Gluten-Free Beer Styles: Pale Ales

Above: A frosty Pale Ale, courtesy of flickr user ruben i

In our last post about gluten-free beer styles, we talked about lagers and pilsners. Now we’re going to jump to the other side of the aisle and talk about ales, more specifically Pale Ales. Unlike lagers, ales use top-fermenting yeast and are fermented at higher temperatures, which takes about a third of the time as brewing a lager. Ales have fruity, hearty characteristics.

Ales have been brewed for thousands of years, much longer than lagers, which came about in the mid-nineteenth century. Though lagers are the most widely consumed style of beer on the market, ales are generally available in a wider variety of styles, ranging from mild amber ales to the dark stouts. Ales are generally divided into the overarching categories of Pale Ale, Belgian Ale, German Ale, and Stouts/Porters, with a few other smaller categories, such as Lambics.

We’ll talk more about these styles in a future post, but today we’re going to focus specifically on Pale Ales. Pale Ales are distinguished primarily by their predominant use of Pale Malt, or grains that have been dried at low temperatures and not roasted to preserve the brewing enzymes. This variety emerged in the mid-1800s, when coke (essentially baked coal) was used to roast the grains without smoke. Since then, the malt has stayed relatively similar, but the amount of hops has generally increased. Ales nowadays are generally more bitter, aromatic, and fruity.

Pale Ales come in a variety of styles, each with a unique brewing technique and brewing styles. These styles are roughly divided into:

  1. Strong Pale AlesStrong Pale Ales are brewed with an alcohol content above 5% and often around 7 or 8 percent, and up to 41% (I don’t know about you, but that’s whiskey to me)
  2. India Pale Ales: Noted for their bitterness, IPAs were originally developed to handle the long journey from England to India. The hops helped prevent spoilage, but now it just makes them taste great.
  3. English Bitter: Common in English pubs, Bitter beer is not as bitter as the name may suggest. It can range in color and flavor a golden-colored light ale to a darker amber ale.
  4. American Pale Ale: Created in the 1980s, the American Pale Ale significantly hopped, though not usually as bitter as IPAs, and brewed using American hops.

Brewers Offering Gluten-free Pale Ales

Here are the gluten-free pale ales currently on the market:

  1. Harvester: Harvester, a relatively new brewery on the scene, makes an two different pale ales, an IPA and a Pale Ale, using chestnuts, certified gluten-free oats, and other adjuncts.
  2. New Planet: As one of their three beer offerings, New Planet brews an Off Grid Pale Ale, using both sorghum and brown rice extract as well as several other adjuncts.

We’ll revisit this subject in a few weeks when we dive into the remaining styles of Ale. Let us know if you’d like to learn any more about other styles of beer by posting a comment below!