The day Joe Katchever opened Pearl Street Brewery in 1999, his pale ale was on tap. It's remained a mainstay for the brewery ever since. Pearl Street introduced its pale ale to the Madison market last summer, along with a hefeweizen, brown ale, stout and eventually an Imperial IPA. While the brown ale is most popular in the brewery's home territory, the pale ale is the best seller in Madison.
What is it? Pearl Street Pale Ale by Pearl Street Brewery of La Crosse, Wis..
Style: The American Pale Ale, or APA, is distinguished from its British counterpart by its use of all-U.S.-grown hops. American varieties of hops often give it stronger, more assertive citrus and fruity bitterness; British versions of the pale ale often have a more herbal character. The APA is a medium-bodied beer with an emphasis on hops, yet some medium maltiness and caramel character is expected. APAs usually range from 4.5% to 5.5% ABV.
Background: Pearl Street Pale Ale gets its copper color and some of its body from additions of light and medium Crystal malts. But like quality pale ales, its bitterness steals the show. Katchever uses four different varieties of hops, which are added at four different points in the brewing process. Most notably, it is dry hopped with Cascade and Amarillo hops.
Pearl Street Pale Ale takes about six weeks to make. It finishes at 6.5% ABV and is sold in six-packs for around $8. The beer won a silver medal at the 2003 World Beer Championships.
- Aroma: Light floral and citrus-like nose.
- Appearance: Clear light copper color with a medium marbled-rocky head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and bubbly.
- Taste: A sharp, medium bitterness with crispness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Bubbly, with a citrus-like bitterness that gives way to light piney-resiny tones.
Glassware: Pearl Street Pale Ale has enough of an assertive hoppy nose to stand up in the basic bar pint glass.
Pairs well with: The sharp citrus bitterness of the cascade hops makes a great complement to burgers, pizza, salsas and moderately spicy dishes from Mexican and Cajun cuisine.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Pearl Street Brewery makes an easy-drinking pale ale that has enticing hoppy aroma and assertive citrus-like bitterness. This brew is one that hoppy beer fans will appreciate. And while it may not have the seductive intensity to truly satisfy the exclusive pale ale drinker, it's a great introduction to the style, with a solid bitterness that isn't over the top and some great session-like qualities. You can have more than one with a meal without the bitterness completely staining the taste buds with the flavor of hops. Overall, its mainstream pale ale character is something that most beer drinkers will find enjoyable.