Thursday, 12 August 2010

Working Title: Pale and Hoppy

The term Mid-Atlantic Pale Ale seems to be bandying around after Gazza proposed the name for hoppy British ales. Mid-Atlantic pale ale... Seriously? It’s almost as bad as Cascadian Dark Ale.

Firstly, mid-Atlantic, unless it’s an ironic name, drops literally in the middle of the sea (and all the way to the sea bed, if you ask me), which couldn’t be further away from a pint if it were halfway to the moon. Secondly, this term seems to be a catch-all for the pale British beers made with lots of hops from America or New Zealand (which is nowhere near the Atlantic), but also including British hops too, I assume, so perhaps it lends too much credit to the US. Thirdly, styles naturally evolve and need to have a fluidity to them and it could be the case that in a few years time these pale and hoppy beers are the normal for the style in the UK. And point four is that it just doesn’t sound very cool.

The name applies to beers brewed with 100% pale malt, highly hopped, well attenuated with a yeast that doesn’t give off many esters or other flavours “to let the hops shine without competition,” coming out somewhere between 3.5% and 8% (5% is best, he says). It’s very pale in the glass and very bitter in the mouth. It’s a mix of British and American influence and it’s a style which I love – there’s something which just works so well in a simple pale ale with lots of fruity hops, especially from the cask – and it’s the style that I most want to drink right now. I also agree with what Gazza is saying and the whole point of the article (it’s firmly a British beer just with American hop influence), but mid-Atlantic? I understand the desire to classify – we all like to stick a label on something so we can understand it (or complain about it if it isn’t right) – but surely we can come up with a more compelling name than that?

Thornbridge Brewery call Kipling a South Pacific Pale Ale and Ashford a New World Brown Ale, which works well for those, but perhaps shouldn't be extended broadly to others. In 500 Beers Zak Avery uses the term International Pale Ale, which would work with this style – it’s International, brewed in one place, taking influence and ingredients from another, but it could then become a dumping ground of a term. What’s wrong with Pale and Hoppy, New World Pale Ale or just Pale Ale, after all, it’s not exactly a new style, it’s just British Pale Ale 2.0 with different hops used in it, a natural progression, the latest fashion. How about Trans-Atlantic or Cross-Atlantic or Anglo-American if there’s a desire to say that this style is somewhere between the UK and the US (which therefore rules out the rest of the world, presumably)...

Mid-Atlantic pale ales... what do you think? Do they need their own classification and if so, what can they be called?

Image from here. I did try and photoshop in a bottle of beer bobbing around in the sea but failed remarkably.


  1. I feel this style is just a natural progression of the Pale Ale style and we shouldn't be giving labels that identify it as something new. Of course we are going to use new quality hops as they become available from different parts of the world, this isn't a fundemental change.

  2. When I wrote about this back in June - nice to see you panting along behind (-: - I postulated and I think it was your suggestion, that "transatlantic" seemed to fit the bill rather better. I further postulated (I'm better now) that this was indeed a UK style as nobody else really does it. But now thinking about it, that's probably sort of wrong too, if you take style in its dictionary and accepted beer sense, though if the Yanks can make up styles as they go along, why can't we?

    The problem of course is that it isn't new and therefore cannot be as you suggest, "a natural progression", though the hopping rates and types uses might well be. Even if it is a style revived, it is recognisable as something we in the British Isles all know and understand and it is here to stay.

    One final point on ingredients. 100% pale malt may not be the exact definition, but probably the exclusion of crystal is.

    Last point on names. You need to find something that distinguishes it from the CAMRA term (which I personally dislike) which is "Golden Ales", though of course that could be done in the descriptor. Many of these may be pale, but they ain't hoppy. At what IBU point does a golden ale qualify?

  3. Now, forgive me if I am barking up the wrong tree here....BUT, highly hopped pale ale, using hops from the US and New Zealand? If I remember rightly from my reading, wasn't there a stage where makers of India Pale Ale in the UK were using American hops (and I mean before last Thursday)? I am sure I read that somewhere, perhaps in Hops and Glory. Could it be then that Mid-Atlantic Pale Ale is really a sub-set of IPA?

