6. Pale Ale Guidelines

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Ringwood, Melbourne
6.1 Cream Ale [BJCP]

Aroma: Faint malt notes. A sweet, corn-like aroma and low levels of DMS are commonly found. Hop aroma low
to none. Any variety of hops may be used, but neither hops nor malt dominate. Faint esters may be present in some
examples, but are not required. No diacetyl.

Appearance: Pale straw to moderate gold colour, although usually on the pale side. Low to medium head with medium to high carbonation. Head retention may be no better than fair due to adjunct use. Brilliant, sparkling clarity.

Flavour: Low to medium-low hop bitterness. Low to moderate maltiness and sweetness, varying with gravity and attenuation. Usually well attenuated. Neither malt nor hops prevail in the taste. A low to moderate corny flavour from corn adjuncts is commonly found, as is some DMS. Finish can vary from somewhat dry to faintly sweet from the corn, malt, and sugar. Faint fruity esters are optional. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Generally light and crisp, although body can reach medium. Smooth mouthfeel with medium to high attenuation; higher attenuation levels can lend a “thirst quenching” finish. High carbonation. Higher gravity examples may exhibit a slight alcohol warmth.

Overall Impression: A clean, well-attenuated, flavourful beer.

History: An ale version of the American lager style. Produced by ale brewers to compete with lager brewers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. Originally known as sparkling or present use ales, lager strains were (and sometimes still are) used by some brewers, but were not historically mixed with ale strains. Many examples are kräusened to achieve carbonation. Cold conditioning isn’t traditional, although modern brewers sometimes use it.

Comments: Classic American (i.e. pre-prohibition) Cream Ales were slightly stronger, hoppier (including some dry hopping) and more bitter (25-30+ IBUs). These versions should be entered in the Specialty Beer category. Most commercial examples are in the 1050-1053 OG range and bitterness rarely rises above 20 IBUs.

Ingredients: American ingredients most commonly used. A grain bill of six-row malt, or a combination of six-row and North American two-row, is common. Adjuncts can include up to 20% flaked maize in the mash, and up to 20% glucose or other sugars in the boil. Soft water preferred. Any variety of hops can be used for bittering and finishing.

Vital Statistics:
1042-1055 1006-1012 15-20 2.5-5 4.5-5.6%

Commercial Examples: Genesee Cream Ale, Little Kings Cream Ale (Hudepohl), Sleeman Cream Ale, New Glarus Spotted Cow Farmhouse Ale, Wisconsin Brewing Whitetail Cream Ale

6.2 Blonde Ale [BJCP]

Aroma: Light to moderate sweet malty aroma. Low to moderate fruitiness is optional, but acceptable. May have a low to medium hop aroma, and can reflect almost any hop variety. No diacetyl.

Appearance: Light yellow to deep gold in colour. Clear to brilliant. Low to medium white head with fair to good retention.

Flavour: Initial soft malty sweetness, but optionally some light character malt flavour (e.g., bread, toast, biscuit, wheat) can also be present. Caramel flavours typically absent. Low to medium esters optional, but are commonly found in many examples. Light to moderate hop flavour (any variety), but shouldn’t be overly aggressive. Low to medium bitterness, but the balance is normally towards the malt. Finishes medium-dry to somewhat sweet. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Medium to high carbonation. Smooth without harsh bitterness or astringency.

Overall Impression: Easy-drinking, approachable, malt-oriented beer.

History: Currently produced by many (American) microbreweries and brewpubs. Regional variations exist (many West Coast brewpub examples are more assertive, like pale ales) but in most areas this beer is designed as the entry-level craft beer.

Comments: In addition to the more common American Blond Ale, this category can also include modern English Summer Ales, American Kölsch-style beers, and less assertive American and English pale ales.

Ingredients: Generally all malt, but can include up to 25% wheat malt and some sugar adjuncts. Any hop variety can be used. Clean American, lightly fruity English, or Kölsch yeast. May also be made with lager yeast, or coldconditioned. Some versions may have honey, spices and/or fruit added, although if any of these ingredients are stronger than a background flavour they should be entered in specialty, spiced or fruit beer categories instead. Extract versions should only use the lightest malt extracts and avoid kettle caramelization.

