Literally hundreds of breweries produced one in the SNPA vein. They were refreshing and flavorful, a tough culinary duality. This led to a thirst for hoppy brews, and the brewers followed up with IPA, then the bombastic Imperial IPA, and today’s current darling, fresh hop pale ales, where hops are harvested and used within a 24 hour period.
Pale, by Comparison
Nowhere is the divergence among beer styles more evident than in American vs. English pale ales. This is not to say that one is necessarily better than the other, or that there isn’t some stylistic overlap. Many American brewers make distinctly British versions, taking full advantage of the availability of premium British pale ale malt in the States, and British brewers are experimenting more with American hops.
The signature examples, however, contrast rather sharply, and a simple examination of the basic ingredients reveals the reason. British pale ale malt is nutty and robust, with a bit more backbone and residual character. American two-row malt is softer and crisper, with a higher fermentability and lighter color. Caramel and crystal malt is generally used more liberally in English pales, lending color, bready notes and body, while American pale ale brewers tend to back off a bit on this character malt, adding to its snappy profile.
Classic English hops, such as East Kent Goldings, Target, Fuggles and Northdown, are more refined, earthy and floral; whereas American hop varieties, including Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo and Simcoe, are wilder, with a brash citrus and pine profile.
Balance is a feature of English pales, while Americans proudly show off a full spectral hop character, with particular attention to aroma additions and even dry hopping. American yeast tends to be a silent workhorse, leaving the malt and hops to fend for themselves, while classic English ale yeast leave a notable footprint of fruity esters and butterscotch. American brewers might “Burtonize” their water to approximate the mineral background that English brewers take for granted. The average ABV of both is about 5 to 6.5%, and are burnt gold to full amber in color. Think of Bass Ale and Sam Smiths Old Brewery Pale Ale as the most recognizable English versions, with Sierra Nevada the American counterpart among the hundreds that exist.
Pale ale has not only spawned a revolution or two, but also sired a myriad of beer styles. It catapulted America into a new era of brewing, and did the same in Britain in anachronistic fashion. Interestingly enough, the result was the same in both cases, and the beer world is much better for it.