What’s an American Pale Ale?
The most popular style of American beer until 2011, when the IPA dethroned it.
Written by Evan Malachosky
Image by Kinsley Stocum
Pale, as lackluster a word as it may seem, describes a cornerstone of American drinking. Before the American IPA became the most popular style in 2011, the American pale ale (APA) was king. But the pale denomination is still a go-to order for those just wadding into the craft beer scene, those who are sitting down to dinner and don’t want to overpower their meal, or those who just want something easy drinking at the end of a long day.
The APA was adapted from the English pale ale, becoming lighter, cleaner and less malty in the process. Expect the color to be pale gold to light amber, the nose to be hoppy but restrained and for the mouthfeel to be medium and very drinkable. And with the explosion of popularity in IPAs, many pale ales have wandered closer to an IPA classification than in years past, with dry hopping become more commonplace.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which battles Dale’s Pale Ale at the top of the pale ale sales charts, began it all in 1981 when it introduced Cascade hops to the developing American palette after a year of experimentation. Other popular iterations of the style to look out for: Founders Pale Ale, Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale, and Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale.