Belgian Pale Ale

24B. Belgian Pale Ale

Overall Impression:
A moderately malty, somewhat fruity, easy-drinking, copper-colored Belgian ale that is somewhat less aggressive in flavor profile than many other Belgian beers. The malt character tends to be a bit biscuity with light toasty, honey-like, or caramelly components; the fruit character is noticeable and complementary to the malt. The bitterness level is generally moderate, but may not seem as high due to the flavorful malt profile.

Aroma:
Moderate malt aroma, which can be a combination of toasty, biscuity, or nutty, possibly with a touch of light caramel or honey. Moderate to moderately high fruitiness with an orange- or pear-like character. Low to moderate strength hop character (spicy, herbal, or floral) optionally blended with background level peppery, spicy phenols. The hop character is lower in balance than the malt and fruitiness.

Appearance:
Amber to copper in color. Clarity is very good. Creamy, rocky, white head often fades more quickly than other Belgian beers.

Flavor:
Has an initial soft, smooth, moderately malty flavor with a variable profile of toasty, biscuity, nutty, light caramel and/or honey notes. Moderate to moderately high fruitiness, sometimes orange- or pear-like. Relatively light (medium-low to low) spicy, herbal, or floral hop character. The hop bitterness is medium-high to medium-low, and is optionally enhanced by low to very low amounts of peppery phenols. There is a dry to balanced finish, with hops becoming more pronounced in the aftertaste of those with a drier finish. Fairly well balanced overall, with no single component being high in intensity; malt and fruitiness are more forward initially with a supportive bitterness and drying character coming on late.

Mouthfeel:
Medium to medium-light body. Smooth palate. Alcohol level is restrained, and any warming character should be low if present. Medium to medium-high carbonation.

Comments:
Most commonly found in the Flemish provinces of Antwerp and Brabant. Considered “everyday” beers (Category I). Compared to their higher alcohol Category S cousins, they are Belgian “session beers” for ease of drinking. Nothing should be too pronounced or dominant; balance is the key. Yeast character generally more subtle than many Belgian beers, with some of the fruitiness being hop-driven.

History:
Produced by breweries with roots as far back as the mid-1700s, the most well-known examples were perfected after the Second World War with some influence from Britain, including hops and yeast strains.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Pilsner or pale ale malt contributes the bulk of the grist with (cara) Vienna and Munich malts adding color, body and complexity. Sugar is not commonly used as high gravity is not desired. Saazer-type hops, Styrian Goldings, East Kent Goldings or Fuggles are commonly used. Yeasts prone to moderate production of phenols are often used but fermentation temperatures should be kept moderate to limit this character.

Style Comparison:
Fairly similar to pale ales from England (Strong Bitter category), typically with a slightly different yeast character and a more varied malt profile. Less yeast character than many other Belgian beers, though.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.048 – 1.054
IBUs: 20 – 30 FG: 1.010 – 1.014
SRM: 8 – 14 ABV: 4.8 – 5.5%

Commercial Examples:
De Koninck, De Ryck Special, Palm Dobble, Palm Speciale

American Pale Ale

18B. American Pale Ale

Overall Impression:
A pale, refreshing and hoppy ale, yet with sufficient supporting malt to make the beer balanced and drinkable. The clean hop presence can reflect classic or modern American or New World hop varieties with a wide range of characteristics. An average-strength hop-forward pale American craft beer, generally balanced to be more accessible than modern American IPAs.

Aroma:
Moderate to strong hop aroma from American or New World hop varieties with a wide range of possible characteristics, including citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon. None of these specific characteristics are required, but hops should be apparent. Low to moderate maltiness supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuit, caramelly). Fruity esters vary from moderate to none. Dry hopping (if used) may add grassy notes, although this character should not be excessive.

Appearance:
Pale golden to light amber. Moderately large white to off-white head with good retention. Generally quite clear, although dry-hopped versions may be slightly hazy.

