Arriving At Another Beer Starting Point: Pale Ales

In starting the “Ale of the Week” column, I have fallen in love with simple ales. When I say “simple,” I mean malt-forward beers of just water, malt, hops, and yeast.

After drinking Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Conway’s Irish Ale in March, I was hooked.  The luscious sweetness of the red ale reminded me of the basic joy of drinking Guinness or Smitchwicks, allowing one to eat while drinking a beer that wouldn’t cross-contaminate with other flavors.

Bell’s Amber Ale is another terrific food-pairing ale, and this week I’m trying Southern Tier Brewing Company’s 2xOne Single Varietal Ale. They all remind me of why I love beer: even and especially if it’s masterfully straightforward, it can still be delicious and remarkable.

Westerners have such a bountiful selection to pick from around the world that we sometimes forget that simplicity is a vehicle for pleasure. Sometimes, it’s the simplest of luxuries that are the most memorable.

This isn’t to say that we should reject complicated beers such as barley wines or imperial IPAs. All beer drinkers should educate their palettes as they pursue their favorites.

Rather, beer provides so many choices that we forget the fundamentals. In rediscovering the roots, I can now appreciate every style of beer from wheats to sours.

At this point in my beer journey, I am intentionally building a base of knowledge. When I discovered the magical elixir in college, I stumbled into the world as clumsily as any boy who doesn’t know his own tolerance. As a young man, I developed those tastes, just to arrive at another starting point: that of basic pale ales.

This journey parallels all the others in life, as tastes mature with relationships and geographical settings. We all share these paths together, which link us to the Mesopotamians and Egyptians who stumbled into pots full of barley thousands of years ago.

What’s your favorite pale/amber/brown ale?

3 thoughts on “Arriving At Another Beer Starting Point: Pale Ales

  1. Scott C. Wilmot

    Patrick: I ran across your blog reading the Beer Spectator ( at The American Spectator. Thanks for the tip on the Conway’s Irish Ale. I grew up in Ohio and remember going the GLBC a long time ago. I currently reside In Jakarta Indonesia and our Saturday night ritual after mass is to go to Murphy’s Irish Pub where I drink Kilkenny and my wife drinks Guinness. There aren’t many local brews in Indonesia but there is a German who brews in Bali – my favorite of his is the Storm Pale Ale (my favorites are Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and my Conroe TX hometown Pine Belt Pale Ale). The Storm isn’t great, but the taste improves when you’re drinking it at a gorgeous restaurant on the side of a volcano or overlooking a Bali beach. I’ve enjoyed your blog. Thanks.

    1. Patrick Ryan Post author


      Thanks for commenting! Sierra Nevada is definitely my favorite Top 10 craft brewery.

      Guinness and Kilkenny’s are great to remind you of the West. Are there any cool local liquors or wines? I realize Indonesia is a Muslim nation, but I don’t know much about its culture.

      1. Scott C. Wilmot

        Patrick – there are local liquors, but they are basically the kind that can blind you – just pretty cheap stuff made from sugar cane or fruits. I’ll stick to the Storm Pale Ale.

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