American Pale Ale


One of the first types of beer that originated specifically in United States was American Pale Ale. Modeled after British pale ales containing more hops, which had been produced since the 18th century, craft brewers in America started to experiment with and adopt this style in the 1970s and 80s. Also, they began using ingredients that were locally sourced.

In America, over two thousand breweries were operating, most of them brewing lager, at the pinnacle of pre-Prohibition beer production in 1887. After Bavarian bottom fermenting yeast began to be imported into the country, lager became the preferred style of beer. Often, John Wagner, a home brewer from Philadelphia, is given credit for launching this style.

Then, more lager beers began to be produced in the Midwest, pushed by the success of German-American brewers such as Eberhard Anheuser, Frederick Pabst, Joseph Schlitz and Frederick Miller. Even today, these names are synonymous with the big American beers. Until Prohibition was repealed in 1933, much of the beer in the United States was light beer.

Surprisingly, the number of breweries in the country went down in the fifty years after the end of Prohibition from a high of 704 to its low point of 89 brewers toward the end of the 1970s. This was because there had been a trend toward the consolidation and acquisition of breweries. The largest brewers, through this process, had been able to become dominant and greatly increase their profits during the time before Prohibition.

American pale ale

The head brewer at the New Albion Brewing Company, now defunct, in Sonoma County, California had begun to brew a new type of beer by the 1970s. It was a style that was very different from the light lagers that been the usual American beer. This New Albion Ale, which had been inspired by a Scottish beer, was very hoppy because it was made from a large amount of local California Cascade hops. This company eventually closed in 1982 because the beer was not popular enough for the company to survive.

But even though it didn’t survive, New Albions pale ale style inspired many fledgling microbreweries to create the same style. This opened the way for such American pale ales as Nevada Pale Ale and Anchor Steams Liberty Ale. These two ales were the beginning of the uniquely American take on what was then a two hundred year-old style in Europe.

Hops are the most characteristic feature of American pale ale. Most American hops are produced in the Pacific Northwest. They include such hops as Simcoe, Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo, which give the distinctive citrus and pine aroma to American pale ales. There is a tendency for American pale ales to use yeasts that are somewhat neutral, often allowing them to bottle-condition. These ales are usually more restrained, in terms of their maltiness and bitterness, when compared to such hoppier pale ale varieties as India pale ale. Usually, the alcohol content by volume of these ales is in the range of 4-6%.

The lines dividing American pale ale and the India pale ales have become fuzzier as the craft brewing industry in the United States has begun to create many more innovative beers. Demand for more energetically hopped beers has risen, allowing for styles of beer such as Double IPAs and Imperial IPAs.