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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Pale Ale for summer

Pale Ale

OK, this is the first in a series of articles on summer foods.

For people who don't drink anything more than piss Coors Light, let's start with the basics, beer is food. It isn't soda, or liquor, but food. Which means it, like wine, comes in a bewildering array of varieties, some more suitable for different foods and seasons than others. It's a bit much to chug down Guinness in a New York summer.

Pale Ale is an amber or light brown colored beer. The most popular version is Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale, which is sold on tap and in bottles in many bars.

Now, I have no problem with a cold Bud, but once you try to eat anything with it, it kind of loses its limited flavor.

Personally, I tend to like Porter over both Stout and Pale Ale, but in the summer, Porter is a bit much. And there are other summer beers like Weisse , but for most people, a Pale Ale is going to be the easiest to buy and enjoy.

One thing, most beers beyond the pale lagers of Bud and Miller, tend to taste slightly heavier on the palate than they do. A good beer should be savored like any good liquid, from lemonade to single-malt scotch.

Crisp, Complex and Refreshing
Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
Published: June 29, 2005

ON a hot summer night, a beer need only be cold and wet to satisfy. But consider if the standard were set a little higher. Imagine a beer that offered more than the internal equivalent of holding a cold, glistening bottle against a flushed and sweaty forehead. What if that beer did not merely satisfy, but inspired?

That leap from satisfaction to inspiration spans the gulf between the proverbial six-pack of suds in the American refrigerator and a good American pale ale. With the suds, you quench a thirst. It's a quick and specific act, the way an animal laps from a water hole. But with a pale ale, you can discover a host of aromas and flavors - more complex than a lager's - that can fascinate as well as quench. The physical sensation in each swallow is not simply of cold and wet. It's paradoxically dry and bitter and brisk and refreshing. It stimulates the palate rather than numbing it.

Two of the earliest and most successful of these craft brewers were the Anchor Brewing Company and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.

Both Anchor's Liberty Ale and Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale were American versions of English pale ale, a pure, mineral-y style with a dry, cleansing bitterness that is very refreshing. The English ales tend to be subtle, earthy and understated, reflecting the characters of the hops, that mysterious ingredient derived from the cones of flowering plants related to the nettle. Hops play no role in the fermentation, which is the province of water, grain and yeast. Instead, the hops, which are added at varying times in the brewing process, infuse the beer with bitterness and aromatics. There are innumerable varieties of hops, each with different qualities to contribute.

In a sampling of 24 American pale ales, the Dining section's tasting panel found an unexpectedly wide range of styles. Some were relatively sedate in the British manner, though the aromatics were American. Others showed the American tendency to want to make things bigger, louder, faster and more extreme: souped-up pale ales. Yet they stopped short of crossing over into another style, that of India pale ale, characterized by alcohol levels beyond the 4.5 to 6.5 percent of these ales and by even more pronounced hop bitterness.

posted by Steve @ 4:06:00 PM

4:06:00 PM

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