Pale Ales are one of the most well-known and perhaps diverse styles of beer available—diverse in the sense that there is a wide spectrum of manifestations. The color variance can be anywhere from straw to brown. Hoppiness varies widely whether you are assessing them by the strength of hop flavor and aroma, balance, or the hop varieties themselves. The malt components of Pale Ales are equally wide, with different combinations of roasted and specialty malts, alcohol percentages, and residual sugar content. Four Peaks Pitchfork Pale Ale is an example of a malt monster. I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the malt profile in this beer.
This Pale Ale comes in at 6.2% ABV and 30 IBU’s. It underwent a 90-minute boil which tends to concentrate the flavors as it allows for more evaporation time and increased caramelization. Most beers are boiled for around 60 minutes. The Hops utilized in this brew were Bravo, Centennial, Eureka, Mandarina, and Melon. The majority of the hops were added at the end of the brewing process in what they call “hop bursting” which, I believe, is a proprietary technique, although I have never heard of it before.
The color of this beer surprised me. I am not sure if this batch was just a bit darker than usual but it borders on Amber or Nut-Brown territory. It is the darkest colored Pale Ale I have ever tried.
The aroma was almost purely malt. In researching this beer, the brew-masters boast of the hop notes from the “hop bursting” process. However, I was getting no sense of any discernable hop characteristics. You could certainly tell that there was a general hop element to the aroma but nothing specific by way of specific hop aroma components. I detected aromas of caramel, brown sugar and burnt sugar as first impressions. Upon a second and third approach, I was beginning to detect more subtle malt components, including pipe tobacco and butterscotch. There was a moment where the aroma became faintly reminiscent of soy sauce. Malt totally dominated the aroma for me.
The hops manifested more strongly in the flavor. The main malt component I detected was, again, brown sugar as well as molasses. This was my first impression. As my palate became more familiar with the brew, it mellowed into an overall impression of honey for the malt aspect. The hop oils were very present, lending a medicinal, sharp characteristic. The mouthfeel was full and somewhat heavy. This is a very strong beer that could easily be mistaken for an IPA.
The finish stuck around for a while. I was struck by the strength of the finish. I had a rather full-bodied IPA earlier and was surprised that this beer had a more powerful finish than that. The finish was citrusy and at a certain point took on a pine flavor.
Overall, I really enjoyed this beer! There was a surprise at every stage of the drinking process. It certainly flirts with the style border between Pale Ale and India Pale Ale. This would be an excellent beer to drink with food. Anything that is rich and fatty would be a good match. I would not drink this with any light bodied fare. It would go particularly well with spicy foods, any sort of wild game, roast beef, steak, or lamb.
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