Did pale ales kickstart the craft beer revolution?
Pale ales come in many shapes and sizes. The best pale ales are light yellow to amber, hoppy, and balanced. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of the greats. But there are many more amazing pale ales brewed all over the world.
Here are our picks for the best pale ales you should be keeping in your fridge:
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
- Peeper, Maine Beer Company
- Zinnebir, Brasserie de la Senne
- Landlord, Timothy Taylor’s Brewery
- Fort Point, Trillium Brewing Company
- Pseudo Sue, Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.
- Simcoe, Hill Farmstead Brewery
- XX Bitter, Brouwerij De Ranke
- Jutsu, Bellwoods Brewery
- Pale Ale, The Kernel Brewery
Sierra Nevada is simply one of the most influential breweries in the world. Founder Ken Grossman’s vision to bring flavorful, hoppy beer to the Bay Area pretty much set the stage for craft beer in America, and beyond. It all started with a pale ale, Ken’s ode to Cascade hops.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – or SNPA – has forever cemented its place as the prototypical American pale ale. Not much can be said about this beer that hasn’t been said. It’s a perfectly balanced pale ale, packed with pine and citrus character. Sitting at 5.6% ABV, its clear amber hue glows radiantly.
SNPA is one of the world’s most famous pale ales. And it’s one of the most important craft beers ever brewed.
For one of the purest forms of American hop expression, look no further than Maine Beer Company’s Peeper. It’s a 5.5% ABV pale ale made with Amarillo, Cascade, and Centennial hops. First brewed in 2009, the beer has stood the test of time. It barreled through the NEIPA craze and has kept true to its identity to this day.
Pouring a slightly opaque, golden yellow, distinct aromas of lemon and grapefruit jump out of the glass. More of that beautiful citrus comes through in the flavor. It’s all backed by a dry finish with just enough body and bitterness to keep the beer perfectly balanced.
Like most Brasserie de la Senne beers, Zinnebir does not go light on the noble hops. It’s a Belgian pale ale with assertive bitterness and outstanding hop character. All complimented by a complex yeast expression.
Ripping carbonation creates a frothy foam that stays until the last sip. Tiny bubbles continuously push out delicious aromas of fresh-cut grass, lavender, and lemon. More of the same at first sip, with a distinct note of pithy grapefruit.
The finish is dry with a rustic, tannic quality that adds to a rich mouthfeel. Lingering bitterness lasts for days but keeps you coming back for more. A must-drink on tap when in Brussels but equally amazing in the bottle.
We had to choose a classic, English pale ale for our list. What better than Landlord, a truly historic beer from West Yorkshire, England?
Landlord is a modest 4.1% ABV (4.3% on cask). It’s brewed with an even more modest hop selection, using Styrian Goldings, U.K. Goldings, and Fuggles. Despite its simplicity, the beer comes together magically.
If you’re in the UK, it’s a must to find a fresh pull of Landlord on cask. The creaminess is elevated through cask conditioning. The delicate hop aromas really shine through, creating a drinking experience that brings you back in time. A cozy pub, a pint full of Landlord, and good company. What’s better?
If you’ve ever had a Trillium IPA, you know they’re experts at extracting every last ounce of flavor and aroma out of hops. They took that same ethos when designing Fort Point, their pale ale.
It’s not a hazy, juice bomb like some of their highly-rated IPAs. Instead, Fort Point is a blast of Citra and Columbus hops all wrapped up in a dry, clear (for Trillium standards), crisp 6.6% ABV elixir. It is distinctly APA despite its elevated alcohol content. It goes down smoothly, it’s super refreshing, and it represents a clear bridge between East Coast and West Coast styles.
Pseudo Sue is a showcase of Citra hops. Mango, orange, and passionfruit aromas and flavors dominate. A lingering, moderate bitterness holds it all together beautifully. Slightly hazy, the body is soft and delicate. Moderate alcohol (5.8% ABV) keeps Pseudo Sue drinkable and very refreshing.
Toppling Goliath is an epic brewery in Iowa – a state not known for its craft beer culture. This doesn’t stop them from producing a wide range of expertly crafted, modern American classics. Pseudo Sue is their flagship APA, and one of the best in the world.
Hill Farmstead has a rotating selection of single-hop pale ales, released sporadically throughout the year. If you come across any of them, of course, don’t hesitate to grab one. But consider yourself lucky to get your hands on a fresh can of Simcoe.
Simcoe is an honorable tribute to one of the hops that have defined many American craft breweries. It’s lemony, and resinous, with lots of that classic Simcoe pine. All wrapped up into a beer with balance and finesse that only Hill Farmstead can seem to pull off with such consistency.
One of the most beloved Belgian craft breweries, De Ranke, has been crafting their hoppy pale ale, XX Bitter, since 1996. Though the recipe has slightly evolved over the years, the heart has always remained the same: bitter, hoppy, and complex.
XX Bitter pours a golden yellow with big carbonation. The aroma has a saison-like expression, but bright, grassy hoppiness prevails. More of that farmhouse character comes through in the flavor and mouthfeel. Dry, rustic, and backed by a hay-like graininess that compliments the elevated bitterness.
Another pale ale in the New England/hazy style, Jutsu is massively tropical. Think pineapple, passionfruit, and mango with an underlying classic citrusy hop punch. It’s super hazy and the mouthfeel really matches the appearance. Silky, soft, and pillowy. Bitterness is restrained but Jutsu stays extremely drinkable with a punchy finish.
Bellwoods is one of the best breweries in Canada. Almost everything they brew is fantastic. With Jutsu, they approached a classic style with their distinctly modern brewing philosophy. At 5.6% and this hoppy, it really approaches IPA territory. Its incredible drinkability really works to keep it firmly an APA.
A straightforward, American-style British brewed pale ale. Maybe it’s not so straightforward after all… The Kernel is a small craft brewery based in London, England along with what’s known as the Bermondsey Beer Mile. They specialize in well-brewed, straightforward classic beer styles but with a contemporary mindset.
For their Pale Ale, they use a rotating selection of the freshest hops available. Drinkers get to experience a range of varieties from batch to batch. It always lies between 5-6% ABV and pours a cloudy golden yellow with orange hues. Bottle conditioning gives this beer a full mouthfeel, always balanced by a firm bitterness. Seek out whichever version you come across, but a favorite showcases citrusy, piney Centennial hops.