Tag Archive: American Pale Ale


Arbor: My Little Sabrony (England: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy darkened lemon juice. Crisp inch of white bubbled head.

Nose: Lemon juice. Wheaty hops. Dry grapefruit. Low to moderate bitterness. Vanilla. Cut apple. Mango.

Body: Peach and grapefruit. Vanilla. Slightly creamy. Good bitterness. Dry. Custard. Flour. Vanilla fudge. Peppermint. Lemon juice.

Finish: Soft peach. Peach melba. Custard. Moderate hop character and bitterness. Pineapple. Marshmallow. Apple. Grapefruit. Flour. Lemon juice. Tangerine.

Conclusion: This is a single hop beer? I could have sworn they would need at least a couple to get the range of fruit notes that this is showing. Also, this is an APA? It is dry I will admit, but with enough creamy malt use and large hops that I would have guess IPA if I had to. They are doing a lot with a little here.

It’s got the oddest (Disclaimer: I am using hyperbole, it is merely odd, not the oddest) mix of peach sweetness and grapefruit tartness – with both pushing at the same time without either being eclipsed. It has that dry, flour touched APA style and good bitterness, but also those aforementioned creamy, almost custard touches. A lot going on, with elements you would not usually find together working very well here. I think this is my first encounter with this hop, it is definitely the first single hop use I have seen of it and I am digging it a lot, and also digging the well used sweet and dry malt backbone it has behind it.

This is really good. The sweetness flirts with marshmallow and vanilla. The fruit touches on tangerine, pineapple and apple. So fresh, just sweet enough and so drinkably dry yet full. This is very rewarding, easy to drink and vaguely moderate in the abv to manage that.

This is a great APA. Buy it. Drink it.

Background: Arbor look a lot different in style to how I first encountered them, back on cask tap in the Royal Oak. Were decent even back then. This is a Sabro single hop beer. I have no idea about the Sabro hop. It does make for a good My Little Pony pun though. Also I am a sucker for any beer with a rainbow. So sue me. Grabbed from Independent Spirit of Bath and drunk while listening to Jack Off Jill: Clear Heart, Grey Flowers – always wonderful acid caustic tunes.

Electric Bear: Cradle Of Filth: Pale Countess (England: American Pale Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy, dark lemon juice. An inch or so of mounded white head.

Nose: Lemon juice to jiff lemon. Grapefruit. Crisp, lightly fluffy hop bitterness. Light vanilla. Fresh crusty white bread. Peach skin.

Body: Peach. Good bitterness. Crusty white bread. Slightly dry. Grapefruit.

Finish: Dry hop bitterness. Flour. Crusty white bread. Fairly high bitterness in general. Subtle apricot. Light lemon juice.

Conclusion: So, as I’m sure I have discussed innumerable times before, APAs can be a bit hit or miss for me. The comparatively lower abv means that they tend towards the drier, more attenuated end of the spectrum, which can make the hop usage kind of rough, while not paying off the same hop’s flavour promise.

However, done right that dryness can make for a dangerously drinkable beer, that shocks the taste-buds with a hop kick at the end. By this point you are probably shouting at me ot get on with it and tell you which of the two sides this falls into. Well, this one is definitely closer to the good side of things.

YAYZ!

Yeah, I drew that out a bit.

So, it is fairly dry, really encourages drinking then punishes you with bitterness. Highly hopped, but despite the high hop usage it distinctly a pale ale rather than an IPA – even the dryness is different to a dry west coast IPA. That has a very out of the way, dry malt character, while this gives a lot of grip to the ever present bitterness.

What makes it work is the use of the subtle but well picked hop fruity flavours. Subtle grapefruit tartness help keep it drinkable despite the bitterness. Occasional light peach sweetness gives release from that same bitterness and dry lemon notes ties it all to the dryness of the base beer. Everything is just what is needed to take what could have been a harsh beer and made it much more suitable.

It is solid, well balanced with what could easily have been too heavy bitterness. It doesn’t shout “Cradle Of Filth” but when do tie in beers ever really make you think of the musician that much?

Electric Bear have definitely upped their game since last time I did notes on their stuff.

