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The 11 Best Pale Ales Money Can Buy

Flight of beers.
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When it comes to approachable and quality beer, it’s hard to top a pale ale. The genre beckons even casual beer fans, as the style tends to be easygoing and balanced. Consider it the IPA’s toned-down cousin, less hoppy and often a bit less alcoholic.

A bit like a lager, the pale ale is built for the common palate, both refreshing and inviting. You get the impact of hops and grain, but there’s subtlety and well-roundedness overall. For those just getting into beer and looking for something with a little more character than a Coors, the pale is a great entry point.

Here are the 11 best pale ales on the market right now.

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Best Overall: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada Pale
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The grand-daddy of the category, this refreshing beer helped jumpstart the craft movement way back when. Over its long lifespan, the beer has retained the refined character that made it a star in the first place. Don’t mess with a legend, just drink it.

Most Balanced: Maine Brewing Company MO Pale

Maine Brewing Company Pale Ale.
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There’s a nice bit of tropical fruit with this beer, balanced out by a pair of hop varieties and an impeccably smooth. malt bill. Some say pale ales aren’t really worthy of the pouring-in-the-glass and sniffing that, say, every wine seems to be treated to. Not so, as this complex and very well-rounded number proves.

Most Refreshing: Deschutes Mirror Pond

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale beer.
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The ultimate tailgating or summer camping beer, Mirror Pond is named after a striking body of water in Deschutes Brewery’s hometown of Bend, Oregon. It’s as refreshing as they come, made with Cascade hops and three types of malt. At a pleasant 5% ABV, it’s easy to have several and still function.

Boldest: Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale

Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale can.
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Sometimes, you need a portable and reliable pale that can be thrown in a backpack or a pocket of your fishing vest. This is that beer. Better, it’s full-bodied, packed with bitterness, maltiness, and a bracing kick of citrus. It’s been around for nearly two decades and still impresses.

Best Hazy: Odell Brewing Drumroll Pale

Odell Brewing Drumroll Hazy Pale can and glass.
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Another Colorado brew on the list, this hazy from Odell shows that a good foggy beer doesn’t have to always be an IPA. It’s hop-forward without wrecking your palate. And it boasts the kind of texture and refreshing build you only get from a hazy.

Fruitiest Profile: 3 Floyds Zombie Dust Pale

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If Indiana brewery 3 Floyds makes a bad beer, we don’t know about it. Their pale is a real class act, showing the fruitier side of the category. You’ll love what’s in the bottle as much as the cool, comic book-inspired label.

Dankest Hop Profile: Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale

Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale Ale can.
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This gem from Chicago is dry as a bone, backed by some fresh and dank hops. Biscuity notes give way to an explosion of green, grassy, herbaceous-ness. Recommended pairing? A carefree frolic through an open field.

Best Gluten-Free: Omission

Omission Pale Ale gluten-free beer bottle.
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We don’t always want gluten, whether for health of preference reasons. Omission’s stab at a pale is noteworthy, offering plenty of personality despite lacking a major ingredient in most beers. Tasted blind, most probably wouldn’t even know.

Most Slammable: Lagunitas Sumpin’ Easy Pale

Lagunitas Sumpin' Easy Pale Ale can.
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Some pale ales can be thrown back without a care in the world, like this crushable Lagunitas beer. There are hop notes, along with grapefruit and even a bit of brine. It could not be easier to guzzle.

Best Organic: Samuel Smith’s Pale

Samuel Smith Organic Pale Ale bottle.
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Samuel Smith has excelled in the organic category for years. The British brewery’s pale falls right in line, a copper-hued beaut with some cracker and caramel flavors and a clean finish.

Best Non-Alcoholic: Hoplark Sparkling Hop Water

Hoplark Sparkling Water can trio.
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While technically a sparkling water hit with hops, Hoplark drinks a lot like a pale ale — and a zero proof one, at that. If you’re after the flavor of fresh hops without the hangover, this is a great option.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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