Tag Archive: American Pale Ale


wylam-hickey-the-rake
Wylam: Hickey The Rake (England: American Pale Ale: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon to slight apricot. Large fluffy white head that leaves sud lace.

Nose: Really fresh lemon. Slightly dry. Crisp hops. Slight mango. Slight bitterness. Dried apricot.

Body: Good bitterness – slight rocky flavour. Big hop character and slight hop oils. Lemon backing. Slight sour dough. Pineapple.

Finish: Brown bread. Slight gritty feel. Slight lemon. Good hops and bitterness. Bitter lemon. Slight kiwi.

Conclusion: How is it that all of the beers that call themselves a session IPA – it is one that doesn’t, that in fact just calls itself a pale ale, that seems to actually matches the intent of that style pretty well? Inside this moderate abv pale it has all the hops I would expect from an IPA and all the bitterness – with a slight bitter but refreshing lemon character matched to a very dry but drinkable body.

It has therefore the very dry character I associate with a lot of APAs – and matched with that a slight grittiness. That second element is often a huge flaw with session IPAs, yet for once they actually make it work here. I think it is the bitter lemon characteristics that makes it work – it refreshes but also matches the harsher gritty modes – making them feel like part of the beer rather than a flaw. The dryness also comes across like a super dry IPA which means that the thinner body from the lower abv doesn’t hurt the beer like many session IPAs.

So – moderate abv, big hops, big flavour. Pretty good. It isn’t complex, just big; The aroma promises more fruit to work with, but most of that is lost in the fray by the time you reach the body. What you get is hops and a mix of fresh and bitter lemon – one idea done well.

So a few decimal points of abv higher than a perfect session beer but apart from that this sits pretty nicely in that category. Refreshing enough to not get harsh nor dull over time – it is a simple beer, with a simple concept that does a hell of a lot well.

Background: The bottle calls this a Limonata Pale – which on a quick google seems to just mean lemonade. Which makes sense on drinking. Anyway, this is another beer from the honest brew‘s batch which my mate gave me for my birthday. Many thanks! This one was drunk while listening to Miracle of Sound’s Level 7 again – that is one huge album.

siren-vermont-tea-party

Siren: Vermont Tea Party (England: American Pale Ale: 3.6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice colour. Small amount of carbonation. Middling size white head.

Nose: Dried mango. Crisp hops. Creamy lemon. Thick flour. Fresher lemon juice.

Body: Tingling nettles. Tea. Brown bread. Tannins. Soft lemon juice. Slight lime. Mango juice. Dry. Flour.

Finish: Tea and definite tannins. Peppery. Brown bread. Mango. Greenery. Gunpowder tea.

Conclusion: I think this is one of those beers that is good, but not aimed at me. From midpoint onwards this very much emphasises the tea – and is very good in that. I talk about coffee beers having well defined range of coffee notes, rather than a generic coffee flavour – and this does that but for tea; It is leafy, peppery, definite tannins – it does the whole nine yards.

The aroma promises something more balanced – it is gently fruity, crisp in the hops but with a thickness to the aroma like flour floating in the air. You keep some of this going into the body – there is a gentle lemon, and a definite flour like grip to the texture – but it becomes drier after a few moments and the very well layered and well defined tea flavours just takes everything over.

So, I don’t mind tea, but I’m not exactly wild for it. Yes I know that makes me an odd Englishman. Live with it. So it is very dominant here – in fact in a way that reminds me of my experience with gunpowder tea – Again something I don’t mind, but not overly my thing. I have to admit I was hoping the tea would be an element amongst the hops and fruit father than the main force. Ah well.

There is some concession to the other flavours – first lime and then soft lemon – again it is done in a tea style though – like when you add lemon slices to the tea. This really dedicates itself to its shtick.

So, definitely not a bad beer – everything it aims for it does well – and I am not hating it. However what it does well isn’t exactly what I am looking for. So, on that I hope you can decide for yourself if you want to investigate this or not.

Background: This beer was a gift from my mate Paul – many thanks. Part of a six pack from Honest Brew. There will be some more notes from the set to come – I had already done notes on two of the beers in the pack. This is a beer made with Siren’s house cultivated yeast from Vermont, Early Grey tea and lemon zest. Very unusual. It was drink while listening to tunes from Miracle Of Sound’s Level 7 album – he does great video game inspired music.

