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Craft Beer Experts Pick The Most Underrated Pale Ales On The Market

If you’re looking for a slightly-bitter-yet-malt-forward, crisp, easy-drinking beer for the spring and summer months instead of the usual overly bitter IPAs, maybe try grabbing a pale ale instead. Known for its medium alcohol strength and liberal use of hops and pale malts, pale ales make a whole lot of sense for warm weather drinking. And this being craft beer — an enormous ecosystem — there are a ton of pale ale options available.

Matt Simpson, head brewer at Tennessee Brew Works in Nashville, thinks the whole dang style deserves more respect.

“Fewer breweries brew pales every year,” he notes, adding that he finds much to love in the style. “They’re more malt-forward than an IPA, hopped lighter than IPA, but still hop-forward.”

To celebrate the pale ale, we tapped a panel of craft beer experts and asked them to list the most underrated pale ales on the scene. Keep scrolling to see some household names that don’t get the credit they deserve, along with a handful of under-the-radar beers (and one European pale ale) that these pros say deserve more acclaim.

Odell Drumroll

Odell Drumroll
Odell

Mike Haakenstad, brewing operations manager at Sycamore Brewing in Charlotte, North Carolina

ABV: 5.3%
Average Price: $9.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

The type of pale ale I enjoy is one with a nice balance of piney and citrus notes. One that is balanced and not overly hopped or sweet and a solid ABV around 5%, so I can have a few. This choice for me is Drumroll by Odell Brewing Company. Super solid APA that drinks like a dream — go get some!

Cigar City Invasion

Cigar City Invasion
Cigar City

David Ringler, director of happiness at Cedar Springs Brewing Company in Grand Rapids. Michigan

ABV: 5%
Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Invasion from Cigar City is a favorite. I really appreciate the balance of malt and perceived bitterness of those beers versus some American IPAs that can be sometimes unbalanced in favor of IBU or bitterness without enough body.

Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale

Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
Oskar Blues

Josh Lancaster, brewer at Seven Sounds Brewing Company in Elizabeth City, North Carolina

ABV: 6.5%
Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale is a classic pale ale that maybe doesn’t get as much attention as it used to after the haze craze took over the country. More on the piney citrus side of the spectrum, Dale’s Pale Ale is widely available and always reliable.

Sometimes it’s nice to drink beer without overthinking it and Dale’s is perfect for that.

Tonewood Freshies

Tonewood Freshies
Tonewood

Sean Towers, owner and brewer at The Seed: A Living Beer Project in Atlantic City

ABV: 5%
Average Price: $11.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

I think one of the most underrated pale ales out there is Freshies from our friends right here in New Jersey over at Tonewood Brewing. While the line (and palate fatigue) between varying alcohol degrees separating hazy pale ales, IPAs, double IPAs, and others all driving such a tropical forward, low bitterness delivery can blur at times, I think it is refreshing to find such drinkable and return-worthy hop-forward beers that lean ever so slightly more towards nostalgic roots.

Freshies delivers a clean, crisp, drinker that perfectly showcases a wider array of hop character than the homogenous fruit salad punch that is so prevalent. Pretty little waves of bright citrus, layered floral character, and a touch more refreshing bitterness make Freshies such a delight to drink several of. To me, Freshies can tend to be underrated simply because of its humble demeanor. It is not trying to be the biggest and baddest pale ale out there. It is simply trying to be a pale ale that you will happily load an entire cooler with for a day out on the water.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada

Douglas Constantiner, founder and CEO of Societe Brewing in San Diego

ABV: 5.6%
Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It’s one of the most famous beers in the world and that still doesn’t do it justice. The fact that it is the exemplary, defining Pale Ale and one of, if not the most widely available, it’s amazing. Crisp, hoppy, flavorful, and highly memorable. Yet, still underrated.

Brasserie de la Senne Taras Boulba

Brasserie de la Senne Taras Boulba
Brasserie de la Senne

Douglas Hasker, head brewer at Puesto Cerveceria in San Diego

ABV: 4.5%
Average Price: $4.50 for a 12-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

Taras Boulba from Brasserie de la Senne – often drank out of context, this beautiful dry, and hoppy beer with a smattering of yeasty esters is the best Pale Ale you’ll drink this year – and it’s made by a Belgian brewery.

Switchback Extra Pale Ale

Switchback Extra Pale Ale
Switchback

Dan Lipke, head brewer at Clown Shoes Beer in Boston

ABV: 4.8%
Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Switchback Extra Pale Ale. This is a super-solid pale ale that wasn’t afraid to be different than the standard. Hazy before it was cool, plenty of malt character, spicy hops, and an entry yeast make this something special.

Carton The Hook

Carton The Hook
Carton

Alex Wenner, owner of Lasting Joy Brewery in Tivoli, New York

ABV: 5.5%
Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Carton Brewing’s The Hook never disappoints if I am in the mood for a pale ale. This very well balanced and a medium-bodied ale is assisted by some wheat in the malt bill. The hops are the right mix of classic Citra with the newer/cooler Vic Secret. Fruity, sweet, citrus hop character backed up by sweet cereal grain with hints of honey.

Kane Sneakbox

Kane Sneakbox
Kane

Frank Gervasi, certified Cicerone™ and general manager at Arizona Wilderness Brewing in Phoenix

ABV: 5.4%
Average Price: $13.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Kane Sneakbox. This is a new-world American pale ale that fits in more with the hazy IPAs than the old school Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Hopped exclusively with Citra, it’s lemony and bright, and the 5.4% ABV is approachable enough that you can have multiple glasses.

Otto’s Mt. Nittany Pale Ale

Otto’s Mt. Nittany Pale Ale
Otto

Nik Mebane, brewmaster at Wynwood Brewing in Miami

ABV: 4.5%
Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Mt. Nittany Pale Ale from Otto’s Pub and Brewery. This beer is amazing, a perfectly balanced pale ale. Crisp, hoppy, and refreshing. The brewmaster at Otto’s makes some of the best beers I have had but has no desire to enter awards competitions, but I have no doubt his beers would be winning awards if he did.

Cigar City Guayabera

Cigar City Guayabera
Cigar City

Marshall Hendrickson, co-founder and head of operations at Veza Sur Brewing in Miami

ABV: 5.5%
Average Price: $12.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Cigar City – Guayabera Citra Pale Ale. I feel like Pale Ales have lost a bit of popularity in recent years, but Guayabera has bucked the trend. It’s a great beer, well balanced with a citrusy hop flavor – perfect if you want a bit of hops without the full strength of an IPA.

Half Acre Daisy Cutter

Half Acre Daisy Cutter
Half Acre

Rob Day, director of marketing for Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers in Framingham, Massachusetts

ABV: 5.2%
Average Price: $9.99 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Half Acre Daisy Cutter is my pick for the most underrated pale ale. It has great balance and a bone-dry finish that keeps you sipping. It seems that any beer that is readily available these days like Daisy Cutter is underrated. If you haven’t had it before, the time is right to try it.

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