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American Pale Ale: The Comeback of the Classic

With greater awareness of its pitfalls and a few new tricks up our sleeves, the time for a resurgence in beautifully balanced American pale ale is now.

Josh Weikert Apr 27, 2023 - 14 min read

American Pale Ale: The Comeback of the Classic Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves/

It’s November 12, 2022. Five beer judges sit around a Best of Show table. The field has narrowed to five patently enjoyable and technically competent beers of different styles. It’s time to cut it down to the top three and, ultimately, the Best of Show–winning beer … and they all agree to boot the American pale ale.

Now, usually when that happens it’s due to a lack of amplitude or clarity in the hops profile; after all, both the Beer Judge Certification Program and Brewers Association guidelines specify that this is a “hop-forward” beer, and simple enjoyment usually depends on bright and identifiable hop character rather than a coloring-with-all-the-crayons mashup.

This beer, however, was tossed because it lacked balance. That got my attention, because I’d had similar conversations with a variety of pros and homebrewers in recent months: Their tastes seem to be drifting back toward American pale ales with a balanced malt profile rather than the bone-pale varieties that were creeping toward the realm of hopped seltzers.

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