, however, was first used in 1642. So you could argue that the “pale ale” goes back to 1642. While the pale ale was a big hit in the US around only 30 years ago (we’ll get to this later), the history of the pale ale beer style lies in England and goes back 300 years.
Before the 18th-century brews in England were mostly known for their stouts and porters – who have a different brewing process. Due to the technology and fuel at this time, these were the most common beer styles. They had this dark color because of the heating process that created dark barley malts. However, around the early 18th-century, new and reliable methods started to appear to produce pale barley malt, which led to a new, very pale colored beer. As the technology was very new at the time, the new malt became expensive, which meant that the pale beers were only for wealthier drinkers. As time went by, the pale malt became more affordable. Slowly, the pale-colored ales took over the stout and porters in popularity.
Eventually, the pale ale is the beer that is responsible for the modern brewing revolution in America. In 1980 the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. produced their first batch of pale ale. Beer lovers that were seeking something flavorful and typically American, were immediately sold on this. The beer was refreshing and characterful. The Sierra Nevada Pale Ale soon became the standard against which all American pale ales were measured. New microbreweries, that sprang up around that time across the US, tried to produce beers that had this same beer vein.
Fun fact: there are many differences between American and British pale ales. American brewers tend to stay away from the name “bitter”, as they make the pale ales in a more assertive American style than the English tradition. British pale ale malt is robust and nutty, while American malt is crisper and softer. Traditional English hops are floral, earthy and refined, whereas American hops evoke wildness with a bit of citrus and pine profile.
The English will try to go for balance in their pales, while the Americans show off a full hop character with a striking aroma.
At Brody’s you can find both: we have English and American pale ales on our menu. While every beer is different, with a pale ale you can expect an amber-gold beer with fruity and fresh aromas and relatively low alcohol.