Overview of The Styles of Pale Ale


Pale ale is a general term for beer that has a relatively lighter color than most of its contemporaries during the 18th century in England.  Different countries found ways to create their own versions of the pale ale.  Prior to the pale ale’s introduction, dark brown malts were traditionally brewed to produce porter-colored English beers, which have enjoyed major popularity at the time.  All of this changed in the early 1700s when a new style of brewing was introduced by use of pale malt, instead of the darker type.

Out of this new style of brewing, the resulting beverage was a light-colored drink that has distinct characteristics from the typical dark-colored beers produced during the time.  It was also deemed much cleaner and it eventually overtook the popularity of the English porters and many from all over the world began to prefer this style of brewing over the traditional way from then on.

Different variations of the pale ale naturally emerged and various countries and regions have produced their own versions of the pale ale.  Below are some of the most popular adaptations of the original English pale ale by different countries.

The American Pale Ale

American Pale Ale

The American pale ale can be considered as one of the youngest variations of this popular drink.  During the 1980s, American breweries experimented on pale ales based on their popular European counterparts.

The main differences of the European and the American pale ales are the types of hops and malts used in brewing.  In addition, the American pale ales used more hops than the English pale ales did.  They also have definite citrus and pine undertones that European pale ales are not known for.

The Belgian Pale Ale

Belgian Pale Ale

Two types of pale ales evolved when Belgian producers adopted the European pale ale style of brewing beer by using pilsner malt and infusing fruity Belgian yeasts to further develop the flavor.  These two types were referred to as the Blonde and the Belgian Golden ales.

Both types have high alcohol volume, are lighter in color and are particularly less bitter than other beer or pale ale counterparts.

The Bitter Ales

Bitter Pale ale

Bitter ales were made popular during World War I and they were further classified as “ordinary”, “special” and “extra special”.

The bitter ale, as the name implies, is distinctly bitter, has low alcohol content and these were known to be the consequences of using limited and often poor quality grains and raw materials for brewing during the time.

Despite the marked sharpness of the bitter ale, it had the light golden color that is characteristic to other types of ales that used brewed pale malt.

The India Pale Ale

India Pale ale


Another pale ale variation that came out of the European variant is the India pale ale.  This particular pale ale has high alcohol content and like its American counterpart, it was brewed with more hops than most traditional English pale ales were.  Interestingly, it was introduced in an Australian classified in the first half of 1800.

India pale ales were known to retain freshness despite being transported on long voyages.  Popular in colonial India, many people, particularly textile traders, preferred it over more expensive liquors during the time.

It is believed that the India pale ale manufacturing suffered major setbacks back in the day, but it regained its popularity when the American brewers found a method to implement the process of brewing on their own.