Vital Statistics:
1038-1054 1008-1013 15-28 3-6 3.8-5.5%

Commercial Examples: Redhook Blonde, Widmer Blonde Ale, Fuller’s Summer Ale, Hollywood Blonde,

6.3 Kölsch [BJCP]

Aroma: Very low to no Pils malt aroma. A pleasant, subtle fruit aroma from fermentation (apple, cherry or pear) is acceptable, but not always present. A low noble hop aroma is optional but not out of place (it is present only in a small minority of authentic versions). Some yeasts may give a slight winy or sulfury character (this characteristic is also optional, but not a fault).

Appearance: Very pale gold to light gold. Authentic versions are filtered to a brilliant clarity. Has a delicate white head that may not persist.

Flavour: Soft, rounded palate comprising of a delicate flavour balance between soft yet attenuated malt, an almost imperceptible fruity sweetness from fermentation, and a medium-low to medium bitterness with a delicate dryness and slight pucker in the finish (but no harsh aftertaste). The noble hop flavour is variable, and can range from low to moderately high; most are medium-low to medium. One or two examples (Dom being the most prominent) are noticeably malty-sweet up front. Some versions can have a slightly minerally or sulfury water or yeast character that accentuates the dryness and flavour balance. Some versions may have a slight wheat taste, although this is quite rare. Otherwise very clean with no diacetyl or fusels.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and crisp. Medium-light body, although a few versions may be medium. Medium to medium high carbonation. Generally well attenuated.

Overall Impression: A clean, crisp, delicately balanced beer usually with very subtle fruit flavours and aromas. Subdued maltiness throughout leads to a pleasantly refreshing tang in the finish. To the untrained taster easily mistaken for a light lager, a somewhat subtle pilsener, or perhaps a blonde ale.

History: Kölsch is an appellation protected by the Kölsch Konvention, and is restricted to the 20 or so breweries in and around Cologne (Köln). The Konvention simply defines the beer as a “light, highly attenuated, hopaccentuated, clear top-fermenting Vollbier.”

Comments: Served in a tall, narrow 200ml glass called a “Stange.” Each Köln brewery produces a beer of different character, and each interprets the Konvention slightly differently. Allow for a range of variation within the style when judging. Note that drier versions may seem hoppier or more bitter than the IBU specifications might suggest. Due to its delicate flavour profile, Kölsch tends to have a relatively short shelf-life; older examples can show some oxidation defects. Some Köln breweries (e.g., Dom, Hellers) are now producing young, unfiltered versions known as Wiess (which should not be entered in this category).

Ingredients: German noble hops (Hallertau, Tettnang, Spalt or Hersbrucker). German pils or pale malt.
Attenuative, clean ale yeast. Up to 20% wheat may be used, but this is quite rare in authentic versions. Water can vary from extremely soft to moderately hard. Traditionally uses a step mash program, although good results can be obtained using a single rest at 65°C. Fermented at cool ale temperatures (15-18°C) and lagered for at least a month, although many Cologne brewers ferment at 21°C) and lager for no more than two weeks.

Vital Statistics:
1044-1050 1007-1011 20-30 3.5-5 4.4-5.2%

Commercial Examples: Available in Cologne only: PJ Früh, Hellers, Malzmühle, Paeffgen, Sion, Peters, Dom; import versions available in parts of North America: Reissdorf, Gaffel; Non-German versions: Goose Island Summertime, Harpoon Summer Beer, Capitol City Capitol Kölsch

6.4 Belgian Pale Ale [BJCP]

Aroma: Prominent aroma of malt with moderate fruity character and low hop aroma. Toasty, biscuity malt aroma. May have an orange- or pear-like fruitiness though not as fruity/citrusy as many other Belgian ales. Distinctive floral or spicy, low to moderate strength hop character optionally blended with background level peppery, spicy phenols. No diacetyl.

Appearance: Amber to copper in colour. Clarity is very good. Creamy, rocky, white head often fades more quickly than other Belgian beers.

Flavour: Fruity and lightly to moderately spicy with a soft, smooth malt and relatively light hop character and low to very low phenols. May have an orange- or pear-like fruitiness, though not as fruity/citrusy as many other Belgian ales. Has an initial soft, malty sweetness with a toasty, biscuity, nutty malt flavour. The hop flavour is low to none. The hop bitterness is medium to low, and is optionally complemented by low amounts of peppery phenols. There is a moderately dry to moderately sweet finish, with hops becoming more pronounced in those with a drier finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-light body. Alcohol level is restrained, and any warming character should be low if present. No hot alcohol or solventy character. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: A fruity, moderately malty, somewhat spicy, easy-drinking, copper-coloured ale.

