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What’s The Difference Between a Pale Ale and an IPA?

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If you’re new to the beer world you may wonder what the difference between two beers are, especially if they are similar. So what makes a pale ale and an IPA different? 

Pale Ale Defined

A pale ale was originally a term used to describe a beer that was lighter in color from the other perhaps two or three beers on tap in the pub. Yes – old English pubs had maybe three beers on tap, not 30. Pale ale was perhaps the Budweiser of the era, although by today’s standards those two are very different things (Budweiser is a lager) A pale ale has to do with the flavor and balance of the hops – you want them to be front and center but also still taste the malt that went into making the beer which balances out the over all taste. Pale ale tends to be a bit sweeter and crisp.

IPA (India Pale Ale) Defined

An IPA, which stands for India Pale Ale, is a much more hoppy beer. IPA came about because ships sailing around the horn of Africa would end up with plenty of spoiled beer by the time they got to India and back to Europe. Hops are a natural preservative and so if you increase the amount of them in a beer, it’ll be preserved for a longer period. With more hops comes a higher alcohol content too – so these tend to not only be a bit more bitter than an pale ale, but they also have a more carbonation and a lot more dominating flavors from the hops.

If you’d like to check out some pale ale and IPA side by side, perhaps you should invest in Saratoga Beer Week. In the IPA category our best bests are Redhook Longhammer IPA   and a local IPA from Davidson Brothers. Not sure if Brown’s Brewing Co in Troy is brining their IPA, but if they do it is for sure my favorite IPA. There will also be plenty of IPA for everyone -Cricket Hill Hopnotic IPA, Stoud’s Imperial IPA, Lakefront IPA, and more.

On the ale side I’m definitely looking forward to Quimera Pale Ale. Quimera is bringing their ale from Chili; they are the first Chilean brewery to have their beer imported to the United States.  Also looking forward to sampling the Rogue Dead Guy Ale.  Rogue is one of my favorites – their graphic design is fun, and their bottles are quirky but in a good way, but most of all their beer is tops. Rogue also has no added crap - chemicals  etc in their beer. They also have some daring varieties of different styles, including a Chipotle Ale that I recently tried. It was great – but their basic Dead Guy Ale is also just as wonderful.

Saratoga Beer Week happens from February 19th through 23rd in Saratoga Springs, NY. Prices to various events vary and are available online. If you love beer and a week of nothing but beer sounds good to you, then the Saratoga Beer Week is your kind of a week. It’s worth using up that rollover vacation time from last year, if you have it. Or just come for one day. Or two. Or the entire week – it’s entirely up to you.

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