What is a Pale Ale?

Simon IrwinPhoto: Tamara MacKenzie / The Morning Bulletin
Simon IrwinPhoto: Tamara MacKenzie / The Morning Bulletin Tamara MacKenzie ROK020412tksimo

ONCE again, Hugh the Neighbour and I have had to spend our valuable tasting time talking about differences in styles of beer.

This time, the cause of our confusion is the finer points of what exactly constitutes a Pale Ale - or at least into which particular variety of Pale Ale does a certain beer fall.

On the shelves of your local beer wonderland there may well be American Pale Ales, Australian Pale Ales; India Pale Ales; Original Pale Ales and even a XXXX Gold Pale Ale to tempt the palate.

Now, variety is the spice of life so it would be truly churlish to complain about the plethora of brews that confront us. The only problem is there are no real rules as to what the type of Pale Ale on the label will actually taste like in the glass. This is not the case in most other fields of alcoholic endeavour.

Rum, well, tastes like rum - with some variation for different styles and geography; it does not however taste like scotch or gin.

So when I produced a six pack of Two Birds Golden Ale at our tasting last Sunday, both HTN and I were somewhat perplexed to discover it is described as in the style of an American Pale Ale.

Neither Hugh nor I felt that the beer had the whack of hops that I tend to associate with the American Pale Ale that are actually from America. This is not to say there is anything remotely wrong with the beer.

Two Birds have produced a wonderfully tasty beer that pours with a solid head and lovely golden colour in the glass. On the nose it delivers a tropical fruitiness over a modest background of hops, and in the mouth a genuine honey taste that is really refreshing.

HTN keeps the James Squire Golden Ale as his permanent fridge filler, and the Two Birds certainly didn't disappoint him - when he says it is every bit as drinkable as the Chancer it is high praise indeed.

And I would certainly recommend this as a beer worth giving a try on any day, but don't think you are going to get the full super-hopped, whack you in the mouth explosion that can be inside a bottle marked American Pale Ale.

As an old grazier told me about the cattle market many years ago - it is the glorious uncertainty that makes it all worthwhile.

Topics:  beer

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