American Pale Ales vs. English Bitters

Just like Pale Ales versus India Pale Ales, when I began learning about beer, these two styles confused me.  The simple answer to the difference is hops.

American Pale Ales have a bitterness level similar to that of English Bitters, except they are used with American hops, usually Cascade, which gives the beer a nice citrusy quality.  Most of the Pale Ales available in the United States sit anywhere between 4.5% and 6% ABV, allowing it to be enjoyed in many different situations.  It is a very refreshing beer to have on a hot summer day, and also goes very well with almost any food.  It tends to enhance the hotness of spicy foods, so it goes particularly well with hot wings or grilled foods.  The prototypical example of an American Pale Ale is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

English bitters tend to be a bit weaker (alcohol-wise) than the American counterparts, and use European hops, usually Kent Golding and Fuggles types, which give the beer a more earthy and slightly spicy hop character.  The bitterness tends to be the same level as the typical American Pale Ale, but this depends on if the beer is a Bitter, Best Bitter, or Extra Special Bitter (ESB). The difference among these styles is from Bitter to ESB, the beer tends to be stronger and have more hops.

A lot of times, the Bitter family of styles are the ones favored by CAMRA, a group that thinks ale should not be served with additional carbon dioxide, and instead should be served naturally, which tends to lead to a beer that’s slightly warmer (55 degree F, a.k.a. cellar temperature), and less fizzy (because it only uses natural carbonation).  This lends itself to allowing the true flavor of the ale to shine through.  An excellent example of an ESB would be Fuller’s ESB.

What’s your experience with American Pale Ales and Bitters?  What’s your favorite?

Samuel Adams Glasses For Sale at Retail Stores

Samuel Adams Glass Pack
Samuel Adams Glass Pack

If you remember when I wrote that the beer glass makes a difference, you may recall the mention that the Samuel Adams Boston Lager has a glass specifically designed to showcase the strengths of the beer.

As I was browsing the beer aisle, I noticed Samuel Adams is selling two-packs of the special glasses, and of course, I had to pick a set up along with a 12-pack of the lager.

As I stated before, it sure does make a difference!  Compared to your standard pint glass, the hop flavor isn’t overpowering, and the flavor really balances out.  Before this retail pack, you could only order them online, so kudos to Samuel Adams for making the glasses more available!

Have you tried the “perfect pint”?  What are your thoughts?

What Are Harvest Ales?

Freshly Picked Hops Go Into a Harvest Ale
Freshly Picked Hops Go Into a Harvest Ale

Sierra Nevada just released their Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale 2010, but what are harvest ales?

Simply put, when the hop cones are ready to be picked, normal procedure is to dry the hop so it has less than 10% moisture, and then the hops are stored in vacuum sealed or nitrogen-packed bags to prevent oxygen from getting to them.  With a harvest ale, the fresh hops are picked off the vine, and then added to the boiling wort right away without drying them, so instead of ounces there are pounds because of the extra water weight.  With a harvest ale, you still get the standard flavor you would expect from the hops, but you also get an overwhelming “grassy” hop flavor, because the hops were newly picked live plants.  Talk about fresh!

Most times, the harvest ales are done in the fall, when it is harvest time in the northern hemisphere, but Sierra Nevada has agreements with hop farmers in New Zealand that allows them to have the freshly picked hops delivered to them within 12 hours, and they are placed right into the brew pot.

If you like pale ales, be sure to try one of the harvest ales because I’m sure you’d like it.  If you’ve had a harvest ale, how did you think it compared to your normal pale ale or IPA?

Canned Beer Doesn’t Need To Be Bad

Fat Tire in a Can
Fat Tire in a Can

With Memorial Day signifying the start of summer, it’s about time to think about putting away the bottles and bringing out the cans for a nice relaxing boat trip. But instead of the traditional macro-brewed cans on the boat, why not try something a bit more delicious?

Some of your favorites happen to be in non-breakable aluminum, and just so happen to be a bit more “green”. Oskar Blues, the brewery made famous for canning all of their massive brews (Dales Pale Ale and Old Chub are some great examples) outline the benefits of why they use cans on their website:

Unlike beer cans of the past, today’s aluminum can and its lid are lined with a water-based coating.  Beer and metal never touch and there is no exchange of flavor.Aluminum can keeps beer fresher for longer by fully eliminating the damages of light and ingressed oxygen.

Lightweight cans enable Oskar Blues to reduce its fuel costs and carbon footprint for shipped beer by 35%.

Highly portable, unbreakable cans enable craft beer lovers to easily enjoy great beer in places where glass bottles are not welcome or allowed: the beach, pool, boat, trail, river, slope, tub, golf course, backpack and others.

Cans are the most easily and frequently recycled beverage package in the world.

A recycled aluminum can generates 95% less pollution than one made from scratch and requires 96% less energy.

One recycled can saves the energy equivalent of 6 ounces of gas or the electricity to power a guitar amplifier for two hours.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had a chance to try Dales Pale Ale, and as soon as you cracked open the can, you got a big whiff of citrus.  That’s a great pale ale.  Some of my other favorites include New Belgium‘s Fat Tire, Leinenkugel‘s Summer Shandy, Shiner Bock, and even Boulevard‘s Unfiltered Wheat can be found in aluminum bottles.

So, when you can’t have glass bottles, go for one of your favorite craft brews in a can!

What’s your favorite canned beer?  Do know of any other craft brewers canning their beer?