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A tasty pint of bitter.  

Pale Ales

Hops! The bitter and spice of beer. No style better showcases hops than Pale Ale. Brewers first crafted these bitter beers at the turn of the eighteenth century when advances in the malting process allowed the production of lighter colored pale malts. Bringing the toffee and biscuit character of these new malts together with the spicy, floral local hops, English brewers created the perfect session beers, the English Pale Ale or Bitter. To satisfy thirsty colonial troops, they concocted the stronger and even more bitter India Pale Ale. Inspired by these English originals, American brewers crafted clean brews that highlight citrusy American hop varieties and rich caramel malts, culminating in the quintessential expression of American craft brewing, the over-the-top hop monster Double IPA. Pale Ales are refreshing, palate pleasing beers that pair well with everything from steak to spicy Thai food.

Enough talk, let’s taste some beer.

  Southern Tier Gemini  
Southern Tier Brewing Company
Lakewood, NY
Style: Double IPA

Aroma: Amazing fruitiness dominates the nose with orange, grapefruit, and peaches. Very subtle caramel and toffee malt stay in the background with a light breadiness coming out as the beer warms. Light alcohol and woody notes. Complex.
Appearance: The creamy, slightly off-white head persists and leaves lace on the glass. Deep golden color, almost orange, with a slight haze. Legs.
Flavor: Sharply bitter and dry as a bone. Light malty sweetness and fruit greet the tongue but are quickly subsumed by a wave of resinous hop flavor and assertive bitterness. Undercurrents of orange, peach, and honey struggle to keep the hops from totally dominating. As the beer warms this malt profile continues to build, taking on the character of sweet, fruity liqueur. The finish is very dry, lingering on grapefruit rind hop flavor with a last bite of bitterness at the swallow. Alcohol is apparent and a bit boozy but not offensively so. Faint woody notes.
Mouthfeel: Medium-full body but not cloying. There is a slight astringency from the hops at the finish. Definite alcohol warmth but not hot. Medium carbonation.
Overall Impression: A most unique blend. A bit unbalanced for my taste. I would like more malt to support the hops and a bit less harshness in the bitterness. The balance did improve as the beer warmed. But still, this beer is very drinkable at 10.5% ABV. I enjoyed the bottle and would happily drink this again.

  Pliny the Elder  
Pliny the Elder
Russian River Brewing Co.
Santa Rosa, CA
Style: Double IPA

Aroma: Moderate piney citrus hop. Rich cracker-like bready malt with a touch of honey. Light fruits; oranges, peaches, and grapefruit rind. Whiff of alcohol.
Appearance: Deep golden/orange color with slight haze. Small, fine, white head that dissipates quickly. Copious Belgian lace on the glass. Legs.
Flavor: Bracing citrus hop greets the tongue and then settles into bready/cracker-like malt with big piney resinous hop character that seems to float on top. Bitterness is high but balanced very nicely by the malt. Not over the top. Malt is flavorful but not cloying. Nice undercurrents of orange zest. Noticeable alcohol. The finish is dry with lingering citrusy bitterness and cracker-like malt. 
Mouthfeel: Medium body but the bready malt gives an impression of chewiness. Dry with moderate to low carbonation,
Overall Impression: I’m not a huge fan of Double IPAs, but I could certainly drink a couple of these. Hops are the highlight, but they don’t overpower. This beer is finely balanced to let the bready malt play along. The well attenuated body and dry finish make this a very drinkable beer. Not heavy or cloying.

  Bluebird Bitter  
Bluebird Bitter
Coniston Brewing Company
Coniston, England
Style: Special/Best Bitter

Aroma: Light bready malt with hints of toffee. Low floral hop. Orange, peaches, and honey.
Appearance: Crystal clear, light copper, fine persistent white head.
Flavor: Nice balance of malt and hop. Malt is decidedly biscuit with notes of caramel. Mid palate is woody, spicy hop flavor with an assertive bright bitterness that bites the back of the tongue. Hint of orange intensifies as it warms. Finishes dry with lingering biscuit malt.
Mouthfeel: Light body. Carbonation combines with the hop bitterness to feel prickly in the mouth.
Overall Impression: A delightful session beer that offers an interesting interplay of English biscuit malt and spicy hops. Light and easy drinking, but offering an array of tastes and sensations from the start through mid-palate to the finish.  A delightful beer.

  Meantime IPA  
Meantime India Pale Ale
Meantime Brewing Company Limited
London, England
Style: English IPA

Aroma: Earthy, floral, and slightly citrusy hops dominate. Faint biscuit malt. Hint of alcohol.
Appearance: Copper, very slight haze probably from dry hopping. Tight, persistent off-white head.  Leaves lace on the glass.
Flavor: Big biscuit malt gives way to earthy, spicy, bitter hops mid-palate. Hints of licorice and orange mingled with toffee like candy. Slight mineral flavor. Long finish with malt sweetness slowly giving way to earthy spice and mineral.
Mouthfeel: Medium full body with medium to low carbonation. Slight alcohol warmth. Creamy and smooth.
Overall Impression: A very nice beer. But for the 7.5% ABV I could drink a few. Good balance of malt and hop with the spicy English hops providing a nice counterpoint to the toffee and biscuit malt. Nice subtle orange character. Would perhaps benefit from a dryer finish to allow the hops to take the spotlight at the end.

  Fuller's London Pride  
London Pride
Fuller, Smith & Turner P.L.C.
London, England
Style: Special/Best Bitter

Aroma: Light caramel and biscuit malt predominates with a very faint chrysanthemum-like floral hop aroma. Whiff of orange citrus fruit.
Appearance: Small white head that dissipated quickly into thin film of fine bubbles on surface. Light copper color. Quite clear.
Flavor: Toffee and caramel malt at the start that quickly gives way to an assertive hop bitterness and light floral hop flavor. Splashes of orangey citrus fruit throughout. Mid-palate hops fade back to malt at the end. Finishes quickly on sweet caramel malt with a hint lingering bitterness. Very well balanced beer.
Mouthfeel: Light body but caramel malt gives it a mouth filling quality, low carbonation,
Overall Impression: Balanced interplay of caramel malts, floral English hops, assertive bitterness, and delicate citrus fruit notes make this a nice easy drinking beer. Deceptively simple and satisfying.

  Trafalgar IPA  
Trafalgar India Pale Ale
Freeminer Brewery
Gloucestershire, UK
Style: English IPA

Aroma: Distinct Band-Aid aroma dominated at first. This may have been an old bottle. This dissipated as the beer warmed, giving way to a light caramel and biscuit malt with floral hop overtones. Slight citrusy fruit. Overall aroma was subdued.
Appearance: Fine off-white head that dissipated quickly leaving a film of fine bubbles. Beautiful golden/copper color and brilliantly clear.
Flavor: Light caramel malt sweetness with nice citrus lemon/lime fruit and hints of raisin. Lower than expected bitterness, but again I suspect this was an old bottle. Floral hop flavors were pronounced. Slight mineral character. Long lasting finish lingers on caramel malt.
Mouthfeel: Medium body with low carbonation.
Overall Impression: A delicate session IPA. More bitterness would be desirable. Nice balance of caramel malt, yeast derived fruit, and hop flavor. This example seemed a little lifeless, but I suspect a fresh bottle of this beer would be quite good.

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