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Search for Everyday-Drinking Pale Ales

In super-beers, my tastes tend to run to monster IPA's, imperials, doubles, etc. But the drawback is these can run 8 - 9 - 10% ABV or higher. One bottle of them and you're tipping, two is like 4 of anything else... so is there a great "everyday" IPA out there with lower ABV?

Criteria for tonite's blind tasting: ABV <7%, Ratebeer > 90. Candidates are:
Deschutes Red Chair (6.2% ABV)
Stone Go-To (4.5%)
Boulevard Pop-Up (4.3%)
Deschutes Fresh Squeezed (6.4%)
Nectar Ales Nectar IPA (6.7%)
Lagunitas IPA (6.2%)

All beers were tasted blind: I knew the 6 identities ahead of time, but not which was in which glass... Actual tasting notes follow:

FLIGHT ONE
1: Pleasant up-front flavor, hint of citrusy sweetness...
2: Skunky up-front taste. Out at first sip.
3: Effervescent texture (overly so), light on flavor. Ineffectual.
4: Interesting. A bit drier than #1 at first, but seems well made... still sort of singular mild bitterness, doesn't evolve.
5: Nice, mild carmelly initial flavor, opens to mildly bitter hoppy bouquet
6: Similar comments to #45: well made, non-complex, mildly on the bitter side.

FLIGHT TWO:
Beers 1, 4, 5, and 6 move on to next flight of tasting

1: Mildly luscious up front... some lip-smacking flavor evolution
4: Juyst sharply bitter vs. #1. This wouldn't be a steady go-to IPA for my palate
5: Nice citrusy up-front flavor. Pleasant relief from the singularity of #4
6: Now this is dry, but not as much so as 4

FINAL FLIGHT
Beers 1, 5, and 6 move to the final round of this taste-off

1: I could definitely go-to with this... complex, nothing not to like, some hint of sweetness amongst the bitters.
5: Nothing not to like, but 1 just is overall more interesting
6: Seems sort of nice but bland.

A final sip of #1 seals it.

RESULTS: 1 is the ONLY one of these 6 beers that meets with my palate for an everyday "non-imperial" pale ale with great flavor.

DRUMROLL to reveal the winner, I honestly have no idea which beer this is.... Deschutes Fresh Squeezed!! I note that in prior random tastings this beer has also fared well. It's just excellent and the only one of these 6 that will move on in this "everyday" competition.

Revealing identities of the other beers: 2 (Lagunitas IPA), 3 (Deschutes Red chair), 4 ( Stone go-to), 5 (Nectar IPA), 6 (Boulevard Pop-up). Interesting to note that hands-down the driest beer of this bunch was the Stone. Sorry but I just don't crave the Stone PA style.. it's singular to a fault IMO.

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  1. Thanks for the notes, I haven't tried any of those, but I also enjoy a good pale ale that won't overly intoxicate me.

    May I also suggest
    Alesmith X, an incredibly crisp, hoppy, light colored pale ale.
    Good old Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, often overlooked due to its ubiquity but still one of my favorites.
    Ballast Point Even Keel, not sure if it is widely distributed but quite low in alcohol, refreshing and tasty.
    Stone Levitation, more amber than pale but refreshing, citrus fruit flavors.

    1. "But the drawback is these can run 8 - 9 - 10% ABV or higher."

      I'm not sure how the word "drawback" fits in this sentence.

      Anyway, I'll second the SNPA rec (5.6%).

      3 Replies
      1. re: TVHilton

        It's a drawback for everyday drinking.... SNPA for example is 5.6% ABV. Avery Maharaja is 10.4%.

        So if I just want to have "a couple beers", having a couple 12oz pours of maharaja is like nearly 4 SNPA's... that's a drawback if I'm not interested in getting smashed that evening.

        1. re: TombstoneShadow

          Well, I was being semi-facetious. But for me, an 8% beer is for everyday drinking (I just don't drink a lot of them). Different tastes.

          1. re: TVHilton

            Definitely understood.... I like the stronger beers too, and in general the more opulent IPAs are definitely ABV >7... just looking for some lower-alcohol options.

      2. Not sure if you can get this in your area but Founders All Day IPA is pretty damned tasty. There are a number of east coast ones coming out too like Carton Boat Beer and Evil Twin Hipster that are quite good.

        It is nice to have something lower in alcohol to choose from that brings good flavor

        10 Replies
        1. re: MVNYC

          Session IPAs are rapidly becoming standard issue from craft breweries. Stone has theirs, Lagunitas, ....

          I'm seeing at least one session saison (Victory). That looks like a fun variation on the session ale.

          1. re: Jim Dorsch

            I liked the taste of Stone's but, I thought that the mouth feel was thin.