Burning Sky: Liberty Brewing: Descent Into The Maelstrom (England: American Pale Ale: 6.66% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice. Small white head.

Nose: Pineapple juice and coconut. Dried banana. Orange juice. Tropical fruit juice. Smooth.

Body: Tart white grapes. Pineapple juice. White wine. Coconut. Dried apricot. Light nettles and hop oils. Peach. Light cloying touch.

Finish: Light wood. Coconut. Moderate bitterness and hop character. Tart grapes sheen. White wine. Pink grapefruit. Dry.

Conclusion: Now this one really shows the New Zealand side of the rainbow collaboration – lots of tart fruit hop action with the base dry and mostly out of the way. You do get a recognisably dry pale ale character and accompanying bitterness in the finish, but the main body is fruity all the way.

The main, high concept pitch for this, if I had to give one, would be a beery pina colada. Lots of coconut notes laden through a pineapple fruit juice base beer. Then that carefully layered over the aforementioned pale ale bitter finish. It doesn’t just do that and rest on its laurels though, oh no. It brings slight tart grapes and pink grapefruit to really let the tart character shine – the tartness is fresh but far from overwhelming; It keeps gently refreshing rather than goes for sour and puckering.

Considering that the inspiration colour for this beer was orange it is odd that the orange is actually fairly gently used here. Just there at the back. The barrel ageing seems restrained as well – the beer is fairly smooth which often points to the barrel ageing, and there is a definite white wine air, but nothing pushed too hard as to hurt the base beer. Then again, maybe it is just the barrel ageing matches the dominant characteristics so well – it is hard to say.

Very good indeed. It doesn’t quite make the “My Favourite” list, despite the evident quality. The only, tiny thing against it is that it is a very specific beer for a very specific time. Even beyond being a very summer refresher styled beer, you really have to be in the right mind for it. It is not an anytime kind of beer. If you had it too often I feel the charm would fade. That very minor point aside though, this is great. Had occasionally this is dry, refreshing, complex yet easy to drink. A very specific kind of art, but definitely beer art.

Background: Confession time – was convinced that I had done notes on Burning Sky beers before and wasn’t too impressed by them. Turns out the only one I had tried was a collaboration and that was awesome. Awkward. I had been avoiding a brewery for no good reason. Liberty Brewing on the other hand, this is my first encounter. Another in this year’s rainbow project set of beers. Two brewers, from two countries, working together and given a colour for the theme of their beer. This one is “Orange”. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this is made with “Deep breath” orange zest, pink grapefruit, fermented with Belgian yeast, Nelson Sauvin and Motueka hops and aged in a white Burgundy wine cask. Seriously they pull out all the stops for this rainbow series. Drunk while listening to Metallica – Master of Puppets. No link to the beer, just haven’t listened to them for ages.

De Molen and Brew By Numbers: Name and No:01 (Netherlands:American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Massive yellowed to white loose bubbled heads that leaves sud rings.

Nose: Wheaty. Rhubarb. Soft jiff lemon. Coriander. Vanilla ice cream. Orange zest. Vanilla.

Body: Lightly tart. Rhubarb. Tayberry. Lemon juice. Brown bread. Lightly earthy hop character. Banana bread.

Finish: Lemon juice. Wholemeal pancakes. Earthy. Pepper. Light hop bitterness. Unleavened bread. Slight funky yeast character.

Conclusion: This seems surprisingly normal beer, all things considered. A lightly tart beer, but not really all that crazy. I was expecting different considering the use of buckwheat and rhubarb. Anyway, this is a well grounded, slightly brown bread and earthy base that sets up a neutral platform for the tarter flavours to work over. The tartness is a gentle mix of unsweetened fruit – nothing too harsh, nothing more than you would get in some of the tarter fruit pies. The grounding bready feel is much more present than any tart notes. There is a Belgian wit spice character top and tail – pepper and coriander styled, giving a bit of life to it.

As a drink it is on the solid side of satisfying, kind of stodgy, bready feeling – appropriate considering the Dutch pancake inspiration. The rhubarb is subtle but well done and just tart enough to liven up the dry base. Despite that it does have a kind of basic feel to it – in contrast to the oddity of what went into making the beer. Best pitch I could give is like a more leaden hopped and simple Orval that has been spiced up by a touch of tart fruit to get over that flaw.

