The Top 10 California Pale Ales
Everything these days is IPA, IPA, IPA – too many to count, or keep track of. Although less sexy, there’s another beer style that’s a little easier to keep tabs on, and it birthed the whole craft beer movement, right here in California. The American Pale Ale.
This is our list of Top 10 California Pale Ales. These are not wheat-based, blondes, or seasonal — just straight-up year round offerings brewed somewhere in California, regardless of region.
We are pretty confident we performed an ample amount of hoppy research, but if you don’t agree with a choice, or have a recommendation, feel free to sound off in the comments below.
- Sierra Nevada — Pale Ale
This is the godfather of pale ales. The APA G.O.A.T., if you will… Without it, craft beer would not be what it is today. But Sierra is such an old-school obvious choice, we are paying tribute by grandfathering it in to its own all-time spot.
Now on with the countdown…
- 10). El Segundo Brewing Company — Citra Pale Ale: 3.5/5
A lighter pale ale, dry-hopped with Citra. If it featured more of a malt backbone, it would be higher up on our list. But then again, its juicy citrus, and clean backside is what got it here in the first place. Quite sessionable for the summer.
- 9). Third Street Aleworks — Puddle Jumper: 3.5/5
A bronze medal winner at the 2010 GABF. Nice and malty, with a creamy mouthfeel. This sweet pale ale offers a clean finish with a nip of Simcoe pithy hop bitterness. Another sessionable pale ale that works in any season. Read our full review.
- 8). Knee Deep Brewing Company — Citra Extra Pale Ale: 3.5/5
The most weakly-hopped Knee Deep ale. LOL. Another Citra single hop, with mild notes of tropical fruit and melon on the nose. So smooth, with tingles of citrus that wash over its silky body for the finish. Sessionable, yet satisfying.
- 7). Stone Brewing Co. — Pale Ale 2.0: 4/5
A definite improvement over the original 1.0. Sweet plummy aroma, with mildly carbonated body closer to an amber ale in color. Tangy red apple up front, and then German Mandarina Bavaria hops give it an almost lager-like refreshing finish with peach or mango.
- 6). Drake’s Brewing Company — 1500 Pale Ale: 4/5
This coppery ale starts a little malty sweet, then the dry hopped-ness kicks in for the finish. There are citrus elements to this ale, but it truly seems more floral and grassy, with a pleasing amount of bitterness. We’re good for at least a 6 pack of this every year.
- 5). Saint Archer Brewing Company — Pale Ale: 4/5
Who’s not interested in a tasty blend of Cascade, Chinook, Citra, and Simcoe hops? Light and refreshing, yet it still maintains a hoppy citrus presence. The great news is it’s now available in 3 serving sizes – 12oz, 22oz, and new 16oz pounders. Read our full review.
- 4). Mother Earth Brewing Company — Pin-up Pale Ale: 4/5
This brewery is probably best known for its Sintax Stout (peanut butter) or Cali Creamin’ Ale, but this is our favorite of theirs. Very good balance of malt and hops, yet still plenty hop forward with sweet grapefruit citrus. This pin-up girl had the looks of a perfect 10, with her beautiful (ideal) pale ale coppery hue.
- 3). Russian River Brewing Company — Row 2, Hill 56: 4/5
A Simcoe single hop pale ale that is positively delicious. We drank this on tap last spring at Russian River, and thought it was one of the better pales we’ve ever had. We wish it was more fresh in our heads for accuracy, which could have put it higher up the list, into one of the top spots. Now bottled.
- 2). Ballast Point — Grunion: 4.5/5
Quite a success story behind this one! It first won a Ballast Point employee home brewing contest, then a local tap-only hit, followed by a GABF 2014 Gold, now starring in bottles. Grunion rhymes with “onion”, and this Pale Ale is packed with that hoppy herbal quality from its blend of Mosaic and Calypso hops. Huge biting finish.
- 1). AleSmith Brewing Company — San Diego Pale Ale .394: 5/5
Tony Gwynn was one of the greatest hitters of all time, and this might be the greatest Pale Ale of all time. A resiny home run of pine and grapefruit, that is thankfully no longer in limited production. AleSmith’s new facility allows them to triple output of this deliciousness, which hopefully means enough to be served on draft at Petco Park. Read our full review.