Our American pale ale pays tribute to Anchor Brewing Company’s Liberty Ale, which reinvigorated the U.S. brewing industry in 1975, when only 117 breweries were in operation. Back then, it was a great beer to enjoy while listening to tracks from Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles. Today, while the music that inspires us is the same, FLOP is ushering in a while new generation of American pale ale.
Pilsner, South Carolina-grown malt from the farm at Palmetto Malt, oats and wheat grown in St. George, South Carolina.
Toasty, lightly honey-sweet malt notes with hints of cracker give this beer a clean bitterness and a bright floral and citrusy character. Fruity aromas grace the nose.
Pale ales were born from the development of a new fuel source called coke, whose first recorded use was in 1642. Still, it was more than a half century later – 1703, to be exact – before you find the first mention of “pale ale” in any history book. What’s the connection between coke and pales ales? Before the development of coke, malts were roasted over peat or wood fires, which created malts that were dark brown in color and had infused, smoky characters. These dark malts were perfect for making the common beers of the time, namely stouts and porters, but couldn’t produce the lighter-colored and lighter-flavored ales that are characteristic of today’s pale ales.
Coke changed all that. This new fuel, derived from coal instead of wood, burned much cleaner, generating more heat without the soot and smoke associated with wood fires. So popular were these lighter-colored beers that, by the mid-1700s, the term pale ale and the use of coke for roasting malt had become widespread throughout Europe.
Here at home, though, pale ales were met with limited acceptance through the 1800s and right up to – and following – Prohibition, which decimated the brewing industry. Prior to Prohibition, roughly 1,300 breweries were making beer in the U.S., of which only 100 or so survived. By the end of World War II, the number of breweries peaked to 468, before dwindling to 117 in 1975. (Today, there are more than 9,000 breweries in operation in the United States.)
Which takes us to 1975 San Francisco, where one of those 117 breweries left standing – Anchor Brewing Company – began the revival of pales ales by brewing its first batch of Liberty Ale. And with it, Anchor Brewing reinvigorated the art of dry hopping, simultaneously kicking off the American brewing revolution.
Anchor Brewing’s Liberty Ale was brewed following a traditional English recipe, but instead of standard European hops, they used what was then an unheralded west coast hop variety called Cascade. The result was nothing short of sensational, creating a frenzy among beer lovers from Seattle to Los Angeles. Six years later, Sierra Nevada released its American pale ale, which soon became the standard for all American pale ales to follow.
The differences between English pale ales and American pale ales are defined not only by the hops, but also by the malt, and this showcasing of native ingredients creates noticeable contrast between the two. English pale ales – also called or bitters – are nutty and more robust due to the use of British pale malt, while American malt gives American pale ales a softer and somewhat crisper feel.
What’s more, American pale ales are often slightly less balanced, showing a stronger hop profile, then their English brothers. The hop flavors are also different. The American hops running ever toward the citrus and pine resin profile they’ve become known for, while the English hops have that old-world character of floral earthiness. Even the yeasts contribute subtle difference, with American yeasts often being more neutral and less fruity than the English strains.
The toasty, bready malt backbone and aromatic hops of this beer pair deliciously well with tangy and subtly fruity cheddars, such as Leicester Cheddar. The malt complexity and bright hop aromas are also not only a perfect match for pizza (think spicy toppings and meat lovers), but also complement spices such as cumin, jalapeño, and cilantro, while cutting through rich avocado and sour cream.