Background: Ok, most important things first – this has the marking of “Order of the Flagon” on it. I have no idea what that is. I did some googling and got a bunch of roleplaying game links, natch, and one that was a Cradle Of Filth beer glass. So it s linked to Cradle Of Filth. Which I kind of already knew, what with this being a Cradle Of Filth beer. Which I possibly should have mentioned earlier. Yeah a beer made in collaboration with Cradle Of Filth. Cool. The brewer is Electric Bear, a Bath based brewery that I wasn’t much impressed with back when I first encountered them, however I’ve been to their tap-house a few times since then, and their beers have improved greatly. Hopefully this will continue the trend. For music there was of course only one band I could go with – Garbage! Their self titled album to be exact. What? Garbage are awesome. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Northern Monk: Don’t Mess With Yorkshire (England: American Pale Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon coloured body with a massive white bubbled head that leaves some, but not many suds.

Nose: Rhubarb and custard sweets. Custard slices. Sugar dusting. Light orange. Slight apple.

Body: Wheaty. Moderate bitterness. Gentle custard. Hard sweets. Slight rhubarb. Slight orange skin. Slight milk and lactose.

Finish: Flour. Good bitterness. Dry. Peppery. Slightly earthy. Gentle custard. Slight tart rhubarb.

Conclusion: This is a much more straightforward beer than you would expect from the description, and from the first impressions you get from the aroma.

So, since I just brought it up, let’s start with the aroma. It is full on, full of rhubarb and custard sweet notes. Yes, I know generally hard sweets don’t have that much smell to them, imagine them all crushed up and sweet dust is in the air or something, this smells like that. It is very sweet, not super artificial smelling, but definitely calls to the hard sweet style.

The rest of the beer has none of that.

The body, by comparison, is fairly dry and slightly peppery with a moderate amount of hop bitterness. It is not overly attenuated like some APAs, but it still feels within the dry APA range, with all that entails.

The custard notes come across along with a gentle, milky to lactose thickness, and only a hint of the actual custard flavour, and very little of the sweetness. Similarity there is a light tartness from the rhubarb, but it is generally coming across as the unsweetened, earthier rhubarb rather than rhubarb and custard sweets. So, I have no idea where that aroma came from as that is not the beer you get!

It is a solid APA, with a gently used twist to it. Far more subtle in expression that I expected, and probably a better beer for that, if not as showy and silly fun as I hoped. The base APA is not special and without the extra twist would be very middle of the road, as is it is not a must have, but decent enough and a bit different with its subtle enhancements from the extra ingredients.

Background: I spent most of my teenage years in Yorkshire, I have a soft spot in my heart for the place. So, yep, this beer caught my eye. I am also a fan of Rhubarb, Custard and also Rhubarb and Custard, so another thing in its favour as this is a Rhubarb Custard Pale. What does that mean? Well looking at the can it is made with vanilla, rhubarb extract and custard extract, so I’m guessing that. Anyway another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – I put on a band I have only just discovered to listen to while drinking – Bloodywood – an Indian street metal band that rocks!

To Øl: Cloudwater : CPH – Quick Splash (Denmark: APA: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Large mound of white head.

Nose: Flour. Dry peach. Flour like hop prickle. Slight custard.

Body: Moderate hop character and bitterness. Purple peppers. Dry grapefruit. Pink grapefruit. Flour. Vanilla. Slight custard.

Finish: Purple peppers. Grapefruit. Flour like hop character. Lychee. Pink grapefruit.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ll admit I was wrong. In what way? Well when I looked at this and saw that the New England virus had spread from IPAs to its nephew style, the APA, I was worried. Was this to be the beginning of the end? Were we to see NE Saisons, NE Brown Ales or even NE Stouts. IS? THIS? THE? END? OF? EVERYTHING!?

Ok, I exaggerate, NEIPAs are not that bad, even if they are often not for me, but I was worried that- like how we ended up with every kind of IPA under the sun, we would end up with everything being NE style. I still don’t know if that will happen, but you know what, this is genuinely pretty good.

The drier APA character here is compensated for by the tart fruit character, while the lower bitterness of the NE style gets reinforced slightly as the drier APA character makes what bitterness there is punch harder, but unlike some APAs, due to the freshness the flour like hop character doesn’t get gritty. It feels like a lot of the possible issues I have with some APAs and NEIPAs actually offset each other here by the other style pushing back the other way to create an actual balance between the two.

So, tart matched by a dry, well pushed grapefruit notes that go a touch outside the standard tart grapefruit flavour range for a bit of variety. There is even a touch of soft vanilla from the malt, but general that side of things just gives that New England style extra thickness and mouthfeel.

It is a good APA, and an area where I genuinely think the New England take on things works, adding to rather than detracting from the beer style. I am impressed. Nicely done, I applaud everyone involved.

