Pale Ales

We went down to the fridge to pick out a few beers after our trip to the Japanese Festival and the Greek Festival…yeah we had a bit of a day and we figured ending it with beer was the only way to end it.

So, you may have noticed that we started with two beers, then three, then moved to four, and now this time we’re dealing with five different beers. Yeah…that’s a lot of beers. I guess what I’m saying is that the number of beers that we’ll be doing each time isn’t static, but fluid.

There were just a lot of beers down there that have been building up as blogging beers. So, we picked out a nice selection of Pale Ales. From local, to the North, and to the West Coast, we chose some very interesting beers.

Bob: Today we are drinking five Pale Ales made in the USA, ranging from very early efforts in the craft beer movement to some newer examples. Let’s get to it!

Tommyknocker Pick Axe Pale Ale (6.2% ABV)

Pick Axe Pale Ale

Nik: This one poured out a very nice dark, golden color with a small head. It had a very fruity aroma with a very nice woody taste. I believe that Tommyknocker has used cascade hops, or at least hops from the Northwest when they made this beer. It reminded me of the hop flavor of Devil Dancer, of course not as big or as intense, but this was a good beer that I’ll definitely go for again.

Bob: This was a nice golden color, a little cloudy, with a good head that lasted long enough to make significant tracks on my glass. Hop aroma was a mild but very pleasant citrus & pine cross. Very nicely bitter taste and aftertaste. Had not had anything from this brewery before, but this one is certainly worth seeking out.

Schalfly Pale Ale (4.4% ABV)

Schlafly Pale Ale

Nik: This was Schlafly’s first beer and it is still their trademark brew…It poured out a great big, bubbled head. It had a perfectly clear amber color. It seemed to me that this beer smelled like a Budweiser lager. I suppose when one is brewing a brand new beer in the shadow of #1 Busch Place, it might be slightly influenced. It does have a very good bitter taste but with almost no after taste.

Bob: Schlafly’s original standard bearer, and the first craft beer available in St. Louis lo these many years ago. Mid-gold liquid, very clear, with a long-lasting head. Not much noticeable hop aroma–this beer is mainly about the taste, which is bitter with good body and balance. Very reminiscent of an English Ale. A decent go-to brew for everyday quaffing, although the explosion of labels now available has made choosing it exclusively much more difficult than in the past.

Mission Street Pale Ale (4.6% ABV)

Mission Street Pale Ale

Nik: This pale ale poured out a very nice head with a piney, western aroma. It had perfect clarity, no clouds in its nicely opaque color. The hops gave this beer a nice woody, bitter flavor. I think this beer has just the perfect amount of bitterness, like the Schalfly Pale Ale, but  a bit hoppier and a tad more enjoyable, but just a touch.

Bob: Purchased at Trader Joes and perhaps sold exclusively by them, this beer is crafted in Paso Robles, CA. Very clear, pale golden color in the glass, with a quick head that doesn’t last. Mild aroma of piney hops. Lighter taste, with decent bitterness and also some sweetness. It was OK, but not something I would buy regularly or go out of my way to find.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.6% ABV)

Sierra Nevada

Nik: This pale ale had a very good aroma with a big short lasting head. Like other beers in this round, it had very nice clarity and a strong bitter flavor. The best way I can describe this beer is as just enough. This was the worst beer of this tasting, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. It’s just pretty plain.

Bob: Another early standard-bearer, this time from the Western part of the US. I first tasted this perhaps ten to fifteen years ago, when it was one of the few craft beers available. Pours a medium golden color, very clear, with a good head that dissipates relatively quickly. Mild aroma of Cascade hops. Not as bitter as Schlafly’s Pale Ale, this is more of a beginner’s introduction to American pale ales, with little aftertaste, which makes sense given that it was introduced long ago, when American taste buds were still sleeping from a steady diet of nothing but watered-down lagers. I currently relegate it to a summer thirst-quencher when nothing more interesting is available.

Great Lakes Burning River American Pale Ale (6% ABV)

Burning River American Pale Ale

Nik: I picked up a six pack of this beer at Whole Foods in Chicago a couple weeks ago, and I’m glad I did. This ale had a quickly disappearing head and a fruity aroma. I can only describe the flavor as  having had a burnt quality to it…perhaps carmelized? I thought it made for a great undertone to the flavor. It did have a small aftertaste, and this beer began to taste better as it warmed up. I found the taste to be the best as it came closer to room temperature.

Bob: Light golden color, very clear. Nice head, but not long-lasting. A slightly fruity aroma, but not objectionably so. Noticeably less bitter than many pale ales. Has a heavy but very smooth mouthfeel/body and a nice aftertaste. The carbonation level is lower than many American beers and just about perfect to my way of thinking. All in all, a tasty brew with some complex notes that is very drinkable. Too bad it is not yet available in St. Louis–purchase this one in Chicago.


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