American Pale Ales and their British counterpoint, Golden Ale

American Pale Ale

AmericanPale-SierraNevadaWhen North American brewers make a Pale Ale, they use stronger hops and more of them than the British Ale brewers. That's the most obvious difference between the two styles. But there's more. Different malt, different yeast, different temperatures, different water, different attitude.

They aren't aiming at the same audience. In England, Scotland, and Wakes there are lots of lager drinkers (Carlsberg, Stella) but more than half of the pubs have 2 or more handpulls serving Pale Ale in cask conditioned form. Across the pond by far most drinkers wouldn't abandon their Budmillercoors for an ale of any kind. They are trying to interest the aficionado. The interested. The showoffs. The beer geek. The type of person who is reading this book right now.

To attract the fanatic, he (she) has to be distinctive. He has to offer something more than a bottled Bass or Old Speckled Hen from the supermarket. Distinctive means more alcohol and more bitterness. U.S. Northwest hops are available for just that purpose. They are spicy, citric, and even grapefruity. The earthy notes of Fuggles aren't called for. Sharp bitterness is. Brewpub brewers often push their Pale Ale into the IPA range (and their IPA into the Imperial IPA range).

Native Territory: Northwest US.

Color (SRM):  Medium gold through medium copper to medium amber. Absolutely clear. (5 - 14).

Head:  White. Can be thin.

Aromas:  Malt and hops. Can be sweet or dry.

Flavors:  Malt background and citrusy hops. Bready. Orange fruit. Grassy.

Finish:  Not overly long. Not astringent.

Mouthfeel:  Medium light.

Carbonation:  Medium to high CO2.

Alcohol:  Present but not noticeable. 4.5 - 6.0% ABV.

Bitterness (IBU):  Plenty of Northwest hops. Possibly dry-hopped for additional aroma, especially at a brewpub. (20 - 50 IBU).

Serving:  Pint or half-pint English straight-side glass or a pilsner glass. Serve cool to cold - 40°F.

Malts:  Pale Malt. Crystal Malt. Sometimes some Vienna Malt for color.

Hops:  Amarillo. Cascade. Centennial. Chinook. Columbus. Simcoe. Willamette. Sometimes also Noble hops such as Perle or Hallertau. The dwarf Summit hops are gaining popularity among US brewers.

Yeast:  American Ale Yeast.

Related Styles:

British Pale Ale - The grandfather of the style. Different, more earthy, hops. Darker color and flavors.

British Golden Ale - The American Pale Ale has been transferred back to England.

American IPA - Hoppier yet. Stronger alcohol. Hop dominates the malt.

Logo-BBCImperial IPA - Even hoppier yet. Stronger alcohol. Hop completely decimates the malt.

BobRoundEdge-BL's Pick: Bluegrass Brewing American Pale Ale - Louisville, KY brewpub - Ruddy red. Balanced citric bitter.

Rare Gems:Logo-ArcadiaAnglersLabel

Arcadia Angler's Ale (Battle Creek - Michigan, USA) - Cascade hops are strong but not overpowering. Smooth. Good neutral belch.

Jaipur Brewing Summit Gold Ale - Omaha, NE brewpub and Indian restaurant - Slightly cloudy dark yellow gold. Well balanced. Creamy. Belgian Lace.

The Library Red Eye Ale - Laramie, WY brewpub - Fine example. Not over-hopped but Cascade is there. Creamy.

Widely Available:


Left Hand Jackman's Pale Ale - Longmont, CO regional brewery - Crisp and not overly hopped. Spicy and floral.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - Chico, CA megabrewer - One of the originals and the epitome of the style. Plenty of hoppy goodness without being overpowering. Their Harvest Ale is similar but brewed once a year with very fresh hops.

Three Floyds Alpha King - Munster, IN regional brewery - A big, hoppy beer from a big, not-normal brewery.RoundEdge-BL[1]

Typical 5-gallon (US) recipe


9.5 lb Pale malt
1.1 lb Crystal 20L malt
.4 lb  malt
.2 lb Black Patent or Special B malt

Adjuncts, Fruit, Spices: None


1 oz Amarillo hops at start of boil
.5 oz Cascade hops for a 15 minute boil
.5 oz Cascade hops at end of boil

Yeast: American Ale yeast

Mash: Infusion

Boil time: 60 minutes

OG / FG: 1054 / 1012

British Golden  Ale

Logo-CrouchVale-BrewersGoldAlso called Summer Ale, this is a relatively new style similar to a British Bitter but using only simple 2-row pale malt. This gives the beer a light golden color and a less malty flavor. Higher levels of hopping (often using stronger hops) add to the crisp, bitter flavor.

The style was started in the late 1986 by the Somerset Brewery to appeal to younger, perhaps lager, drinkers. In twenty years it became so popular that Crouch Vale Brewers Gold was named the Champion Beer of Britain at both the 2005 and 2006 Great British Beer Festivals. This example is very similar to an American IPA and uses Cascade hops for an intense grapefruit bitterness.

It's thought that almost 15% of British Ales are now of the Golden Ale style.

Native Territory: Southern England.

Color (SRM):  Gold, Light copper, Light amber (4 - 8).

Head:  Same as a Pale Ale.

Aromas:  Malt. Hop bitterness. Bready biscuit.

Flavors:  Malt. Citric. Hop bitterness. Sometimes fruity undertones.

Finish:  Long bitter dryness.

Mouthfeel:  Light to medium. Little carbonation. Cooler than Pale Ales but still served warmer than American Blonde Ales.

Carbonation:  Should be quite low. Cask Conditioned forms use no carbon dioxide.

Alcohol:  3.6 - 5.5% ABV.

Bitterness (IBU):  Medium to heavy. (20 - 40 IBU).

Serving:  Pint or half-pint English straight-side glass or handled mug. Serve at 40°F or so - cooler than a Pale Ale - to suit the tastes of a drinker of lighter beers.

Malts:  Pale, Maris Otter. Sugar adjunct. Maybe a touch of wheat for head retention.

Hops:  Bramling Cross, Challenger, Fuggles. Often with US Cascade, Mt. Hood, Willamette. Sometimes Hallertau is used instead of U.K. hops.

Yeast:  British Ale Yeast.

Related Styles:  British Pale Ales uses some darker malts and with generally lower hopping rates.

Logo-ExmoorBob's Pick: Exmoor Gold - Taunton, Somerset, England regional brewery - Deep yellow. Fuggles and Goldings. Quite as bitter as a light-colored IPA. 4.5%

Logo-TripleFFFRare Gems:  Triple FFF Gilbert White - Alton, Hampshire, England microbrewery - Maris Otter and a touch of smoked malt giving a bit of unexpected smokiness. 6%

Widely Available:


Crouch Vale Brewers Gold - Chelmsford, Essex, England regional brewery - "Honey-toned golden ale with grapefruit sharpness offset by suggestions of melon and pineapple". CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain, 2005 and 2006. Simply an American IPA made with British malts and Cascade hops. 4%

Hopback Summer Lightning - Salisbury, England - Hoppy aroma and long bitter finish. 5%

Wye Valley Hereford Pale Ale (HPA) - Stoke Lacy, Herefordshire, England) - Target and Styrian Goldings. Fruity and citric hop softness. Nice sweet start. 4%

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