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Malt Matters in Your Pale Ale

In a proper pale ale, the focus is, correctly, on the hops. However, no matter whether that pale ale is British in origin, or American, or Belgian, or is from the new hazy school, the malt that goes into the recipe matters.

John Holl Jun 9, 2018 - 11 min read

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Thousands of pale ales are on tap at any given time on any day of the week in America these days. They might be crystal clear and bright or hazy and thick. Depending on the brewer’s bent, they run the spectrum on ABV, SRM, and IBU. What varies, of course, is the hops that each brewery uses. Chalkboards and printed menus boast varieties, hoping (usually correctly) that words such as Citra, Mosaic, or Lemon Drop will get customers to order a pint.

It’s rare, verging on unheard of, for a brewery to advertise the malt bill on a menu (although it does show up from time to time on labels). But getting the malt bill dialed in before a pale ale gets to the glass can mean the difference between an enjoyable pint and a drain pour.

“At the end of the day, what separates the wheat from the chaff, in terms of quality beer, are the people who can seamlessly use malt while still showcasing hops at full potential and those who can’t,” says Ben Edmunds the founder and brewmaster of Breakside Brewery in Portland, Oregon.

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John Holl is the author of Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint, and has worked for both Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® and All About Beer Magazine.

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