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The future of pale ales

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What was the last shockingly great pale ale you sipped?

There’s a bit of chatter among beer bloggers today that the once flagship style’s lost its juice in recent years; basically demoted to the flagship beer of “meh.”

“What is the one beer style [that] usually makes up the first position in the sample flight, but yet is usually the one that we never get really excited about? The pale ale,” writes Carla Companion on her Beer Babe blog, host of this month’s Session.

Sure, compared to the next imperial sour pale chocolate stout, the pale ale seems square, but that doesn’t mean the style’s a stagnant bore. Take the session IPA, one of my favorite trends in the industry.

When executed correctly, like Shorts Prolonged Enjoyment, the result is really something special, and a complete reimagination of the pale ale’s potential. In short, the beer has the ABV of pales, but a hop flavor and aroma (not bitterness) akin to a mild IPA.

Here’s what Short’s Brewing founder Joe Short relayed:

“The aromas pouring off of this beer simulate handfuls of fresh green hops being held up to ones nose. Huge earthy hop fragrances of green grass, pine and citrus fruit intoxicate the senses. The slightest sweet malty flavors are met quickly by zesty citrus American hop characteristics paving the way for the extraordinary bitterness packed into this light bodied India pale ale.”

And that’s not marketing filler: The beer does hit the nose with a vibrant bouquet and cascades over the tongue with bright tangerine and dank pine notes—bigger than most pale ales out there—but doesn’t assault the tongue like an IPA. The best part? The clever brew clocks in at 3.5% ABV. Huge hop flavor with a smooth, light mouthfeel. That, to me, is the future of pale ales.

So, what was the last shockingly great pale ale you sipped?


Chris Staten is DRAFT’s beer editor. Follow him on Twitter at @DRAFTbeereditor and email him at chris.staten@draftmag.com.


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  • Tom G says:

    Edward by Hill Farmstead on tap in Burlington VT last Sunday. It was the best beer of the 3 day weekend by far. Crisp, citrusy, complex, and only 5.2% ABV so you could enjoy more than one! Truly an amazing beverage…

  • Eric Hoffman says:

    I was up in Bellaire, MI the last weekend of April for Shorts Anniversary weekend and got a chane to drink the Prolonged Enjoyment. All of us in the group were big fans of it. I’m hoping it finds its way to stores soon, if it hasn’t already.

  • brandon says:

    I enjoy the English Pale Ale style for my “sessions” of weekend drinking. My favorite, and has been for years, is Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale.

  • afrokaze says:

    Zombie Dust was one of the best beers I had last year! Plus there are plenty of great pales like Daisy Cutter, and Row 2 Hill 56 by Russian River should be in bottles sometime soon. One of my favorite beers is Firestone Pale 31 and you can find it everywhere. The American pale ale isn’t dying, it’s changing and I bet it’ll come back with a vengeance soon.

  • Jay M says:

    I’m with Tom, Hill Farmstead’s flagship Edward Pale Ale is one of the best beers of any style out there. I’d also have to say Maine Beer Company’s newest offering, MO, is right up there with a wonderful nose and taste to match. Pale Ales are not dead!

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