Do you like beers with flavor?
Something a little different than the typical beer brands?
While lager may rank as the most consumed beer type, beer aficionados know that the world of ale beers offers some of the best beer brands to seek out. Ales are quick fermenting beers often driven by the unique yeast strains’ flavors. This provides a whole different dimension of enjoyment.
But where do you start?
From Wheat beers to Irish Red Ale, ales cater to all types of palates. Let’s look at the best ale beers made by craft brewers in the U.S. Just don’t limit yourself; the craft beer revolution has blown the door wide open on the breadth and depth of these beer styles. So grab a brew and enjoy the best beers ale yeast offers.
1. Allagash White
Maine | ABV: 5.2% | Calories: 160
Many ale beers bring more to the table than your typical lager. Specific yeast types offer a complex array of flavors and aromas. This contribution to the overall beer experience is perfectly displayed with the legendary wheat beer, Allagash White. This incredibly easy drinking beer harnesses the flavor of their proprietary yeast strain and “special blend of coriander and Curaçao orange peel” to create a genuinely classic ale. When you drink this brew, expect to be captivated by citrus, spice notes, and a smooth mouthfeel for a complex yet refreshing flavor.
2. Fancy Lawnmower Beer | Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Texas | ABV: 4.9% | Calories: 140
If you were cutting the grass in the blazing hot, Texas sun, what would your go to beer be? Most would probably reach for a Coors Light, but Texas craft brewer St Arnold would disagree. Their Fancy Lawnmower Beer is practically designed as the perfect post-yard work drink. FLB is brewed in the Kolsch style, which is initially fermented as an ale and then lagered cold to give you the best of both worlds, err, beer styles, I mean.
All the flavor of an ale, but the superior refreshment of lager? Sure, grab me my weed whacker; I’m going out there!
3. Nut Brown | Ale Smith Brewing Company
California | ABV: 5% | Calories: 150
A characterful, fruity yeast selection complements an English brown ale’s warm, toasted malt flavors. Despite Ale Smith’s location in a city known for hoppy IPAs, the brewery has proven to be quite capable of delivering beer styles that think outside the hop box and present more to the San Diego beer scene. Nut Brown is a throwback beer with a unique flavor not seen often in today’s hoppy beer – scape.
4. Smoked Porter | Alaskan Brewing Company
Alaska | ABV: 6.5% | Calories: 195
The taste of smoke may turn some off, but smoked beer is a unique way to incorporate versatile ingredients. Hops play in the background of this iconic ale brewed with smoke-laden malt taking center stage.
“Known as “rauchbier” in Germany, smoke-flavored beers were virtually unknown in the U.S. until Alaskan Smoked Porter was developed in 1988.” This smooth, dark ale is kissed with Alaskan alder smoke for a woodsy, rustic taste that is at home at the dinner table as it is around a campfire. Try this with cedar plank salmon, the spoils of your big game hunt, or simply with a piece of toasted rye bread and bruntost cheese. Yum!
5. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California | Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 5.6% | Calories: 175
Beer lovers everywhere recognize this iconic beer style for which all pale ales measure themselves. Sierra Nevada pale ale balances toasted malt with American hops for an easy drinking classic ale beer style. Whether on a hot day or at the top of wintry slopes, craft beer fans have been choosing to crack open a Sierra Nevada for more than 30 years.
Look for the citrusy notes of American hops like Cascade to provide the hop flavor and pale and crystal malt to offer a pleasant grainy flavor of light caramel. Pale ales are a diverse group of beers, but SNPA remains a classic.
6. Zonker Stout | Snake River Brewing
Wyoming | ABV: 6% | Calories: 200
Named for a lure that can coax even the most wiley trout from its watery lair, the Zonker is a Foreign Export Stout referencing a time when brewers exported strong beers to far-off lands. Zonker Stout is an award-winning example of the style with a deeply roasted barley character with the flavor of espresso and charcoal. The bitter hops in this beer are aggressive yet proportional to the amount of malt used in the brewing process. If you’re after a lunker, look for this Zonker.
7. Medianoche | Weldwerks Brewing
Colorado | ABV: varies | Calories: varies
Medianoche is named for Midnight since the brewers at Weldwerks work through the night to concentrate the sugars of this imperial stout. The result is an intensely chocolatey flavor and high alcohol content. This beer is not for the timid, nor is it for those who prefer a “light maltiness.” Medianoche is as dark as its namesake hour but absolutely delightful to sip.
In addition to the classic Medianoche, Weldwerks has leaned into their penchant for creating beers of novelty and nostalgia by spinning off Medianoche variants regularly with different barrels and adjuncts. While Medianoche used to be practically impossible to try outside of Greeley, Colorado, the success of Weldwerks has increased the production of this deliciously dark and robust ale.
