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America's Bitterest Brews

America's Bitterest Brews

Back in the 1980's, Keystone Light commercials focused on a curious affliction: bitter-beer face. The faces of folks who sipped so-called "bitter beer" scrunched up like sideshow freaks. "Don't grab a bitter beer... grab a better beer!" the announcer exclaimed, as a swig of innocuous Keystone made their normal expressions bounce back.

But in this era of craft beer, drinkers are shunning simple brews like Keystone and Coors for coffee-seasoned stouts, burly Belgian ales and, most of all, bitter beers like the India Pale Ale, a.k.a., the IPA. According to lore, the IPA is so-called because eighteen- and nineteenth-century sailors alighted from England to India with pale ales fortified with with extra doses of hops — a climbing plant's fragrant flowering cones that act as preservatives and impart bitterness.

The "pale ale for India" eventually became the IPA. Now, the beer style has caught fire with American consumers craving bigger, bolder and ever more bitter beers. Brewers have responded by concocting potent imperial IPAs with IBUs — the international bitterness unit, a measurement of a beer's perceived bitterness — that crest triple digits. (Comparatively, Budweiser packs about 10 IBUs.)

One of the hot spots of the hoppy-beer movement is Southern California, where Escondido's Stone Brewing Co. deliciously pummels palates with its aptly named Ruination IPA. It offers 100-plus bold, bitter IBUs matched by a sturdy malt backbone. Still, this trend isn't confined to California. In Akron, Ohio, Hoppin' Frog Brewery makes the massive Mean Manalishi Double IPA, a caramel monster boasting a dizzying 168 IBUs.

Yet on the international stage, 168 IBUs is merely a stepping stone. Danish brewery Mikkeller offers the eye-popping 1000 IBU — a theoretical number, given that the bitterness doesn't sky that high. Despite the wishful thinking, this beer still "tasted like chewing on a hop field," wrote brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. "I personally loved it." Would you? Give these American-made IPAs a taste to see if you too subscribe to the "bitter is better" school of thought.

Click here for the America's Bitterest Brews Slideshow.


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


How to Brew American Pale Ale | Homebrew Challenge

American Pale Ale is closely related to the English Pale Ale. These two beers share the same history, with the American version becoming a separate style nearly forty years ago.

American pale ales are refreshing, pale in color, hoppy, yet with the right amount of malt to make the beer very balanced and extremely drinkable.

Background

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it.

A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration. The above recipe is not a bad starting point either.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt without the complexity of the NEIPA.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect, but to my palate it is really, really good:


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