Background: As you may have guessed from the notes I am generally not taken by the New England IPA style. Still, this is a beer made at To Øl’s brewpub, so is a rare chance to try something from there. Even more than that it is made with Cloudwater, who have a good hand with hop heavy beers, so I was interested to see how it works out. Oddly this is a New England Pale Ale, not an IPA, something I did not even know existed until this moment. Not much else to add – bought at Independent Spirit, put back on Visceral by Getter while drinking for some nicely done backing music.

Pomona Island: Pew Pew Pew Pewpewpew Pew Pew (England: American Pale Ale: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Pale, hazy lemon juice. Inch of white head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Apricot. Clean hop character. Light bitterness. Light popcorn. Light custard. Slight nettles.

Body: Flour mixed with hops. Slightly milky. Kiwi touch. Grapes. Milky fudge. Slight prickle. Apricot. Slight hop oils.

Finish: Flour. Apricot. Light fluffy hop feel. Sulphur touch. Grapes. Light bready. Ovaltine.

Conclusion: You know, for a beer with such gently done flavour, this is actually pretty satisfying. Usually vaguely milky beers get right on my tits and just feel empty. This does neither of those things. Unless I spill it, in which case it may end up on my tits in a less metaphorical manner. Anyway, I digress.

It is milky, with gentle prickling hops, but the fruit seems to hand around there in the middle just enough to actually work rather than getting lost in the mix that all too often happens with milky beers.

There is milky fudge, milky apricot, milky kiwi. Ok, you get the gist, right? In a worse beer this would be infuriating and terrible, resulting in badly defined flavours and general empty character. Here it is soothing and gently enjoyable.

It feels like it should be a tad lower abv in order to make it a great session beer, rather than a slightly heavier APA – Though in saying that I am realising that maybe it is the extra grip from the extra malt that gives that higher abv that makes the unusual character work so well. But if it could be reduced a tad and keep that – then sorted.

It slides down so very easily, with a touch of hop oils giving grip so you still feel it. It is examinable, if not heavy – easy drinking with milky thickness. Gets a tad overly bready over time, but generally very enjoyable.

Make finger guns – pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew.

Background: yeah I bought this beer because it is called Pew Pew Pew, however many times that is written. It both calls to old video games and Laura Dern in Star Wars, both of which make me want to like it. Anyway, not tried any thing from the brewery before so few expectations, this is a Ukuanot BBC, Simcoe, Mosaic DDH Pale. Because of course. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Put on The Royal They’s self titled album while drinking, it is endlessly endearing and yet vulgar, which I like.

Ironfire: Synner Hoppy Pale Ale (USA: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Very large mounded white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Clear main body.

Nose: Musty hops. Some charred and wet wood notes. Apple. Greenery.

Body: Apple. Pineapple. Slight cardboard. Hop bitterness. Grapefruit. Slight hop oils. Slight peach.

Finish: Hop bitterness and charring. Malt toffee. Peppery. Grapefruit. Hop oils. Slight peach. Choc toffee.

Conclusion: This is another one that slowly grew on me after a very rough start. Or more correctly a rough finish. Also a rough start. I’ll get to that in a moment. Anyway, let’s start at the top.

So, to put it bluntly, the aroma is a bit shit. Slightly musty and slightly charred, with not a huge amount going on. Now this could be because the hops they used fade fast and it takes a while for USA beer to reach the UK, or maybe it was always shit. I may never know.

The first sip is ok – a mix of fresh apple and tart pineapple and grapefruit notes. Its got a slight cardboard style to it, but uses the tart and fresh notes well enough to mostly push past that. Mostly. Then you get a charred and rough finish which is just not welcome. It is slightly pepper, but in general it is not showing the choice hops to their best – instead giving a slight rough hop burn. An unexpected but not entirely unwelcome note here is a slight malt toffee notes which calls to a sweeter APA than this which generally has an out of the way malt character in the main body.

The finish never really recovers from this – it gains a bit more malt and chocolate to balance it so it is less ruinous, but I would never go so far as to call it good. What does improve is the main body which steps up with soft peach roughing, more of the appealing tart notes and a better defined hop character. All of which are much appreciated.

So, still not great top and tail, but the improved main body means it isn’t the complete write off it originally seems. Wow I am killing it with faint praise today. Not one I’d recommend but it has its good points.

Background: Managed to get a chance to drop over to Corks Of Cotham in Bristol recently so grabbed a few beers while I was over there. They have been around since before craft beer became huge and have always had a good selection, so was nice to drop back there again. I mainly grabbed this one as the can looked pretty – similarly to keep in theme I put on White Zombie – Astro Creep 2000 while drinking. It all makes sense. From the can’s description this is dry hopped with Citra. A good hop, hope it pays off here.