8. Cold Smoke | KettleHouse Brewing Company
Montana | ABV: 6.5% | Calories: 195
Scottish ales are usually low on the list of popular beers unless you’re in Big Sky Country, Montana. The folks in Montana love their ales with plenty of roasted barley malt. You’ll find that most breweries have this take on a Scottish Ale on tap. How did it get that way? It is likely from the widespread success of KettleHouse’s Cold Smoke. When you drink Cold Smoke, look for flavor notes of chocolate and coffee and signs of good carbonation with a pillowy head.
9. Full Malted Jacket | Beachwood BBQ & Brewery
California | ABV: 9.25% | Calories: 275
Not all ales are full of hops. Some are just as intense with a heavy-handed dose of malt. Full Malted Jacket combines heirloom Scottish caramel malt with a brewing process that includes a 3-hour boil for a richly malty, strong ale. Like everything Beachwood brews, Full Malted Jacket is exceptional and award-winning.
10. Head Hunter IPA | Fat Heads Brewery
Ohio | Alcohol By Volume: 7.5% | Calories: 225
Proof that you don’t need to be on the West Coast to brew an excellent West Coast IPA. Head Hunter IPA has proved its quality by winning practically every beer competition there is. This aggressively hopped IPA is bursting with a “punch in the mouth’ of Simcoe, Centennial, Mosaic, Citra, and Chinook hops for incredible fruity notes and citrus flavors.
Pale Ale, IPA, and other types of ale
There are dozens of ale styles, but they all share one thing. Ale beers are fermented with ale yeast. Ale yeast is a species of yeast known as saccharomyces cerevisiae. This type of yeast prefers to ferment warmer and quicker than lager yeast.
Ales have a more pronounced yeast flavor that is generally described as fruity. The most popular ale beers are the IPA, India Pale Ale, and the pale ale. However, consider them part of the same ale family, with IPA showcasing a more generous amount of character and higher alcohol content than its more balanced family member, the pale ale.
Each recognized beer style description can be found listed in various beer style guidelines.
One popular resource for popular beer styles is the BJCP or Beer Judge Certification Program. This organization’s guidelines are produced to aid amateur brewers and judges identify and recognize quality-brewed examples of each style. Each style guide will describe sensory aspects of the beer style that can be compared to a particular beer. These sensory categories of the beer will address the aroma, appearance, flavor, and mouthfeel of a beer style. Additionally, the style guide will provide an overall impression of how a beer should taste and notes on how it should be brewed. A list of popular ale beer brands lend examples of the styles can also be found in some style guidelines.
BJCP Overall Impression Examples
18B. American Pale Ale Overall Impression:
An average-strength, hop-forward, pale American craft beer with sufficient supporting malt to make the beer balanced and drinkable. The clean hop presence can reflect classic or modern American or New World hop varieties with a wide range of characteristics.
21A. American IPA Overall Impression:
A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong, pale American ale. The balance is hop-forward, with a clean fermentation profile, dryish finish, and clean, supporting malt allowing a creative range of hop character to shine through.
15A. Irish Red Ale Overall Impression:
An easy-drinking pint, often with subtle flavors. Slightly malty in the balance, sometimes with an initial soft toffee or caramel sweetness, a slightly grainy biscuity palate, and a touch of roasted dryness in the finish. Some versions can emphasize the caramel and sweetness more, while others will favor the grainy palate and roasted dryness.
20C. Imperial Stout:
Originally brewed as an English style, but it is currently much more popular and widely available in America and internationally, where it is a craft beer favorite, not a historical curiosity. Overall Impression: An intensely flavored, very strong, very dark stout with a broad range of interpretations. Roasty-burnt malt with a depth of dark or dried fruit flavors and a warming, bittersweet finish. Despite the intense flavors, the components must meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess – sometimes only accomplished with age.
Find the entire BJCP Style Guide at BJCP.org.
What is the Difference between Ale and Lager?
The brewing process for ales and lagers is nearly identical to each other. The difference in these beers is during fermentation. As mentioned, ales ferment quickly at warm temperatures and are generally said to produce a fruity taste in the final product. By contrast, lager yeast prefers to ferment at cooler temperatures and deliver a beer with a more neutral, clean flavor to allow the other ingredients in the beer, malt, hops, and water to shine. Examples of lagers include widely consumed light lagers such as Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Coors Banquet, Keystone Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Busch Light, and Bud Light, but also all types of other lagers, which may highlight bitter hops, roasted malt, and myriad different flavors. My point is that while lagers encompass many of the most popular beers in the world, their taste and character are not limited to light beer and genuinely encompass the whole spectrum of beer flavors, including hoppy bitterness and even fruit flavor.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?