Flavor:
Moderate to high hop flavor, typically showing an American or New World hop character (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, melon, etc.). Low to moderate clean grainy-malt character supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuity). The balance is typically towards the late hops and bitterness, but the malt presence should be supportive, not distracting. Caramel flavors are often absent or fairly restrained (but are acceptable as long as they don’t clash with the hops). Fruity yeast esters can be moderate to none, although many hop varieties are quite fruity. Moderate to high hop bitterness with a medium to dry finish. Hop flavor and bitterness often lingers into the finish, but the aftertaste should generally be clean and not harsh. Dry hopping (if used) may add grassy notes, although this character should not be excessive.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-light to medium body. Moderate to high carbonation. Overall smooth finish without astringency and harshness.
Comments: New hop varieties and usage methods continue to be developed. Judges should allow for characteristics of modern hops in this style, as well as classic varieties. Becoming more of an international craft style, with local adaptations appearing in many countries with an emerging craft beer market. Hopping styles can vary from the classic large bitterness addition, to more modern late hop-bursted examples; all variations are allowable.

History:
A modern American craft beer era adaptation of English pale ale, reflecting indigenous ingredients (hops, malt, yeast, and water). Prior to the explosion in popularity of IPAs, was traditionally the most well-known and popular of American craft beers.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Pale ale malt, typically North American two-row. American or New World hops, with a wide range of allowable characteristics. American or English ale yeast (neutral to lightly fruity). Specialty grains may add character and complexity, but generally make up a relatively small portion of the grist. Grains that add malt flavor and richness, light sweetness, and toasty or bready notes are often used (along with late hops) to differentiate brands.

Style Comparison:
Typically lighter in color, cleaner in fermentation by-products, and having less caramel flavors than English counterparts. There can be some overlap in color between American pale ale and American amber ale. The American pale ale will generally be cleaner, have a less caramelly malt profile, less body, and often more finishing hops. Less bitterness in the balance and alcohol strength than an American IPA. More balanced and drinkable, and less intensely hop-focused and bitter than session-strength American IPAs (aka Session IPAs).

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.045 – 1.060
IBUs: 30 – 50 FG: 1.010 – 1.015
SRM: 5 – 10 ABV: 4.5 – 6.2%

Commercial Examples:
Ballast Point Grunion Pale Ale, Firestone Walker Pale 31, Great Lakes Burning River, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Stone Pale Ale, Tröegs Pale Ale

Blond Ale

18A. Blonde Ale

Overall Impression:
Easy-drinking, approachable, malt-oriented American craft beer, often with interesting fruit, hop, or character malt notes. Well-balanced and clean, is a refreshing pint without aggressive flavors.

Aroma:
Light to moderate sweet malty aroma, possibly with a light bready or caramelly note. Low to moderate fruitiness is optional, but acceptable. May have a low to medium hop aroma, and can reflect almost any hop variety although citrusy, floral, fruity, and spicy notes are common.

Appearance:
Light yellow to deep gold in color. Clear to brilliant. Low to medium white head with fair to good retention.

Flavor:
Initial soft malty sweetness, but optionally some light character malt flavor (e.g., bread, toast, biscuit, wheat) can also be present. Caramel flavors typically absent; if present, they are typically low-color caramel notes. Low to medium fruity esters optional, but are welcome. Light to moderate hop flavor (any variety), but shouldn’t be overly aggressive. Medium-low to medium bitterness, but the balance is normally towards the malt or even between malt and hops. Finishes medium-dry to slightly malty-sweet; impression of sweetness is often an expression of lower bitterness than actual residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-light to medium body. Medium to high carbonation. Smooth without being heavy.
Comments: Brewpub alternative to standard American lagers, typically offered as an entry-level craft beer.

