Pale ale is a beer made by warm fermentation using predominantly pale malt.
The higher proportion of pale malts results in a lighter color. The term “pale ale” first appeared around 1703 for beers made from malts dried with coke, which resulted in a lighter color than other beers popular at that time. Different brewing practices and hop levels have resulted in a range of taste and strength within the pale ale family. (Source)
Coke is a fuel with few impurities and a high carbon content, usually made from coal. It is the solid carbonaceous material derived from destructive distillation of low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. Cokes made from coal are grey, hard, and porous. While coke can be formed naturally, the commonly used form is man-made. The form known as petroleum coke, or pet coke, is derived from oil refinery coker units or other cracking processes. (Source)
Coke had been first used for dry roasting malt in 1642, but it wasn’t until around 1703 that the term “pale ale” was first applied to beers made from such malt. By 1784, advertisements appeared in the Calcutta Gazette for “light and excellent” pale ale. By 1830, the expressions “bitter” and “pale ale” were synonymous. Breweries would tend to designate beers as pale ale, though customers would commonly refer to the same beers as bitter. It is thought that customers used the term bitter to differentiate these pale ales from other less noticeably hopped beers such as porter and mild. By the mid to late 20th century, while brewers were still labeling bottled beers as pale ale, they had begun identifying cask beers as bitter, except those from Burton on Trent, which tend to be referred to both as pale ales. (Source)
BELGIAN PALE ALE
Prominent aroma of malt with moderate fruity character and low hop aroma. Toasty, biscuity malt aroma. May have an orange- or pear-like fruitiness though not as fruity/citrusy as many other Belgian ales. Distinctive floral or spicy, low to moderate strength hop character optionally blended with background level peppery, spicy phenols. No diacetyl. Appearance: Amber to copper in color. Clarity is very good. Creamy, rocky, white head often fades more quickly than other Belgian beers.
Fruity and lightly to moderately spicy with a soft, smooth malt and relatively light hop character and low to very low phenols. May have an orange- or pear-like fruitiness, though not as fruity/citrusy as many other Belgian ales. Has an initial soft, malty sweetness with a toasty, biscuity, nutty malt flavor. The hop flavor is low to none. The hop bitterness is medium to low, and is optionally complemented by low amounts of peppery phenols. There is a moderately dry to moderately sweet finish, with hops becoming more pronounced in those with a drier finish.
Medium to medium-light body. Alcohol level is restrained, and any warming character should be low if present. No hot alcohol or solventy character. Medium carbonation.
A fruity, moderately malty, somewhat spicy, easy-drinking, copper-colored ale.
Most commonly found in the Flemish provinces of Antwerp and Brabant. Considered “everyday” beers (Category I). Compared to their higher alcohol Category S cousins, they are Belgian “session beers” for ease of drinking. Nothing should be too pronounced or dominant; balance is the key. The most well-known examples were perfected after the Second World War with some influence from Britain, including hops and yeast strains.
Pilsner or pale ale malt contributes the bulk of the grist with (cara) Vienna and Munich malts adding color, body and complexity. Pale malt in Belgium is generally darker than British pale malt. Kilning takes place at temperatures five to ten °C lower than for British pale malt, but for longer periods; diastatic power is comparable to that of British pale malt. Sugar is not commonly used as high gravity is not desired. Noble hops, Styrian Goldings, East Kent Goldings or Fuggles are commonly used. Yeasts prone to moderate production of phenols are often used but fermentation temperatures are kept moderate to limit this character.
RELATED BELGIAN PALE ALE BREWVIEWS
December 18, 2013: GOOSE ISLAND MATILDA
Belgian Pale Ale beer characteristic descriptives from 2008 BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) style guidelines. (http://www.bjcp.org)