Beers of the World Featuring: The Ponderous "Pale Ale"

The funny thing about pale ale is that of all things, pale it is not. Its coloration is normally between bronze and amber-red. Some early drinkers of pale ale are recorded as referring to it as a "thick and muddy" brew. The beer itself can be reliably traced back to the mid 1700s where a brewery by the name of Hodgson’s near London, England produced its beer for the giant East India Company. The style first reached mainstream popularity in the mid 1800s, and has been going strong ever since.

A true to style pale ale can usually be described as being moderately hopped, with a slight nuttiness (and maltiness) usually as a result of the pale ale malt used by most brewers to produce this type of beer. Traditional high grade pale ales are cask conditioned. By that I mean they spend time in oak kegs to mature, with the oak usually imparting some flavor enhancements to the maturing beer.

Somewhat of a sub category of pale ales is "India Pale Ales (IPA)". There is a fascinating story behind the creation of the IPA.

At around the time that pale ales were coming into popularity, British colonialism was at its peak. The need for a beer that would keep well on its journey to supply the beer drinkers of the empire was massive. But there was a dilemma. Since no one had invented an effective means of keeping beer cold to prevent it from spoiling, the precious cargo brought to the new worlds would go bad during the long voyage. Fortunately, a solution was soon discovered:

They decided to use the natural preservative qualities of hops to their advantage by adding what by today’s standards would seem to be massive quantities of hops to the beer. It likely took a while for beer drinkers to get used to this new incredibly bitter drink, but it really caught on. The style began to flourish even back home in Britain.

Even though today there are still very few examples of true "IPA" that are hopped as extensively as they were in the Victorian era, some similar examples are available from local microbreweries. Their simple isn’t enough of a market for any of the big manufacturers to take on brewing a beer with that kind of intense bitterness.

Classic Producers:

Samuel Smith
Sierra Nevada

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About The Author, Matt Tremblay
Matt Tremblay is the author of "The Home Brewing Success Blueprint" Home Brewing | Beer Making Courses