Still, pretty drinkable, just for all it has it should feel more special. It is an unusual beer, but somehow manages to not feel like one. It feels kind of run of the mill. The odder characters fade into the background – it slips down satisfactory but never sparkles.

More solid that it feels like it should be, but solid enough, which is no bad thing.

Background: Ok, they had me at “Dutch Pancake Pale Ale”. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is made with buckwheat, rhubarb and lemon zest. Interesting set. So far De Molen have been excellent in the beers they turn out, Brew by Numbers have a huge rep – so far most of the stuff had from them has been good but not world shaking. Drunk while listening to Foo Fighter’s eponymous album. Not listened to any of their new stuff as I dropped out back while they were denying HIV caused AIDS, and even though they have recanted that, never really got back into them. Their early stuff is still cool and I slip back into it every now and then. Also, as you may have noticed from the photo, holy shit this pours lively. I was doing a gentle pour and it still needed three attempts before I could get enough room to empty the bottle.

Narke: Jontes Atgeir (Sweden: American Pale Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain to yellow with a white inch of head.

Nose: Hay and light bitterness. Bready. Slight sour dough.

Body: Apricot. Cream. Peach. Light hop character. Light bready character. Moderate bitterness. Unleavened bread. Vanilla custard. Apples.

Finish: Peaches and cream. Brown bread. Light hop character. Vanilla custard. Croissants. Bitterness grows. Slightly dry. Apples.

Conclusion: Oft I can find the American pale ale style to be too dry a beer for me. They tend to have moderate hop bitterness, but done with a drier base such that they end up feeling far more punishing than the IPAs. This is dry, but seems to know exactly how much sweetness to keep in the beer to keep it on the knife edge of just working.

On the nose it doesn’t seem like much at all, just light hay and bitterness. So I was a bit nervous going in. The first sip was a surprise then, coming in far fruitier than the nose let on – a mix of peach and vanilla. Creamy and nothing like what I expected from an American Pale Ale. It seemed against the style, but despite that was very nice indeed. The next few sips followed suit – then the beer remembered it was an APA.

There comes out a bready character, the beer texture feels drier, and with it gentle hops come out. Then it gets drier and harsher hopped. Then by half way through the beer you get brutal hops and dryness.

Normally this would be causing me terrible pain, and cursing of a good beer gone bad, but here it is wonderfully done. There still is that fruity, creamy and IPA like higher malt feel up front, just the end is bitter and punishingly dry. Because of that contrast, and well done switch of gears mid beer I find it hard to begrudge it its dryness.

It still feels slightly harsh for it to be considered perfect, but for the dry side of the pale ale it does indulge the style wonderfully while still not going too far.

A very interesting take on a style that is not normally my scene.

Background: Narke is a Swedish brewery I have heard a lot about, so was determined to do a set of notes on while I was over in Sweden. I had tried their bitter earlier in the trip, but this, found at Akkurat bar in Stockholm was my first chance to do notes. Akkurat has a huge rep and, even fairly early on a Sunday night, was packed – we just managed to grab seats at the bar. This was on our final night in Sweden and planning on going out with a bang.

Wild Beer Co Pogo

Wild Beer Co: Pogo (England: American Pale Ale: 4.1% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to grain. Large carbonation. Clear body. Massive white bubbled mound head.

Nose: Passion fruit. Guava. Very fresh. Orange juice. Crisp hops. Pineapple. Light lemon sorbet.

Body: Orange juice. Fluffy hop feel. Dry passion fruit. Guava juice. Low bitterness backing. Mandarin orange.

Finish: Mild hop character. Low bitterness. Light squeezed orange. Slight sour cloying character.

Conclusion: I’m just listing the special ingredients here, aren’t I? Basically there is lots of fruit in it, resulting in fruit flavours, delivered in a fruit juice kind of fashion, along with a light hop character. The main malt beer body itself seems to keep itself to a just slightly dry and refreshing character – I’m getting nearly nothing of the malt flavours in this. The malt seems to just give some mouthfeel then gets out of the way to let the special ingredients and hops do the work instead.

The special ingredients and hops do work well together, giving fresh and real feeling fruitiness. There is, at the end, an odd interaction between the hops and the fruit that gives a slight bitter sour character to it on the way out. A cloying twist that makes it seem like a much more savoury end point.