            1. re: JAB

              I feel the same way about Lagunitas Day Time IPA. It seems so thin and a little "diety" even if it does have a hop bite. I would just assume drink a decent pilsner if I want hops without a heavy hit of alcohol.

              1. re: Insidious Rex

                I am sure many people worship the "Diety" of Lagunitas Day Time.

                1. re: Tripeler

                  ha ha... DIETY not DEITY! What? You mean theres no adjective for "diet like"?? Well I just created one then. And anyway the Deity of Lagunitas Day Time sounds like something straight out of Cthulhu. Although I say its high time we had a Cthulhu beer! Just not a Cthulhu diet beer.

              2. re: Jim Dorsch

                This is a trend that makes me pretty happy. Now if only some local breweries by me would start making tasty British style ESBs and other sessionable cask ales.

                1. re: MVNYC

                  I recently had a phenomenal one from a new SF brewery named Cellarmaker called "Crush a Bale". 4.5% session pale with an unreal hop bouquet. It was like Pliny Light or something.

              3. re: MVNYC

                I haven't tried the Evin Twin one yet, but I like the other two as well. And I agree, the lower ABV full flavored/ aroma beers are an encouraging trend.....BTW, I checked out Dirck the Norseman other day. One visit was decently positive but I'm going to require more sampling of the brews. Cool space. Once I get some more experience under my belt will post on the OB board.

              4. Here's a 2nd Blind Tasting of 6 "Everyday, Highly-Rated" Pale Ales.

                At the outset, note that I rejected a couple beers (forget which ones) with nice ratings that were even 7.1%. If they were anything over 7.0%, I didn't include them. The beers for this blind tasting were:

                Bear Republic Rcer 5
                Evil Twin Falco
                Goose Island IPA
                Oskar's Dales Pale Ale
                Stone IPA
                Summit SAGA IPA

                Actual tasting notes follow:

                FIRST FLIGHT
                1: Initial "flattish" or blandish impression. Not bad, just doesn't pop.
                2: Nicer, brihter... some citrus... fades to quite dry finish... almost puckery
                3: Okay... kind of a "dry slurpy" brew
                4: Not bad... almost a clovey-german wheat flavor... kind of interesting
                5: Pleasant, a bit insipid... turns dry. [just now I remember a British girlfriend in Bombay who used the word "insipid" alot :)]
                6: Anoter bland/dry brew...

                The above is why I prefer big imperial IPAs... let's try this again [actually wrote that]

                FLIGHT TWO:
                1: Okay, but nothing jumps out
                2: Mild skunkiness...
                3: A little more interesting... fiar up-front flavor & some complexity. Definitely prefer 3 over 2 due to 2's dry fade...

                1 and 3 are best of 1st three, but don't love either really
                4: Okay... kind of a relief...
                5: Singular dryness to semi-puckery... definitely prefer 4.
                6: Fair... do I really like this? 2nd sip... elicits a groan...
                Re-sipping 4 ... 4 is absolutely the best of the 2nd group of 3.

                FINAL FLIGHT:
                4 vs. 3: 4 for sure
                4 vs. 1: this is closer, maybe let's leave it here... 4 by a nose over 1.

                REVEALING the "winners"... DRUMROLL....

                4 is... Bear Republic Racer 5
                1 is... Stone IPA

                Interesting result, because in several blind tastings in past years, Racer 5 has come out pretty well for my palate... not making it quite to the top of the imperial mountain, but getting to the quarter and semi-finals in some cases...

                Revealing the others: Racer 5 (4), SAGA (3), GI-IPA( 2), Dales (5), Falco (6), Stone (1).

                .... to be continued....

                4 Replies
                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                  Well, if you going to let something in that is bang on 7.0%, it should be Bell's Two Hearted. I personally would not normally even have more than one of these, but man is it delicious. I am looking for something great that is <=6.0% myself.

                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                    Racer 5 is one of my default brews--very good stuff.

                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                      Saga is now my daily drinker. Great IPA and $10.99/12 pack in my area.

                    2. Third Blind Tasting:
                      Beers are:
                      Boulevard Single-Wide
                      Odell Runoff IPA
                      Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye (I know it's a rye, but still labeled a "PA")
                      Deschutes Inversion
                      Deschutes Mirror Pond

                      Of the above, 3 beers moved on to the final flight ).

                      Final flight notes:
                      Beer 1: Okay, just non-distinct, nothing special
                      Beer 3: A bigger flavor than #1
                      Beer 5: Most complex... but not loving it. I think I liked the flavor of 3 better... Re-sipping 3 confirms it.

                      Winner: Beer #3.... Odell Runoff IPA. (FWIW, 1 was Mirror Pond, 3 Inversion).