Editor’s Note: Knowledge is power and Friday is BEER day, so here again is Ant with a beer review so you can have a powerful and intoxicating Friday!
Firestone Pale 31
By Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)
One of the most award-winning American style pale ales in the country. This is the American beer style that started a revolution in taste. We’ve taken the classic British pale ale and elevated it with a wonderful dose of northwest American hops. A crisp floral hop aroma precedes a medium-bodied clean finishing ale.
The American Pale Ale is an American adaption of the English Pale Ale (also known as a Bitter), but reflects indigenous ingredients (hops, malt, yeast, water). Also, it is often lighter in color, cleaner in fermentation by-products, and contains less caramel flavors than in the English counterparts. There is some overlap in this style and the American Amber Ale but for the most part, the former is cleaner, has less caramel malt profile, less body, and more finishing hops. Furthermore, I realized that there is a new trend in some American Pale Ales and that is to be more lighter in malt character such as lower caramel and toasty flavors and higher in bready/biscuit characteristics. Sometimes, these beers are termed as Extra Pale Ales due to less Crystal malts (imparts caramel flavors) and thus, hop flavors get the spotlight on flavor and aroma. Although no sub-category for American Pale Ale exists, I would call this Firestone Pale 31 an Extra Pale Ale.
The printing on this beer says that it was born on 2/26/09. I appreciate it when breweries label the date when their beer was bottled so I know how fresh the bottle I’m purchasing is or in case I want to age the beer, I can see how old it gets. Unfortunately, most breweries that do this are the big companies since they can afford to not make that sale from the customer that refuses to buy because of its old date. Having a printed date can also be beneficial in case there needs to be a recall on certain batches maybe due to contamination or broken glass, etc. Three months is still decently fresh for this beer although sooner than that is ideal. As I have mentioned before, non-bottle conditioned, lower alcohol or highly hopped beers are more prone to oxidation (off-flavors as a result of age). Firestone Pale 31 would fall in this category.
This Pale Ale pours a dark golden yellow with slight chill haze. It has a creamy white head with fine bubbles with excellent retention. The aroma smells of American varietal hops that exhibit citrus and grapefruit characteristics. The malt aroma is soft, biscuity, and sweet with hints of honey, peaches, and some slight mango (although this could be also due to the blend of the hops and malt). Pale 31 definitely pushes its high hops flavors in this beer but with enough malt balance not to be overwhelming. Despite its strong and complex hop flavors, this beer has medium-high hop bitterness that isn’t astringent or overwhelming. The malt character is bready and lightly toasty and has a restrained caramel flavor. The fruity esters are moderately low and like the aroma are reminiscent of peaches and mango. Pale 31 finishes medium dry with enough residual sweetness from the malt to make the aftertaste quite pleasant. However, the lingering bitterness is a little grassy probably due to dry-hopping but isn’t excessive enough to detract. This Pale Ale is medium-light bodied with a moderately high level of carbonation with a soft carbonic sting in the mouth. Hop astringency, often a fault in Pale Ales since they are highly hopped, is not perceived at all. This is by far, one of the most enjoyable American Pale Ale I’ve had yet. Pale 31 is a light, refreshing Pale Ale yet with complex hop flavors and soft malt characteristics that makes it a winner in my book.
Category 10A: American Pale Ale