So, a mix of bright fruit and slight cloying hops – pretty satisfying, pretty easy drinking, a nicely dry body against the fresh fruit. Not as stand out bright fruitiness as some, but still pretty evident.

Pretty solid, in the end it is pretty much what the ingredients describe, and delivered competently. Nicely enjoyable, but not surprising – a solid, just above session abv beer, that hits very much in the middle flavour wise for a session beer.

Background: Yeah, I pretty much grab as many of the Wild Beer Co beers as I can get my hands on. This one grabbed, unusually enough, from Independent Spirit. It is a pale ale made with Orange, Guava, Passion fruit, Wheat and lactose. So a fairly non standard set. Drunk while listening to Godspeed You!Black Emperor again. This time “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven” – it is good background drinking music.

Kaapse Karel

Kaapse: Karel (Netherlands: American Pale Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Hazy peach flesh. Large white head with brown smudges.

Nose: Apricot and caramel. Crisp hops and moderate bitterness. Fresh and yet creamy.

Body: Dry bitterness. Robustly earthy. Lightly creamy and slight cloying sourness. Nutty. Light peach. Cardboard.

Finish: Earthy bitterness. Charred bits. Lightly milky character. Nutty. Subtle peach backing, Dry. Light gritty stone bitterness. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, this has surprised me twice so far and I’m only half way through. Good surprised or bad surprised? Well, give me a moment and I will tell you.

First expectations were set by the aroma – fresh apricot, fresh caramel – it was declaring itself as a slightly lower hop and abv take on a very IPA influenced beer.

Turns out this beer is not that beer.

Early sips called to a very English bitter influence take on the American pale style. Lots of earthy bitterness, a slight sourness to offset the creamy texture. Drier than a Brit bitter though, with subtle fruit notes below.

Turns out this beer is not, in fact, that beer.

The fruit rises, though never dominates, and the dry body cleaves close to the highly attenuated end of the APA character, though still backed by earthy bitterness. This seems to be the beer’s final form that it settles on.

So, it turns out this beer is that beer.

As this beer is is still suffering from that drying, almost cardboard feel that I take issue with for a lot of APAs. However, despite that the mix of other notes makes it actually ok, if not a favourite.

A beer of interesting progression and many good points that unfortunately ends as a beer I can only find ok. Ah well, take from that what you will.

Background: Don’t know much about this one, basically I saw a Netherlands brewery I hadn’t tried before at Independent Spirit so grabbed it. Yep, that was all the info. I went for this, the APA of the group as I don’t tend to drink much of the style – I try to keep experimenting. Drunk while listening to more of Bowie: Blackstar. Such a brilliant album.

Stewart Hollyrood Pale Ale

Stewart: Hollyrood Pale Ale (Scotland: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow gold. Inch of tight bubbled white head.

Nose: Wheaty and musty. Dried lemon. Slight salt.

Body: Soft lemon and dried lemon mix. Tangy lime. Wheaty feel and oatmeal taste. Milky. Orange. Smoke. Passion fruit. Kiwi.

Finish: Dried orange. Slight sulphur. Light wheaty character. Light pepper. Moderate bitterness.

Conclusion: Is it wrong that this makes me think of the result of a three way tryst between Kiln Embers whisky, a weissebrau and an American Pale Ale?

All of you who answered “Yes”, you are prudes. Anyway…

What makes me think of Kiln Embers is not a whisky character, but that gentle salted and dried lemon like character that is both refreshing and thirst inducing, matched by a slight amount of sulphur. That is then laid over a wheaty feeling body – an oddity as I am fairly sure no wheat was used in this ale, it even has that hefe weisse citrus character and easy drinkability. The American Pale Ale side brings more of the fruit character from the hops.

It has a fairly thick mouthfeel – halfway between oatmeal and milk – it keeps the beer from feeling as dry as many APAs are but also seems to mute the hop character -you get more fruit than bitterness – you only really get a bitter touch in the finish while the fruit comes out full and sparkling in the main body.

And fruity it is. It takes time to open up, starting with just that mouth freshening salty lemon and lime notes that never fade away, but expands into the milky texture to spread soft passion fruit and kiwi.

The initial impression was of a beer that was different and mouth refreshing, but simple with that. As the beer has opened up the simple descriptor has slipped away to leave a very thick yet fresh pale ale. The milkiness is a crowd splitter – for me it can feel weird every now and then, but the softness it brings is a solid part of the base so I am willing to accept the trade off of it not quite meshing sometimes.

