Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Pale Ale

Founders Brewing Co.
Grand Rapids, MI

Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 6.2%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Having recently voted Founders Brewing Co. as the top Midwestern craft brewer in the Midwest Power Rankings, it seemed only fitting that Nigel would follow it up with a review, thus justifying his lofty praise. One problem: I wanted to go to the extreme with Founders, but I couldn’t find anything that hadn’t already been reviewed by myself or other Dorks. Breakfast Stout, Blushing Monk, Centennial IPA, Deca, Devil Dancer, Dirty Bastard, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Red’s Rye, Rübaeus … all fantastic, powerful offerings, and all previously reviewed in this very space. I was very close to reviewing Kentucky Breakfast Stout and expanding on Eddie’s eloquent two word critique published last year at this time, but Nigel is still awaiting his government stimulus check and thus refuses to pay $15 for a four-pack of beer, regardless of how phenomenal it is. I’d like to thank the Feds in advance for providing said check, as I will be sure to use the money to buy American craft beer, thus allowing me to get sloppy drunk on a nightly basis and ceasing to be a productive member of society. God bless America.

I finally settled on Founders Pale Ale, one of the weaker (relatively speaking) offerings in Founders lineup, but still one of the better American pale ales out there. My praise of Founders was largely based on the fact that they are a well-rounded brewery without any noticeable holes in the lineup. Offerings range from standard to extreme, light to dark, hoppy to malty, and ALL of them are of amazing quality. The top ranking was sealed with the release of Deca, as the only previous shortcoming—the lack of a barley wine/strong ale—was properly addressed. I find Founders ability to brew to the extreme while maintaining a number of quality standard offerings refreshing, as many brewers who favor extreme beer tend to ignore the basics.

I’ve always felt that APAs are sort of an old standby, and it’s virtually impossible for them to reach the five mug hall of fame (note that Nigel doesn’t consider Alpha King an APA, but rather an American IPA). Founders Pale Ale is no exception, as it’s a very good APA, easily in my top 10 for the style, but doesn’t do anything to get it over the hump and into elite company. However, it does finally provide Nigel with the light, hoppy brew that he was hoping to find after a couple of months of drinking darker offerings on a nearly exclusive basis.

Pale Ale pours with a wonderful frothy pillow typical of an APA. The thick head quickly settles to a nice, creamy lace with significant stickiness on the sides. A translucent orangish/apricot hue reveals heavy amounts of sedimentation, a trademark of Founders, who seem take the term “unfiltered” to a whole new level. Also, it should be noted that Founders throws “dry hopped” before the title, just in case anyone was under the impression that this was a fresh hopped APA.

The aroma is very good, though a bit mild. Initial aromas of light, citrusy, Cascade hops are the dominant player, with sweet caramel and pale malt in the background. Heavy grassy aromas are also present, likely a combination of the Northwest hops and pale malt and a reminder of the lack of filtration. Fruity aromas go beyond the light grapefruit and orange peel from the Cascade hops; tart apple and pear are also present. While that may seem like a plethora of scents, they’re all a bit more tempered than would be ideal.

The taste is excellent, as Cascade gold inundates the taste buds and the overall profile is light and refreshing. Initial flavors of mildly bitter and citrusy sweet Cascade hops are quickly joined by light, sweet caramel malt. There’s a distinct earthy, biscuity flavor that dominates the background, easing the sweetness and bitterness. Again, the lack of filtration likely adds to the earthy, grainy flavor, as it’s a bit stronger than you typically find in an APA, but makes the beer remarkably well balanced. Not too hoppy, not too light, not too dark, not too sweet, this is the perfect APA and a wonderfully refreshing brew for the warmer months. A tolerable ABV (6.2 percent) and smooth mouthfeel combine with a light aftertaste, making this a definite candidate for a session brew; it’s perfect for the ballgame or the beach. My only quibble would be that the complete lack of filtration makes the last few ounces a bit grainy and rough.

Once again, Founders Pale Ale is exactly what you look for in an APA, and yet another example of why Founders is the best of the best. Its the perfect beer for the summer months, and is among the better APAs out there. And, as a bonus, the lack of filtration means you can eat it and drink it at the same time.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on May 12, 2008.
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