History:
An American craft beer style produced by many microbreweries and brewpubs, particularly those who cannot produce lagers. Regional variations exist (many US West Coast brewpub examples are more assertive, like pale ales) but in most areas this beer is designed as the least challenging beer in their lineup.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Generally all malt, but can include up to 25% wheat malt and some sugar adjuncts. Any hop variety can be used. Clean American, lightly fruity English, or Kölsch yeast. May also be made with lager yeast, or cold-conditioned. Some versions may have honey, spices and/or fruit added, although if any of these ingredients are stronger than a background flavor they should be entered in those specialty categories instead.

Style Comparison:
Typically has more flavor than American Lagers and Cream Ales. Less bitterness than an American Pale Ale.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.038 – 1.054
IBUs: 15 – 28 FG: 1.008 – 1.013
SRM: 3 – 6 ABV: 3.8 – 5.5%

Commercial Examples:
Kona Big Wave Golden Ale, Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale, Russian River Aud Blonde, Victory Summer Love, Widmer Citra Summer Blonde Brew

Australian Sparkling Ale

12B. Australian Sparkling Ale

Overall Impression:
Smooth and balanced, all components merge together with similar intensities. Moderate flavors showcasing Australian ingredients. Large flavor dimension. Very drinkable, suited to a hot climate. Relies on yeast character.

Aroma:
Fairly soft, clean aroma with a balanced mix of esters, hops, malt, and yeast – all moderate to low in intensity. The esters are frequently pears and apples, possibly with a very light touch of banana (optional). The hops are earthy, herbaceous, or might show the characteristic iron-like Pride of Ringwood nose. The malt can range from neutral grainy to moderately sweet to lightly bready; no caramel should be evident. Very fresh examples can have a lightly yeasty, sulfury nose.

Appearance
Deep yellow to light amber in color, often medium gold. Tall, frothy, persistent white head with tiny bubbles. Noticeable effervescence due to high carbonation. Brilliant clarity if decanted, but typically poured with yeast to have a cloudy appearance. Not typically cloudy unless yeast roused during the pour.

Flavor:
Medium to low rounded, grainy to bready malt flavor, initially mild to malty-sweet but a medium to medium-high bitterness rises mid-palate to balance the malt. Caramel flavors typically absent. Highly attenuated, giving a dry finish with lingering bitterness, although the body gives an impression of fullness. Medium to medium-high hop flavor, somewhat earthy and possibly herbal, resinous, peppery, or iron-like but not floral, lasting into aftertaste. Medium-high to medium-low esters, often pears and apples. Banana is optional, but should never dominate. May be lightly minerally or sulfury, especially if yeast is present. Should not be bland.

Mouthfeel:
High to very high carbonation, giving mouth-filling bubbles and a crisp, spritzy carbonic bite. Medium to medium-full body, tending to the higher side if poured with yeast. Smooth but gassy. Stronger versions may have a light alcohol warmth, but lower alcohol versions will not. Very well-attenuated; should not have any residual sweetness.

Comments:
Coopers has been making their flagship Sparkling Ale since 1862, although the formulation has changed over the years. Presently the beer will have brilliant clarity if decanted, but publicans often pour most of the beer into a glass then swirl the bottle and dump in all the yeast. In some bars, the bottle is rolled along the bar! When served on draught, the brewery instructs publicans to invert the keg to rouse the yeast. A cloudy appearance for the style seems to be a modern consumer preference. Always naturally carbonated, even in the keg. A present-use ale, best enjoyed fresh.

