A Lament For “Pale Ales”

What hair band was it who sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got…til it’s gone?”

Ah yes, Cinderella!

This song is Cinderella’s highest charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, peaking at #12 in 1988. The second highest charting is “Nobody’s Fool,” which peaked at #13 in 1986.

Now that I’ve planted some earworms for you (LOL), how’s about I stay on topic? And that topic is one of my favorites – beer!

Beer is actually the topic that got my blog site started back in 2011. Can you believe I actually thought I’d be a beer blogger? While I have posted a good number of blogs about beer and still blog about beer, I’ve since switched directions and have turned this into a (mostly) trivia related blog. But I also love writing about movies, celebrities and just about anything pop culture related.

What was I talking about again? Beer!

Specifically, pale ales. Anyone remember those? They’re not quite as, shall I say – “bland” as lagers, but they’re not quite as malty as amber ales, and they’re certainly not as hoppy as IPAs, which still seem to be all the rage (as of 2020). You probably already know that IPA stands for India Pale Ale. I read on a beer menu one time that that the English brought heavily hopped beers on their voyages to India back when India was still a colony. You can learn lots of things by reading beer menus!

There are some IPAs I like. The “Buzzsaw” IPA from Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery is one of my favorites that I can get locally on draft. It drinks pretty smoothly for a hoppy beer – and if you’re only going to have three beers tops, its 6.8 percent ABV (Alcohol By Volume) will give you bang for your buck. The “buzz” you seek with beer drinking will come sooner with this beer than with some others!

You know what beer goes great in (besides your mouth)? Fondue!

Photo from a previous fondue night. We used the 4 Elf Belgian ale from Dark Horse Brewing for our “Christmas Eve fondue.”

Tonight, we’re doing “fondue night” at our house. My husband always takes the lead on fondue night, and prides himself on his skills (he is quite the artisan). It’s one of his favorite comfort foods from childhood, and his mom used to make fondue for his birthday. We registered for an electric fondue pot for our wedding, which my brother, in true brotherly fashion, questioned me about:

When are you ever going to use a fondue pot?

Big brother, questioning me about my wedding gift registry (1997)

Quite often, actually! I’d say we use a fondue pot at least 2-3 times a year. We even had a ’70s style fondue party for friends back in 1997, and we donned ’70s fashions, played ’70s tunes (which explains why I have a KC and the Sunshine Band CD), and played “Shaft” on our VCR. Theme parties were a thing for us when we were younger! We did a Canadian party, a few St. Patrick’s parties, and even a vampire/vampire hunter party. Oh when we were young ‘n fun!

I’ve made chocolate fondues at a couple of parties, which made me the darling of every single other female at the party (women love chocolate – there’s a pro tip for ya – but you already knew that, didn’t you)?

The West Bend fondue pot we received as a wedding gift has since been replaced. Our current fondue pot is a “Nostalgia Electrics” fondue pot (you can see it in the above photo).

Beer is one of the essential ingredients in the fondues we make, though other types of booze are often used too – such as wine, hard cider, liquor, etc. You can even use apple juice or sparkling beverages if you’re a teetotaler. My husband likes to use beer and at least a smidge of some kind of liquor – two types of cheese, a few drops of lemon juice, and some thickener (flour or corn starch). We use vegetables, cubes of meat and breads to tip into the cheesy goodness.

For tonight’s dinner, the “fondue boss” decided that a pale ale was the beer he wanted to use. Wanting to buy local if possible from a place nearby that brews beer, I perused the beer menus of a few microbreweries. One of them used to do a pale ale, but it’s not on tap now. Another place called Blue Tractor in Ann Arbor has a pale ale, but we don’t want to drive there to get it (about 20 minutes). It’s pretty windy and cold today, and we want to stay as close to home as possible.

Just now, someone informed me about Edelbrau Brewing in Ann Arbor re-releasing a pale ale later this week. Sadly, it’s too late for it to make an appearance in our fondue, but that’s still…good to know!

We talked a bit about alternate styles he could substitute, but for him – there was no substitute for a good old fashioned pale ale. He’s since picked up a six pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which used to be one of our favorite storebought beers.

All of this searching made me realize how much I miss pale ales! They’re easy drinking, pair well with just about anything you can shove into your beer hole, are more interesting to drink than lagers and they have just enough hoppiness to remind you that you’re drinking a real beer – but not so much that you make the “beer face” when you drink it.

I’ve always said beer isn’t something anyone should have to “power through.” Either you like the taste – or you don’t. And honestly – I don’t like the taste of all IPAs. I tried a hazy IPA once, liked it “OK,” but couldn’t see it as something I’d want to drink more than one or two of. I tried a Bell’s Hopslam once, and described it as “a beer resulting from beer and tequila having a baby.” Not in terms of taste, but in terms of face plant potential if you drink too many (10 percent ABV). I had one of those – and that was the story of that beer. I would never drink another of those beers again, as much of a fan of Bell’s beer as I am.

Though a good number of craft breweries in Michigan – most of which got their start in the mid 1990s – offered pale ales on their beer menus at first, eventually, they would get pushed out of the way for quintuple IPAs, bourbon barrel aged imperial s’more ales (I’m not kidding, there are places that make s’mores beers), Canadian breakfast stouts made with actual Canadians eating breakfast (JK), imperial stouts and hazy IPAs, hazy IPAs and even more hazy IPAs. A craft beer board I follow on FB tells me that people are going nuts for this style. It’s just not for me. Don’t ask me what a hazy IPA is or how they make them (I’m just a beer drinker, not a beer maker).

I get it. IPAs sell – and that’s why breweries make them. No one wants a tap handle that isn’t getting fondled by bartenders hundreds of times a day. When you want the hops volume turned down just a tad and want a pale ale? You’re pretty much screwed these days (though there are some breweries still making them).

Hey, if boomboxes with cassette players can make a comeback, maybe good old fashioned pale ales can, too. It’s not like I won’t ever find a beer to drink in any watering hole I happen to visit (once this global plague is done)!

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