A Beginners Guide to Pale Ale Beer

Beer has many lovers and loyalists across the globe. A staple on almost every bar menu, you’ll most probably never find yourself in a restaurant or venue without at least a basic brew on offer. Beer appears in many styles and varieties, with its most well-known arguably being the infamous pale ale. Originating from England, pale ale appears light golden to amber in colour and is known for its malt characteristics.

Read on to understand the history of pale ale with this beginner’s guide from Prancing Pony.

What Is Pale Ale Beer?

Pale Ale is generally golden to amber in colour. It’s brewed by combining pale malt with ale yeast that reduces the disparity between dark stouts and light lagers. As a result, pale ale beers have a full flavour whilst not being too heavy. Even though the beer originated in England, years of experimentation have made the pale ale a cornerstone of the Australian craft beer scene as well.

What’s the Origin of Pale Ales?

Pale ales originated in England during the 18th century. Before the introduction of pale ales, the majority of English beers were dark (think Guinness) in colour. This was because brewers had little to no power over the roasting process. However, as malting technology improved, English brewers were able to experiment and began to brewing ales with varying intensities. Pale ales were a result of experimentation, and the style began to materialise into the 1800s.

The introduction of India Pale Ales (IPAs) brought widespread changes to the beer industry in Britain, with ales becoming higher in alcohol content and more flavoursome with the increase of hops. At this time, Pale ale was given the name “bitter”, to differentiate them from mild to heavier bodied ales. After WWI, the use of crystal malts in bitters become more widespread, further enhancing the pale ale style.

Lager-style beer increased in popularity in the mid-20th century and started to outsell ale in 1989. However, with the rise in microbreweries and demand for craft beer around the world, pale ales, particularly IPAs saw a resurgence in popularity. Pale ales continue to evolve, with breweries around the world specialising their own brews. The beauty of pale ale is how varied the beer can be, from complex flavours to those that are simpler, each brewer is able to add their own individual flair to it.

Pale ales are basically a perfect mix of everything that’s good about beer, and if you are a beginner and don’t know what to order at a bar, a pale ale is the best place to start. They generally have a moderate malt flavour and high hoppiness (dependent on the sub-style), which makes them flavoursome but more perhaps more palatable for beer beginners. Additionally, the higher levels of hops can produce more citrus notes and a more delicate flavour profile.

What are the different types of Pale Ale?

Pale ales can be brewed in many different styles and can vary in flavour from continent to continent, country to country, brewer to brewer. Hops, malts, brewing styles and more can affect the intensity levels of pale ales, making the taste and colour of each Pale ale brewed unique. This means there’s a pale ale for every kind of beer drinker, or any event.

You can alter pale ales in several ways, so it’s interesting to understand the alternatives served at your local pub. Here are the most recognised varieties of pale ale that are served at most local joints:

English Pale Ales

Also known as “extra special bitters”, English pale ales are notorious for their high level of bitterness and moderate to high malt flavours. English pale ales are generally more medium bodied, and often malt flavours are emphasised more than hops. Herbal, earthy and toasty flavours are the most common characteristics used to describe English pale ales.

American Pale Ales (APAs)

American pale ales are known for highlighting hops over malt flavours which differentiates themselves from the English pale ales. Citrus, resiny, fresh pine and caramel notes can be used to describe American pale ales, and they are known for their medium body.

Australian Pale Ales

Australian pale ales are considered to be closer to their American equivalents due to brewers typically relying more strongly on hops over malt. Australian pale ales are light to medium bodied. New strains of hops grown throughout the country has seen further experimentation with this style of ale and Australian pale ale can be characterised by its tropical fruit flavours and bitterness – thanks to Australian brewers’ heavy hand of hops.

Belgian Pale Ales

Belgian pale ales are often compared to British, as in these brews, it is preferred to profile malt flavours over hops. Despite this, Belgian pale ales are famous for using specialty hops that add distinguishable herb and spice characteristics. Belgian pale ales are generally light to medium in body, hop flavour, bitterness and malt, making them extremely easy to drink!

India Pale Ales (IPAs)

India pale ales (IPAs) are a hoppy style of beer that fall within the pale ale category. The rise in craft beer has seen a growth in IPAs, as experimentation with hops and flavours has seen new styles of IPAs born. IPAs can be characterised by their hoppiness, bitterness and utter deliciousness!

Summer / Session / Extra-Pale Ales

Session, summer and extra pale ales (XPA’s) have graced the craft beer seen in recent years after increased demand for beer that was lower in alcohol. This style of brew is generally lighter, fresh, and fruity. The lower alcohol content of session and summer ales mean they can be enjoyed over a longer period – coining the term “sessionable”.

American Amber Ales

Despite being amber in colour, American amber ales still fall under the pale ale category. High levels of roasted crystal malts give amber ales their delicious caramel flavour and richness in colour. Amber ales are fuller bodied, and notes of citrus and spice are utilised to balance the sweetness of the malt.

What Kind Of Glass Should Serve Pale Ales In?

There are different types of pint glasses you can use but the classic pint glass is among the most used to serve pale ales. However, at Prancing Pony, we also strongly encourage the use of steins to consume any and every beer – it’s in our blood, after all!

Ever since they were first brewed, pale ales have gained immense popularity, and they continue to rise as brewers endlessly craft and innovate their recipes. There are so many styles of pale ales that you can pair with meals, or simply enjoy them as they are. At Prancing Pony, we offer a varied range of pale ales. If you’re looking for a classic, well-rounded brew, opt for our Australian Pale Ale. If you want to try a more citrusy and hop forward pale, opt for the Hopwork Orange. If you’re looking for a lower alcohol, sessionable style, we recommend our XPA – which is still an exceptionally hoppy and fruity beer. For a darker ale style, we recommend the Cascadian Black IPA, which has a medium body and an ABV of 6%. Shop online and explore our range of Australian craft beer at Prancing Pony.



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