There are some key characteristics that most pale ales share. They are generally brewed with paler malts using a top-fermenting yeast and at a slightly higher temperature than other types of beer. The finished beer does tend to be paler in color, though they can range from very light golden to darker amber. They are also clear ales with no yeast sediment.
Pale ales are typically very hoppy and have bold bitter flavors with floral aromas and undertones of malty sweetness (especially on the finish). These beers really perk up the taste buds and open your eyes! Some common flavor associations are grassy, floral, citrus, tangy, and mineral.
We find India pale ales (IPAs) to be especially bitter, which makes sense given the legend that this style became popular with East India Company traders because the hops kept the beer preserved over long sea voyages. On the other hand, double pale ales tend to be a bit mellower. They have hops added at both the beginning and end of brewing for more rounded flavors and aromas.
In both cooking and food pairing, we like the fresh flavor of pale ales with seafood and salads - as in our recipe for Linguine with Mussels and Dandelion Greens. We also think pale ales go well with spicy foods like Indian, Thai, and Mexican because of their cooling and palate-cleansing qualities!
Recently, we've really enjoyed Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale, Dale's Pale Ale, and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. What others would your recommend trying?
Related: Beer-Brined Chicken on the Grill