Bone Machine: Green Machine (England: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to brown clear body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Massive white loose bubbled head that leaves suds (The photo is after I let the head go down a bit if you can believe it)

Nose: Bitter hops. Pepper. Pine cones. Wheat. Zesty lime.

Body: Zesty lime. Mild gherkins. Milky main body. Peppery base. Tart pineapple. Greenery. Moderate bitter hop character. Melon.

Finish: Mild gherkin. Lime. Wheaty. Earthy hop bitterness. Brown bread. Melon. Resinous. Mild peanut butter late on.

Conclusion: Ok, this is indeed a “Green Machine” as the beer is named. I will give it an A++ for honesty in naming. From the tart end of the spectrum it comes in with lime, gherkin and such, to the more savoury end where it comes in with greenery amongst the hop oils – this is a very green tasting beer. It is very tingly feeling as well, calling to very fresh hops resulting in prickles of zesty flavour stabbing into your tongue.

The base has a dry touch and an attenuated feel but they’ve put a milkiness under that so it avoids the harsh, over dry character that some APAs run into. While that is good it does mean that the malt load feels slightly generic here – it relies on the hops to do the heavy lifting.

The hops do good work though. They bring moderate bitterness that then grows into quite the peppery and earthy bite. Against that is a nice tart pineapple set of notes that back the varied green notes mentioned before – it all results in something fresh and very zesty.

Oh, a quick digression at this point – pour this bloody carefully and give it a lot of time to settle. This thing froths up very easily and will fill the entire glass with head if you are not careful.

Overall this is fresh, has good bitterness, well used tart and green fruit flavours that leads out into heavy earthy and peppery bitterness by the end. It could do with a rework of the malt if they were to make it the complete package, but its still decent as is. A mouth tingling zesty take on an APA that will awaken your mouth.

Background: This was a bit of a whimsy pick up – I liked the look of the beer, the name brought the Pixies song Bone Machine to mind, and it was from a new brewery, so I grabbed a can. Actually, looking back, I totally should have put the Pixies on while drinking. Ah well, missed opportunity. Had put on Bad Rebellion – Stranger than Fiction instead as that band is an old favourite of mine. Something familiar and welcoming for drinking music. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Neon Raptor: Island Party DDH Pale Ale (England: American Pale Ale:4.3% ABV)

Visual: On first pour clear lager yellow colour with huge yellow-whitehead. Tons of small bubbled carbonation. Later pours are cloudy and opaque.

Nose: Dry bitter hops. Soft pineapple. Floral. Chalk touch. Flour.

Body: Dry, hoppy bitterness. Flour. Soft vanilla. Soft apricot. Prickly. Light gherkin. Mango. Strawberry touch.

Finish: Strawberry. Flour. Soft pineapple. Vanilla yogurt. Crushed love heart sweets. Solid bitterness. Kumquat.

Conclusion: This pours oddly. The first pour was utterly clear and lager like, with a massive head. However it seems I should have given the can more of a shake before pouring as later pours were cloudy in a NEIPA style. (or maybe not – again, massive head already – but you get the gist).

So, once I had let the head settle a bit I found that this was pretty subtle in the aroma. Soft pineapple and dry, bitter notes. While it never hits that super dry, super harsh take that some APAs do, this still leans into the drier take throughout the rest of the beer.

It has a fairly creamy mouthfeel, but very dry around that. Kind of a flour dryness that seems to be a common APA shtick. There is some soft apricot and pineapple notes packed around that which freshens it up a touch, along with some savoury vegetable notes and sour gherkin notes rounding out the range.

Altogether it is ok, but gets wearing as times goes on and the drier notes take over, leaving more flour notes on your tongue as a desiccating experience. It is a just slightly too far into the harsh dryness in style, rather than the super drinkable dry style.

So, it had good first impressions, before the flour notes got too heavy, as the soft fruit is appealing, but it just gets bogged down over time. Ok at the start, but definitely sub-optimal and gets worse as time goes on.

Background: Neon Raptor. Neon. Raptor. There was no way I wasn’t going to try something from this brewery. Decided to go for the APA as been trying a lot of IPAs recently. Also the IPAs were New England style. I’m trying to not hate on NEIPAs too much, but the way they are saturating the market at the mo is not exactly my scene shall we say. Anyway, not much else to add – picked this up from Independent Spirit and put on B. Dolan’s House Of Bees Vol 2 while drinking. Should be seeing the Epic Beard men live soon, so gets me in the mood for cool socially conscious rap.

