Civil drinkers who enjoy a more pronounced hop note are celebrating the recent return of our American Pale Ale. This is truly one of the great American craft beer styles and one of the first. And as with all the beers we brew, it is balanced with a strong enough malt backbone to support its bright, citrus hop note.
From the beginning, we’ve been unapologetic about being a malt-driven brewery. Outside of water (of which St. Louis is blessed with some of the best in the nation) malted barley is the main ingredient in beer. Before hops were cultivated, beers were bittered with all manner of herbs and weeds. Malt is sweet and requires something bitter to balance it and keep the beer from coming off as cloying. Eventually hops began to be cultivated across Europe and used in brewing beers. These hops balanced the malt, helped preserve the beers, protecting them from spoilage, and provided some subtle flavor characteristics, often somewhat spicy and fruity.
As craft beer exploded across America, extremely hoppy IPAs became popular and are still one of the most dominant styles. These beers grew out of the early American craft beer movement, but many of them no longer achieved the balance that made the first craft pale ales so drinkable. Our American Pale Ale is an homage to the first great American craft beers.
Two of the most famous beers that helped launch the American craft beer revolution are Anchor Liberty Ale and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. These balanced American pale ales remain popular, but if you tasted them alongside a contemporary high-IBU hop bomb, you’d be hard pressed to discern any familial similarity at all. Some of these newer beers are tongue punishingly bitter without the balance great drinkable beers have. Those early craft pale ales were in the neighborhood of 40 IBUs. By comparison, one of the most popular West Coast IPAs today is 77 IBUs.
Our own take on the classic American Pale Ale is a modest 35 IBUs with 5% ABV. The base malt is split between American pale malt and Golden Promise, a delicious Scottish malt with honeyed cereal tones. It’s hopped straight through with good old cascade, once the dominant hop used by the older craft breweries. The final product is deep golden to light amber in color, with medium body, a slightly grainy cereal malt character, and citrus and faint grassiness combined with a refreshingly sharp finish.
As a whole, American craft breweries can be proud of all that we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve come a long way from the early days of our nation’s first craft breweries—and that’s very good—but let’s not forget our roots, brewing flavorful, balanced, drinkable beers.
~Dr. Patrick Hurley, Barman at the Civil Life Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.