History:
Brewing records show that the majority of Australian beer brewed in the 19th century was draught XXX (Mild) and porter. Ale in bottle was originally developed to compete with imported bottled pale ales from British breweries, such as Bass and Wm Younger’ Monk. By the early 20th century, bottled pale ale went out of fashion and “lighter” lager beers were in vogue. Many Australian Sparkling and Pale Ales were labeled as ales, but were actually bottom-fermented lagers with very similar grists to the ales that they replaced. Coopers of Adelaide, South Australia is the only surviving brewer producing the Sparkling Ale style.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Lightly kilned Australian 2-row pale malt, lager varieties may be used. Small amounts of crystal malt for color adjustment only. Modern examples use no adjuncts, cane sugar for priming only. Historical examples using 45% 2 row, 30% higher protein malt (6 row) would use around 25% sugar to dilute the nitrogen content. Traditionally used Australian hops, Cluster, and Goldings until replaced from mid-1960s by Pride of Ringwood. Highly attenuative Burton-type yeast (Australian-type strain typical). Variable water profile, typically with low carbonate and moderate sulfate.

Style Comparison:
Superficially similar to English Pale Ales, although much more highly carbonated, with less caramel, less late hops, and showcasing the signature yeast strain and hop variety. More bitter than IBUs might suggest due to high attenuation, low final gravity, and somewhat coarse hops.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.038 – 1.050
IBUs: 20 – 35 FG: 1.004 – 1.006
SRM: 4 – 7 ABV: 4.5 – 6.0%

Commercial Examples:
Coopers Original Pale Ale, Coopers Sparkling Ale
Tags: standard-strength, pale-color, top-fermented, pacific, traditional-style, pale-ale-family, bitter

British Golden Ale

12A. British Golden Ale

Overall Impression:
A hop-forward, average-strength to moderately-strong pale bitter. Drinkability and a refreshing quality are critical components of the style.

Aroma:
Hop aroma is moderately low to moderately high, and can use any variety of hops – floral, herbal, or earthy English hops and citrusy American hops are most common. Frequently a single hop varietal will be showcased. Little to no malt aroma; no caramel. Medium-low to low fruity aroma from the hops rather than esters. Little to no diacetyl.

Appearance:
Straw to golden in color. Good to brilliant clarity. Low to moderate white head. A low head is acceptable when carbonation is also low.

Flavor:
Medium to medium-high bitterness. Hop flavor is moderate to moderately high of any hop variety, although citrus flavors are increasingly common. Medium-low to low malt character, generally bready with perhaps a little biscuity flavor. Caramel flavors are typically absent. Little to no diacetyl. Hop bitterness and flavor should be pronounced. Moderately-low to low esters. Medium-dry to dry finish. Bitterness increases with alcohol level, but is always balanced.

Mouthfeel:
Light to medium body. Low to moderate carbonation on draught, although bottled commercial versions will be higher. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth, but this character should not be too high.

Comments:
Well-hopped, quenching beer with an emphasis on showcasing hops. Served colder than traditional bitters, this style was originally positioned as a refreshing summer beer, but is now often brewed year-round. Although early on the beers were brewed with English hops, increasingly American citrus-flavored hops are used. Golden Ales are also called Golden Bitters, Summer Ales, or British Blonde Ales. Can be found in cask, keg, and bottle.

History:
Modern golden ales were developed in England to take on strongly-marketed lagers. While it is difficult to identify the first, Hop Back’s Summer Lightning, first brewed in 1986, is thought by many to have got the style off the ground.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Low-color pale or lager malt acting as a blank canvas for the hop character. May use sugar adjuncts, corn or wheat. English hops frequently used, although citrusy American varietals are becoming more common. Somewhat clean-fermenting British yeast.

Style Comparison:
More similar to an American Pale Ale than anything else, although it is often lower in alcohol and usually features British ingredients. Has no caramel and fewer esters compared to British bitters and pale ales. Dry as bitters but with less malt character to support the hops, giving a different balance. Often uses (and features) American hops, more so than most other modern British styles.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.038 – 1.053
IBUs: 20 – 45 FG: 1.006 – 1.012
SRM: 2 – 6 ABV: 3.8 – 5.0%

Commercial Examples: Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, Fuller’s Discovery, Golden Hill Exmoor Gold, Hop Back Summer Lightning, Kelham Island Pale Rider, Morland Old Golden Hen, Oakham JHB