Cassels and Sons: Extra Pale Ale (New Zealand: American Pale Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow with lots of small bubbled carbonation and a small yellowed head.

Nose: Turmeric. Earthy bitterness. Orange zest.

Body: Orange zest and orange skin. Dry. Vanilla. Earthy bitterness. Sour dough. Cereal and shredded wheat. Light sour grapes.

Finish: Turmeric. Dry. Slightly rocky. Moderate bitterness. Nettles. Peppery.

Conclusion: This feels a very Birtish influenced pale ale rather than the American take which I think is more its aim. It is especially odd as this is Nelson Sauvin hopped – a hop I associate more with grapefruit and pineapple rather than the earthy, turmeric and pepper notes that we get here.

Another element that makes me think of English Pales is that light orange note and solid dry bitterness that is an oft overlooked part of the style – it is a less obvious note that the earthy character that just shouts UK hops, but still there – and odder still because this does not use UK hops. At all I think.

Maybe it is the well attenuated character combined with a lower abv that makes the hop express itself differently. I mean, 4.9% isn’t a low abv, but it is a lot lower than a lot of the bursting beers that I usually encounter Nelson Sauvin in, so that may make the difference. The attenuated character makes it super dry, so maybe there is little for the tart fruitiness to grab hold of, instead you get light fresh notes in a tart grape style, just below the earthy bitterness.

It is pretty drinkable though – there area a lot of heavy bitterness notes, along with some rough notes that should prevent it being so, but the dry character is used well and instead of hindering, instead gives a lager like drinkability, backed by just a touch of vanilla to wash the rougher bitterness down down.

It is a solid beer, not showy, nor showcasing the hop, but solid and easy to drink. It does the British pale style brilliantly, even if it seems that was not the style they were aiming for.

Background: Ever since my Sister spent some time in New Zealand, which made it easier for me to get hold of their beers, I have been interested and excited by the NZ beer scene. So when this new brewery on me turned up at Independent Spirit I decided to give one of their beers a try. This beer in fact. Went for their Pale Ale as it seemed a reasonable entry point, especially as it uses the Nelson Sauvin hops which are one of the utter gems of the NZ hop scene in my opinion. Had been at a 90’stastic gig in Bristol the day before drinking this, so put on some Terrorvision as seeing them live reminded me they are still a bloody good band.

Halfacre: Daisy Cutter Pale Ale (USA: American Pale Ale: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to apricot. Large white mounded bubbled head. Tiny bubbled carbonation. Head leaves suds.

Nose: Flour. Peach. Lemon curd. Dry. Watermelon.

Body: Stewed apricot. Dry. Flour. Vanilla. Apple pie jelly centres. Moderate hop character. Low to middling bitterness. Pineapple.

Finish: Dried and stewed apricot. Moderate hop prickle and bitterness. Bitterness grows over time. Gelatinous fruit pie centres. Tart apples. Vanilla. Watermelon. Pineapple.

Conclusion: You know, I started off not enamoured with this, but each sip had it grow on me more and more. Initial impressions are dry with a flour touch, which are dominant, only allowing small amounts of fruit come out behind. A good base, but not much else.

As time goes on the fruit rises in a way that I can best describe as if it mixed half stewed fruit and half dried fruit, all mixed up in that gelatinous stuff that you get in fruit pies. It gives a real thickness of feel and flavour is what I mean.

The bitterness has a similar path. It starts low but rises quickly. Never into IPA territory, but solid enough to really give it an edge for a hophead like me. Then, as if that was not enough, time brings out delicious watermelon notes with tart pineapple behind that pick up the beer, dust it off and refresh it for the latter half of enjoyment.

Often for me the dryness of an APA can be an off-putting note and a failure in the beer, making it too harsh to drink. This shows how to get the dryness, matches it with huge flavour and sets out something challenging, rewarding and always giving good character. Definitely in the top few APAs I have encountered.

Background: This was a pretty random grab – A brewery I haven’t tried before from America – figured it was worth a try. Went for their APA as I spend less time with that style – it is hit or miss for me – sometimes great, some times far too dry. Thought it was a good time to roll the dice again and see how this did. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to At The Drive In – Relationship Of Command. Had an odd thought while drinking – I love that album, absolutely love it, but have never checked out any other At The Drive In stuff. I should correct that at some time. Incidentally on googling I found that this is described as “A west coast Pale Ale chock-full of dank, aromatic hops.”. Much as I enjoyed it, I would not call it “Dank” in any way. Maybe something was lost in the journey to the UK.

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