The Beer: Pale 31
The Brewery: Firestone Walker
The Stats: 4.9% ABV, 39 IBU
The Story: Firestone Walker brews their beers in Paso Robles, Calif., under the leadership of talented brewmaster Matthew Brynildson. The brewery likes to incorporate California themes from time to time, and Pale 31 is a perfect example. California was the 31st state admitted to the union. The beer's logo has an image of the State of California on it, and the label proclaims this to be a "California pale ale."
The Style: According to the Brewer's Association, pale ales are the second most popular style of craft beer, trailing only IPAs. Pale ales originated in the UK in the late 1700s and were made famous by the Bass Brewery of Burton-upon-Trent, England. Sierra Nevada then "Americanized" the style in 1980 when they released their hoppier version of the pale ale featuring Cascade hops, which became the signature hop for the American version of style.
Aromatics: Though Pale 31 is made year round, this brew smells like summertime in a glass. Lightly toasted and grainy malt sweetness supports pleasant floral citrus hops. The hopping is certainly present but subtle, and by no means overpowering. Interestingly, this beer is dry hopped with three popular American hop varieties (Cascade, Chinook and Centennial) which usually provide an aggressive citrus punch. In this brew, however, the aromatics provide floral and spicy notes compared to the traditional citrus blast that these types of hops typically yield.
Appearance: Pale 31 is brilliantly clear, light gold in color, with a foam stand of small white bubbles that don't persist all that long. Though this pale ale is clearly an ale, the brilliant clarity could confuse a consumer into believing they're enjoying a lager beer, as lagers are typically known for their clarity.
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Flavor: Refreshing, clean and light, the flavors are an even balance of floral hops and lightly toasted malt sweetness. These flavors quickly dissipate into a crisp, dry finish where some of the hop flavors linger, but none of the malt. The malt base is very light, and there's no perceptible alcohol presence, so the beer finishes very clean, and very quickly. It is highly attenuated, meaning that all the sugars from the malt are fermented out, not leaving behind any lingering sweetness. This makes the beer very refreshing, although it compromises the body of the beer to some degree.
Mouthfeel: Light bodied in the style of an American Lager, Pale 31 offers neither alcohol warmth nor astringency. This beer is very clean and without flaws of any kind. The carbonation level is considered "medium-high" lending a nice carbonic bite to the beer which provides a crisp finish.
Overall: Pale 31 is a super light, refreshing ale that's certainly hop forward, but not overpowering. It'd be a great, drinkable beer to enjoy when the weather gets hot, though anyone looking for a more full-bodied beer might want to opt for another one of Firestone Walker's specialties, Union Jack IPA.
For more information check out the Firestone Walker website. We recently sampled this brew on tap at The Hungry Monk in Chandler, but Pale 31 is available all over the Phoenix area, especially at craft beer stores.