I trekked down to New York City to record two beer reviews with my friend Brett from http://youtube.com/PBCProductions Brett played "Captain S" in the web series of the same name (which was featured on http://www.screwattack.com for a while) and still makes original videos for his youtube channel and the series "Little Miss Gamer" for http://www.thatguywiththeglasses.com
Since Brett is from Buffalo I brought down a beer made in his neck of the woods - Southern Tier's "Pale" (even though it says "Pale Ale" on the label, head brewer Paul Cain told me at TAP NY that it's just called "Pale").
4AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Paul Cain, head brewer for Southern Tier, at the 2010 TAP New York Craft Beer & Food Festival who told me "Pale" is his current favorite beer of his own. I thought it was a little strange that a generic style like pale ale would be a brewer’s favorite. Pale is a beer that takes the American pale ale style and puts an entirely new spin on it. You get the fundamentals of the style, but they are amped-up with flavors usually reserved for the pale ale’s bigger brother, the IPA. In other words, it’s a beer with the taste of something bigger, but with the body of something smaller. Now that I’ve had a chance to try Pale for myself I can see why Paul might say that.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle into an English pint glass. Having poured three separate bottles into three different glasses I was quite shocked by the gigantic head produced by this beer. It’s something you might encounter from a German hefeweizen or any kind of Belgian bottle-conditioned beer.
Perhaps the beer is bottle-conditioned since it gives me the "lava lamp effect" of what appears to be unfiltered yeast swirling in the otherwise cloudy body. Once mixed, Pale has an appearance similar to an IPA with a bright orange color and a thick, frothy head. Not surprisingly, it leaves generous lacing on the glass and lasts beyond the last drop.
The aroma is along the lines of an India Pale Ale with a predominately citrus aroma. It’s not quite as strong as some West Coast IPAs I’ve tried, but it is very inviting like a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day.
My reaction upon taking my first swig of Pale was, "Are you sure this isn’t an IPA?" Much like the aroma, Pale has a noticeable citrus flavor which is both tart and sweet. As it crosses my palate I get a candy-like sweetness akin to Sweet Tarts or Sprees. It finishes with a strong hop bitterness which seems to intensify if only for a second before dissipating. The hops don’t seem to linger, although the candy sweetness does.
I think what separates Pale from a flat-out IPA is the fact the palette is a little muted, comparatively speaking. Southern Tier’s website claims it’s made with two types of malts and two types of hops, so it’s not quite as complex as an IPA. The citrus flavor combined with the sweetness makes Pale quite refreshing.
The only caveat to this beer is a slightly sour tang in the aftertaste. It’s only noticeable for a moment and seems to fade away as I drink. Still, it’s enough to prevent this beer from scoring an even higher grade.
I always encourage new drinkers to try the pale ale style since most beers of the type have everything a beer should be: hop bitterness and malty sweetness. However, in the case of Southern Tier Pale I’d say it’s more a beer for hopheads. The bitterness here is rather unrelenting, making for a peppery mouthfeel. It goes down smooth, but it’s not a beer you can slug down if you don’t have a taste for it.
At 6% ABV, it’s a little bigger in body than your average American pale ale. It would pair nicely with a meal, especially in a summer setting, but might be a bit too hefty for sessioning.
I always love trying beers that can put new spins on otherwise tired styles, and Southern Tier Pale is a great example of this. It’s rare a beer this robust can fall under the pale ale style, but because it’s so tasty and drinkable I’d say it might’ve just raised the bar for everyone else.