Pale Ale Blind Tasting Party

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 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.

  1. Full Sail Pale Ale – 46
  2. Red Chair NWPA – 43.63
  3. Grand Teton Sweetgrass – 42.57
  4. Drakes 1500 – 42
  5. Deschutes Mirror Pond – 41.3
  6. Mission St. Pale Ale – 41.18
  7. Alaska Summer Ale – 38.5
  8. 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.

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About David Jensen

David is a craft beer and photography enthusiast.
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13 Responses to Pale Ale Blind Tasting Party

  1. Pingback: All About American Pale Ale | The Menuism Blog

  2. Rob says:

    That is an excellent idea and one I will likely steal. Pale Ales are one of my favorite styles as well, and though I have only tried two of those on your list, I am surprised Full Sail was the winner. Blind tastings are definitely the way to go–get rid of bias.

    Do you think that plastic cups in any way influenced the outcome? Just curious. I don’t really like beer from plastic personally.

  3. David Jensen says:

    I don’t think the plastic cups affected the outcome. I used the short clear ones. From my understanding this is exactly what beer judges use so if it is good enough for them, it’s good enough for me and friends.

    Generally, I do prefer glass but I don’t have 18 – 24 small glasses that are all exactly the same. What I think is most important is that all of the drinking receptacles are the same and that you can have 2-3 of them at the same time so you can compare and contrast.

  4. Rav says:

    Awesome idea. I did something similar in college, but with different styles of beer. I surprised Sierra Nevada Pale Ale got the lowest score. Maybe the bitterness feel was a turn off to some tasters?

  5. Tristan says:

    If you recorded ratings of 1-10 from each of 6 people and then simply added them together, how did you end up with scores like 41.18?

  6. David Jensen says:

    Somebody in the group thought it would be fun to give ratings like 6.18. I didn’t specify whole numbers. Next time I will. 🙂

  7. Jim says:

    Any party that kicks off with Cajun style meatloaf and ends with various pale ales is a party that I want to be part of!

  8. john summers says:

    Could you publish or send me a copy of the recipe for the Cajun meatloaf. That ought to be interesting:)

  9. Eric says:

    I should probably do that more often. I for some reason have a bias against sierra nevada. But then again it did rate last on that list. I am a little sad that mirror pond didn’t do better. I love that stuff. Have it all the time. Guess i will have to try those top ones and see how that compare.

  10. David Jensen says:

    Here is the recipe for Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Style Meatloaf:

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