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Beer culture is coming of age. At any store, restaurant, bar, or friend's house you can now find at least a few good brews. In fact, there seem to be so many new beers, breweries and bars it's difficult to separate the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

If you're going spend $10 on one beer, what should you buy? If you're going to drive 2 hours to check out a brewery, what's worth your time? If you're going to plan a Friday night, what has a good selection and friendly atmosphere? We're here to help you answer these questions.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Showdown: California vs New York: Pale Ales

I have recently signed up for a beer of the month club. I get 3 bottles of 4 different beers. The beers tend to be from outside of California and ones I have never heard of. I thought it would be fund to put up the out of state beers against comparable California beers. So there will be a continuing series of "California versus Another State".

For this post we'll have Fire Island Lighthouse Ale versus Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Fire Island Lighthouse Ale (New York)
ABV: 5.2%
Beer Advocate: 3.48 out of 5 (BA says this is a red ale, but its not)
Rate Beer: 2.8 out of 5

Fire Island aroma has sweet, darker malts, hints of banana, reminds me of a british ale. The taste clean, with a nice malt flavor throught out and a cararmel finish with some toasty notes. The body is light, softly carbonated and a nice body. Malts are a little more forward, not much hops. No head and no lacings.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
ABV: 5.6%
Beer Advocate: 4.09 out of 5
Rate Beer: 3.62 out of 5

Sierra Nevada aroma has light malts, sweet, floral/citrus hop aroma. The taste has the hops up front - grapfruit and citrus with a sweet malt backbone. The citrus grapefruit bite lingers on the tongue. It is light bodied and hightly carbonated. Big fluffy head, decent lacings.

While these are both American Pale Ales, they are very distinct in their flavor profiles. Fire Island sticks with a more British traditional pale ale. It focuses on the malt flavor balanced by hidden hops. Sierra Nevada takes the west coast approach of putting the hops forward balanced by hidden malts. And this is for good reason, Sierra Nevada is the founder of West Coast, hop-forward styles.

Both flavor profiles are enjoyable, but Sierra has two drawbacks for me. First, the high carbonation. It's too much. Tone it down, this is not a soda. Second, the lingering grapefruit hop bite can also taste a bit chemically or medicinal. Fire Island had a perfect, soft carbonation and no lingering bad tastes, but didn't have the hop flavors I tend to like from an American Pale Ale.

However, in the end I was craving another Fire Island.

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