  4. I rather like the term mid-Atlantic (Tanders will have seen the July issue of a CAMRA mag I edit which includes a cut-down version of Gazza's article) - although I can't se eit passing into common usage.

    I also do think this is something of a new style of beer. Very pale and very hoppy where the hops are allowed to sing - while there have been pale and bitter beers around for years (Boddingtons Bitter was a classic example before Boddingtons cocked it up) none really were all that hoppy as opposed to bitter, using the old Fuggles / Goldings combo that was standard for many UK brewers at the time.

    No, this is a new development and one where the UK has the lead, particularly with beers of a modest ABV. I think Fyne Ales Jarl, Marble Pint and Phoenix Hopsack are typical examples of what I am talking about. (By the way, does anyone agree with me that Phoenix are perhaps one of the most underrated breweries in the UK at the moment - Tony Allen has bene making fantastic beers for years, to local acclaim up here in the grim North but remains ignored by the bloggerati).

  5. Golden Ale is really a terrible name, and not just because many of the new beers are much paler than golden, some using low colour pale malt or pilsener malt or both.

    I would draw some sort of line, which Gazza doesn't, between the likes of Jaipur and beers such as Oakham JHB. To me JHB typifies what is uniquely British about pale 'n' hoppy: it's session strength, to fit with local drinking habits.

  6. John - Re Phoenix - Well I agree about Tony. Obviously. I pushed him for this for years when I used to call him a "Brown Beer Brewer". That WAS a long time ago of course.

  7. Please make it stop. I'm sick to the back teeth of Black IPA already; let's not invent another category.

    Although if I use US and New Zealand hops in my yet-to-be-brewed masterpiece, it will now have to be known as Trans-Atlantic_Pacific-Double-Tripel-Smoked_Gooseberry-Hefeweizen.

  8. How about re-inventing an older style? Pale Stout anyone? ;)

  9. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't both New Zealand and American hops both being used in the UK since the earlier part of the 1900s? Are we potentially just using hops that have been used for beer production here for more than half a century? Would love any hop/beer historians out there to come up with any data regarding this... I'll start checking my books!

  10. Mid-Atlantic works for me, as a title it sort of tells me what to expect. But can't it just be 'Pale Ale' - what hops your brewery put in it define it, and make it your individual pale? The cross pollination of US/English Hops in English brewing is total now. There shouldnt need to be a segregation of style.

  11. Kelly, I think there is an important difference. British brewers used US hops in the past, but they didn't actually want the characteristics of those hops in the beer. Their flavour was described as 'catty' and brewers took care not to let the US hops overpower the English ones.

    It took the American brewers to teach people to appreciate those piney, resiny or citrussy hops.

  12. DJ - I'm with you!

    Tandleman - I was hoping the whole thing would be forgotten quickly but it's hanging around!! As for the Golden Ale moniker - they aren't Golden Ales. CAMRA's styles aren't the gospel.

    Al, I think you could be right about the sub-set, but didn't the style die off somewhere and has since come back to life in a different form? But then what's the difference between a PA and IPA now? Just a few more hops? The base beer in this is much paler than a typical IPA, I'd say.

    JC - I haven't had much Phoenix but I want to try more of their beers - I don't see them much down here.

    Barm - I agree and I'd draw a line there too. In the first draft of this post I mentioned a split around there. I'd say it stops around 5% and then becomes something a little different - for me the style is 3.5-5% and drunk by the bucket load.

    Scoop - I'd only drink that if it was primed with Brett in the bottle after undergoing at least 18 months in a blend of two whisky barrels. It doesn't sound complex enough as it is, if I'm being perfectly honest. I like complexity!

    Kelly - It seems that way but they haven't been used the same way as they are now and there's probably a lot more varieties around now.

  13. How about getting all rock and roll with it and calling the style "A Whiter Shade of Pale Ale"?

  14. By the bucketload I think is right, though it's questionable if they can be true session beers: after the fourth or fifth pint the hops start getting a bit dry and scratchy in your throat.

  15. "CAMRA's styles aren't the gospel."

    No-one's are frankly and that's why I rarely worry about them. It gives the geeks something to get a stiffy over though.