Imagine I had two beers sitting in front of me. One has a light golden color to it. The other has a dark gold color as you look through the glass. If you had to choose which of those two beers was going to be the “Pale Ale,” which one would you likely select? When most people look at those two beers, especially if they are new to the craft beer scene, many would choose the first one – the beer with the light golden color to it as the pale ale. But you would have made the wrong choice as that is the description for many pilsner beers, while the beer with the darker gold is the Dale’s Pale Ale brewed by Oskar Blues Brewery brewed here in Boulder County, Colorado.
With a brewery in Colorado, a second one in North Carolina and a third opening in 2016 in Austin, Texas, Oskar Blues is a brewery with a brand that is increasing in recognition around the country, making it one of the reasons why I chose the Dale’s Pale Ale for the second article in our “from brand to style” series. The second reason why I thought this would be a good second step for a new craft beer drinker is because of the Pale Ale’s more famous cousin, the India Pale Ale or the IPA.
Outside of areas with a very strong craft beer presence, the IPA is something that I see a lot of people associating with beers distinct from the mass-market lagers. IPAs though have a tendency, at least that I’ve found, to polarize many beer drinkers as some people seek out that strong, hoppy bitterness that characterize IPAs, and others wince at the strong hop flavor. Pale ales are a great choice for new craft beer drinkers because they often have stronger malt flavors, which balance out the hops you get in an IPA, so it doesn’t have that same bitterness that might cause you to hesitate, if that isn’t your thing.
Let’s break down and build a better understanding of this beer. The Dales Pale Ale is an American Pale Ale, which shouldn’t be confused with an English Style Pale Ale and is named after the founder of Oskar Blues, Dale Katechis. Starting with the way the beer looks, when you pour this beer or have it delivered to your table, the first thing that you’ll notice about it is that it is darker than you might expect it to be. Despite the word “Pale” being in the name, it really has a copper color to it, which you could also classify as being in the pale to medium amber color category. It will be mostly clear and the sudsy off-white head on the beer will stick around for a while after it was poured, leaving a thin layer that lingers on top of the beer, but you’ll also see the lace that is left behind on the glass, an indicator of a well made beer.
When you move from the beer’s appearance to its aroma, I immediately pick up on a pretty citrusy smell. As I go back for a second pass, I also pick up on a bit of pine as well. Moving forward, as we start to use the way this beer looks and the way it smells all build up to the way it will taste, you can finally put it up to your lips. One of the first things that you are going to notice about this beer is that it is hoppier than you might expect a Pale Ale to be, but its not overly hoppy either. What I mean by this is that it is not too bitter and that it has been balanced out by the sweetness of the pale malts used in the brewing process. As I take a sip, I also pick up on a citrus-like taste, which is mostly lemon. This beer has a pretty dry finish to it, so it has a bit of that fizz you would expect from a well-carbonated beer.
Overall, the Dale’s Pale Ale is a beer that I definitely enjoy and as I mentioned, it is one that you can find in a lot of places around the country. While this is a pale ale, it is heavily hopped and it is right on the line between pales and IPA so it is something you are going to want to consider. If you are a home brewer and making an American Pale Ale, in order to get this effect you are going to be adding some hops right at the end of the boil, possibly at flameout and might be doing some dry-hopping as well. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it. Even though they advertise that it is a voluminously hopped Pale Ale, my test for how hoppy a beer is, is usually to give Lisa a sip and she how she responds. She isn’t a fan of IPAs and really prefers the sweetness and maltiness of other ales and porters and stouts, but as she took a sip, it was one that she turned around and said that she could drink more of.
So if you are looking to push your tastes, consider having an American Pale Ale, which will really drive home that hoppy flavor without going so far as having an IPA. If you are looking for something similar – try a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – which according to many is credited with inventing the style and you’ll notice that the Sierra isn’t nearly as hoppy, but can be a good point of comparison for other Pale Ales as well.
As people who are always looking to support our local breweries, we should also point out what Oskar Blues does to support the community as well. In the wake of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Oscar Blues sent more than 50,000 cans of water to the city and the Genesse County food bank from their North Carolina location, which is very generous and very impressive.