A little bit not quite meshing but generally solid and different, and hey, I like a little bit weird. Not perfect but I can seriously recommend this one for a check out.

Background: This was recommended at Independent Spirit, and since I am a bit low on the lighter coloured beers in my cupboard right now I decided to grab one. I have far too many Imperial Stouts in the cupboard is what I am saying. Not much else to say. Drunk while listening to more Ritualz.

Firestone Walker Pale 31
Firestone Walker: Pale 31 ( USA: American Pale Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Large mounded froth yellowed head. Small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Lemon meringue and creamy hops. Apricot. Key lime pie. Crushed digestives.

Body: Steam feel. Crushed digestives. Milk. Moderate bitterness. Earthy notes. Key lime pie.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop character. Steam feel. Soft lemon. Slight rustic earthy touch. key lime. Rye crackers. Pepper.

Conclusion: I may be coming to this a bit late for it to be at its best, but I’ll give it a shot. I find it interesting that they call this a Californian Pale Ale, mainly because my first sip of this brought to mind the mouthfeel of a steam beer, a beer style also known as the Californian Common. Wonder if that is just a coincidence or an aimed for stylistic choice. Anyway, yes this has the unusual mouthfeel of a steam beer, but with the hops pushed up a bit.

By the time I had got to that sip I already had high hopes for it, the aroma had been promising as well – the mix of fruit desserts, creaminess and hops that had put me in mind of the Union Jack IPA. That is seriously good – so the idea of a steam beer styled APA with Union Jack quality hop character was having me excited. The body fulfils some of that promise, but not quite the full shining, wondrous, vision. It keeps things a bit lower key, a bit more earthy and rustic alongside the steam character. However you can see the more playful notes at the edges, before it finally goes into the dry and pepper spiced finish.

It isn’t bad, and I have feeling it would be even better fresh. It is a nice mix, if suffering slightly from the over attenuated dryness I associate with APAs. Despite that though, I am enjoying the experience – they do add a lot to what can be a dull style for me.

So, not perfect, definitely so, but I have a soft spot for what it is going for. If I see this fresh in the USA on any of my travels I will definitely try it again.

Background: Another beer break – This one took a while to get across form the USA – it was bottled 20/03/2015, so I thought I had best drink it as soon as possible. I am a big fan of Firestone Walker, their IPAs especially. This, described as a Californian Pale Ale, was picked up from Corks of Cotham. I grabbed a few beers while I was there, they are a bit out of my way but well worth visiting. Drink with a bit of Iron Maiden in the background, because I am still a fan of the old Irons.

Kabinet Citra Pale Ale

Kabinet: Citra Pale Ale (Serbia: American Pale Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy yellow, with some sediment from the pour. Mounded white froth head.

Nose: Crisp hops. Pears. Dried apricot. Buttery shortbread. Nicely bitter. Kumquat. Chilli seeds. Apples.

Body: Paprika. Dry, but at some points brings a creamy mouthfeel. Spicy. pepper. Soft apples. Solid bitterness. Kiwi. Lightly tart,

Finish: Bitter. Wheaty. Pear drops. Drying. Gritty. Vanilla sweetness. Unleavened bread.

Conclusion: Ok, another pale ale that goes the highly attenuated route. I will admit not my favourite interpretation of the style. This one using the Citra hop as a pick me up to give a flavour burst against the dry backdrop.

So, that is the plan anyway, doesn’t quite work that way. the base is dry, bitter and gritty. By itself that isn’t terrible, but it requires a careful hand at the wheel, and makes it very reliant on the hops for most of the flavour. The hops here are bringing gentle green fruit – apples and pears – and also a resilient hop bitterness. The lightly tart set of fruit flavours is pleasant, but is nowhere near strong enough to work over the gritty base. The flavours are too easily overwhelmed.

So, it either needs to go with stronger flavours to work with the dry bitterness, or rein in the bitterness a bit to give the softer flavours room to roam. So, as is, it is not really one for me. Then again, the American Pale Ale is often like that for me, it takes real skill to pull off one I really like – this does not manage that and ends up too spicy and dry.

Still their IPA is cool.

Background: Grabbed while I was in Belgrade, as I wanted to try more from the Kabinet brewery. Drunk while listening to Against Me!’s live album 23 Live Sex Acts. Very cool album. That is all.

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