History: Produced by breweries with roots as far back as the mid-1700s, the most well-known examples were perfected after the Second World War with some influence from Britain, including hops and yeast strains.

Comments: Most commonly found in the Flemish provinces of Antwerp and Brabant. Considered “everyday” beers (Category I). Compared to their higher alcohol Category S cousins, they are Belgian “session beers” for ease of drinking. Nothing should be too pronounced or dominant; balance is the key.

Ingredients: Pilsner or pale ale malt contributes the bulk of the grist with (cara) Vienna and Munich malts adding colour, body and complexity. Sugar is not commonly used as high gravity is not desired. Noble hops, Styrian Goldings, East Kent Goldings or Fuggles are commonly used. Yeasts prone to moderate production of phenols are often used but fermentation temperatures should be kept moderate to limit this character.

Vital Statistics:
1048-1054 1010-1014 20-30 8-14 4.8-5.5%

Commercial Examples: De Koninck, Speciale Palm, Dobble Palm, Ginder Ale, Op-Ale, Brewer’s Art House Pale
Ale, Ommegang Rare Vos (unusual in its 6.5% ABV strength)

6.5 Australian Pale Ale
Aroma: Fruity yeast-derived aromas most prominent, with light, sweet pale malt underneath. Hop aroma low to none. No diacetyl.

Appearance: Best examples will display good clarity, gold to amber colour, with a persistent snow white head supported by brisk carbonation from bottle conditioning.

Flavour: Medium to high fruitiness, often pear-like. Supported by light, bready pale malt flavour. Caramel malt flavours out of style. Banana ester from high fermentation temperature may be noticed, but should not dominate. A mild but distinctive peppery, herbaceous flavour from Pride of Ringwood hops is desirable. Medium to high bitterness - may be higher in historical versions, but not crude or harsh. Long dry finish from extremely high attenuation, with a balanced fruity aftertaste.

Body & Mouthfeel: Light to medium-light body - any impression of palate fullness from residual dextrins should be penalized. Clean, crisp mouthfeel may be enhanced by spritzy carbonation.

Overall Impression: A lively, fruity Pale Ale with surprising lightness of body, solid bitterness, and a refreshing dry finish well suited to a hot climate. Can be thought of as a “light” Burton IPA without the dry-hopping. Relies on yeast character to compensate for diminished late hop expression - bland examples lacking fruitiness should be considered out of style.

Comments: Historical style defined by Coopers ales as the last surviving examples: “Coopers ales, all heavily sedimented and very fruity, are Australian classics” – Michael Jackson.

Note: Colonial brewers strived for pale beer clarity to match imports - entries will be poured quietly without rousing sediment.

History: Basic version of Burton pale ale produced throughout the early colonies, as British settlers established the first Australian breweries in the mid-19th century. Developed to compete with expensive Burton imports – Bass, Allsopp, Ind Coope IPA, using Burton yeast strains of the day, with domestic barley and hops and available native water. Inferior colonial malt often led to inclusion of sugar. Bottled for local sale, not dry-hopped and aged for export, Australian pale ales were prevalent by late century, with 350 breweries operating by 1890. Commonly relabeled Sparkling Ale (UK term coined for present-use domestic pale ale). Superceded by Bitter Ale after introduction of crystal malt during early 20th century. Ale brewing grew obsolete as industry consolidation spawned a lager-based duopoly - by 1985 only family owned Coopers brewery remained independent. Established 1862 in Adelaide SA, successive generations preserved Coopers flagship Sparkling Ale using traditional brewing methods,
including open fermentation and maturation in oak casks. Removal to modern plant in 2001 improved clarity while maintaining original formulation: all-malt, Burton yeast, Australian hops, absent late hopping, bottle conditioning. First released on draught 1985, naturally conditioned in keg. A lighter version, brewed periodically since 1880’s, was re-launched in 1989. Also world’s largest homebrew supplier, Coopers pioneered kit-beer products soon after legalization in 1973.

