Although pale ale is a staple of the craft beer industry and likely the style responsible for growing the industry in the US from 80 breweries to over 1700, pale ale is many times underrated and under-appreciated, even by yours truly. In my quest to find great session beers (to balance against the super high gravity beers), I decided to get some friends together to have a blind tasting of pale ale. The results of this party culminated in both this story as well as an article I wrote on Menuism.com about American Pale Ale.
I asked each person who came over to bring a six pack of pale ale. The options ended up with were Full Sail Pale Ale, Grand Teton Sweetgrass, Drakes 1500, Deschutes Mirror Pond, Deschutes Red Chair NW Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Something Something, and a control beer, Alaska Summer Ale.
After a quick meal of cajun-style meatloaf, I poured, in secret, two to three beers per person in three separate rounds. Each plastic cup had the name of a person plus A, B, and C to be used for the ratings. During each round we leisurely tasted, discussed the beer, recorded a rating between 1 and 10 for each beer, socialized, and snacked on cheese, crackers, and fruit. It was a great time and it gave us an opportunity to try several versions of the same style of beer.
The pale ales we tried were across the spectrum from hoppy and bitter, like Sweetgrass, to a more malt-forward beer like Mirror Pond or Full Sail, to hoppy yet malt-balanced beer like Red Chair NWPA. Based on the ratings, the clear favorite of the group was Full Sail Pale Ale. You might think, that based on this outcome, another malty beer might be the runner up but instead it was the balanced and somewhat hoppy Red Chair NWPA. The complete results are listed below. The maximum number of points possible was 10 times 6 people: 60.
- Full Sail Pale Ale – 46
- Red Chair NWPA – 43.63
- Grand Teton Sweetgrass – 42.57
- Drakes 1500 – 42
- Deschutes Mirror Pond – 41.3
- Mission St. Pale Ale – 41.18
- Alaska Summer Ale – 38.5
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – 34.2
The tasting party was quite educational and increased my appreciation of this style of beer. Special thanks to Liz, Jason, Eden, Brian, Andrew, Michael, and Basma for making this party a success.