Unlike the Australian pale ale we discussed a few weeks ago the American pale ale has worked well to define itself and, in true American style, it is bold, boisterous and much shoutier than pales ales from elsewhere in the world.
American pale ales are typically brewed with cleaner yeast and American hops, and it is these hops which really distinguish the American pale ales from their British and European counterparts. These hops, usually of the cascade variety, which originate from the Pacific Northwest of the country, are distinctively piney and citrusy and an often heavy-handed use of these hops brings the American pale ale a lot closer to the Indian Pale Ale style. American pale ales can often be on par, at least in bitterness, with more traditional IPA’s from Britain.
The term “pale ale” first appeared in Britain in the early 1700’s. It was coined to describe beers which were being made with lighter malts that had been dried and roasted using coke, a process started in the mid-1600’s that was deemed to improve the all-round quality of the beer. The lighter malts led to a lighter beer, and although they’re by no means light in colour they’re much lighter than the beers the British public were drinking at the time.
As the century progressed the term “pale ale” became synonymous with the term “bitter”. This was a term used only by the public and not by the brewers and it has been thought to describe those beers that were noticeably hoppier than other forms of ale such as porters and milds.
The American pale ales were inspired more directly by the original pale ales from Britain than our Aussie pale ales were. In the mid 70’s two different brewmaster from two different breweries visited the UK, separately, and both brought back information on Scottish and English pale ales to use as the basis for their brew. The first, Anchor Liberty Ale, brewed by Anchor Brewing Company was first made in 1975 and is still being brewed and enjoyed today. This beer used only malt (no added sugar, which was common practice in America at the time) and used cascade hop.
The second brewmaster was less successful and his company brewed for less than six years. His beer was much more cascade hop forward and slightly darker; much more like the American pale ales we know today.
The first brewery to successfully commercialise the American pale ale style was the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company with their Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and they’re still brewing strong today.
If you want to sample the style of an American pale ale then we’ve got our Squealing Pig APA on tap down at the brewery for you! It’s not a “pure” American pale ale but it’s big on the hops (yes cascade) and has a balanced malt profile to complement them.