Indgredients: Lightly kilned Australian 2-row pale malt, lager varieties typical. Judicious use of crystal malt for colour adjustment. Small proportion of wheat may assist head retention. No adjuncts, cane sugar for priming only. Australian hops, esp. Pride of Ringwood (absent late hopping). Highly attenuative Burton style yeast, eg. Coopers, Worthingtons. Multiple strains common historically (none available commercially, must be cultured from bottle sediment) Variable water profile - low carbonate, moderate sulphate preferred.

Vital Statistics:
1.035-1.050 1.004-1.006 25-40 4-7 4.2–6%
Commercial Examples: Coopers Sparkling Ale (5.8% ABV), Coopers Original Pale Ale (4.5% ABV)

6.6 English Pale Ale
Aroma: Distinctive nutty, biscuity or toasty malt aroma from English pale malt. Prominent but refined hop aroma, which should be floral or fruity from UK varieties. Aggressive citrus hop aroma from modern US varieties out of style. Medium to high fruitiness, often pear. No diacetyl. No DMS.

Appearance: Deep gold to pale coppery orange. Bright clarity from extended bottle maturation. Medium to high carbonation should support a fluffy white head, with very good to excellent head retention.

Flavour: Signature English pale malt flavour, often described as nutty, biscuity, or light toffee. Caramel/crystal malt flavours absent. Medium to high fruitiness. Medium to high hop flavour from UK varieties should be very clean and refined - any harshness from excessive late or dry hopping should be penalized. Medium-high to high bitterness. May have a dry finish from sulphate water, but not essential. Bitterness may linger, but malt flavour should also persist in the aftertaste. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium to medium body, from moderately high attenuation.

Overall Impression: A very refreshing, full-flavoured pale beer of average strength - hoppy and fruity, featuring English pale malt character. Represents the full evolution of the Burton IPA style as a lower gravity, more refined beer, with reduced bitterness and dryness, in line with modern tastes.

Comments: Unlike draught Bitter, EPA is a bottled product with the benefit of a period of conditioning.

History: Directly descended from Burton IPA, and was originally the same beer, sold in England. Continued to be brewed, at progressively lower gravity and bitterness, after the extinction of IPA at the turn of the 20th century. Burton IPA was conceived in 1822 specifically for the export trade, but tremendous domestic demand was reportedly sparked in 1827, when a cargo of Bass IPA bound for India was shipwrecked in the Irish Sea, salvaged, and auctioned off in Liverpool. The immediate popularity of this novel pale beer generated a Pale Ale revolution in England. Burton Pale Ale became the world’s first mass produced pale beer, and Burton brewers soon outgrew even the great Porter brewers of London. Pale Ale was a premium quality bottled beer, favoured by the more affluent and rapidly growing middle class, spawned by the Industrial Revolution in England. Its mass appeal was further enhanced by the increasingly widespread use of glass drinking vessels, thanks to the removal of a heavy tax on glass in 1840. Domestic consumption vastly outstripped exports, and as the India trade fell into decline in the late 19th century, the word “India” was dropped for the home market. During the 20th century, advances in brewing science and technology, including water chemistry, isolation of yeast strains, refrigeration, and a shift from dryhopping to late kettle additions, all led to increasing refinement of the style, and more widespread brewing of Pale Ale throughout England. During this period, Bitter emerged as a darker, draught version of Pale Ale, featuring crystal malt. Today the term “Pale Ale” has lost much of its former cachet - examples of the style are commonly labeled IPA or various proprietary names.

Ingredients: Well-modified English floor-malted pale ale malt (eg. Maris Otter, Halcyon, Golden Promise),
suitable for single temperature infusion mashing. Classic or modern UK hop varieties. Fruity English yeast strains.
Sulphate or chloride water, free of carbonate.

Vital Statistics:
1040-1055 1008-1013 30-45 10-15 4.0-5.5%

Commercial Examples: St. Austell Tribute (4.2% ABV), Timothy Taylor Landlord (4.1% ABV), Caledonian
Deuchars IPA (4.4% ABV), Greene King Export Strength IPA (5.0% ABV), Hall and Woodhouse Tanglefoot
(5.0% ABV), Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA (5.3% ABV), Hall and Woodhouse Fursty Ferret (4.4% ABV),
Wychwood Wychcraft (4.5% ABV)
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