Pale ales are a family of beers unto themselves, each beer with its own distinct flavor profile, body and alcohol by volume (ABV). But all pale ales share several things in common: They're on the bright and tart side due to the infusion of hops; they are often drier than other beers; and they can hold their own against almost all foods. Their balanced bitterness is an especially melodious counterpoint to sweets, playing successfully against most desserts.
1. IPA: Inimitable Pale Ale
IPA, or India Pale Ale, despite what its name implies, is of English origin, currently one of America's most popular craft beers. India pale ales have an average ABV of 5 to 8 percent and a hop-forward, dry quality. Malty American and sweeter English India pale ales tango gracefully with many desserts, taking the lead while complementing the sweetness, such as desserts made with ginger, caramel, chocolate and tamarind; and desserts with cream, like frosted carrot cake or creme brulee.
2. Twice-Kissed Double IPA
Double IPA, abbreviated "DIPA," and sometimes called Imperial IPA, is generally sweeter than IPA. Yet DIPA beer has enough hops and ABV to calm nerves and inspire restless artists. Don't serve anything less than stellar alongside it. When pouring DIPA, reach for sublime truffles, anything with salted caramel sauce or salted caramel ice cream, ricotta cheesecake and citrus-type confections.
3. Pure, Perfect Pale Ale
Pale ale would be IPA, except it's laid-back and likes to blend peacefully with diverse groups of food and desserts. Pale ales have hops, but not in quantity or intensity, giving their lightly roasted malty qualities fair access to your mouth. They tease your taste buds with capricious bursts of toasted bread and nuts, somewhat amplified by hints of acidity. A well-balanced American pale ale is compatible with flans, bananas Foster or bananas and spicy cream creations, and bread puddings. Pale ales are also humble but confident enough to go hand-in-hand with unaccompanied fruit, especially grilled fruit.
4. Catcher in the Rye-PA
Rye IPA is rye beer with hops and malt, and average ABV is 4 to 7 percent. Microbrewers often beef up the grain bill and use recipes with multiple kinds of rye, malts and hops. Consequently, the taste of some rye India pale ales is even, well-rounded and dynamic. The taste of some others is decidedly obtuse, with random explosions of spice and 50 shades of sourness. Pair with bold desserts, such as citrus curd pies, caramel fruit tarts, dark chocolate and spice cakes.
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