10 Great California Pale Ales

Top 10 California

Food GPS beer editor Sean Inman chooses 10 great California beers by style.

Even the most casual of craft beer fans will know the most famous pale ale.  And yes, it is on the list below.  But what is a pale ale?  Especially nowadays.  According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), it is “Refreshing and hoppy, yet with sufficient supporting malt.” But that is the American Pale ale.  The English version has a “balance [that] may be fairly even between malt and hops to somewhat bitter.”  And that is just what two brewing countries have evolved to.  The rest of the world still needs to have their say, but first, let’s narrow the scope to California and my choices for brewed-in-the-Golden State pale ales which might be its own sub-style.

Strand Brewing – 24th Street

My go-to Strand beer.  It was the first of their beers that I tried and though they have come close with White Sand and others, this is still my favorite beer from the Torrance brewery.

Pizza Port – Plant to Pint

Strange to get a wet-hopped beer that isn’t citrus or piny or floral but is still aggressively hoppy and tasty. I sampled this at the 2012 BAM Fest in Santa Monica. And you might see it there in two days.

Hangar 24 Craft Brewing – Amarillo Pale Ale

A really solid pale ale. Medium bitterness. Maltiness is strong here. I am starting to prefer the single-hop pale ales. I can see this as a summer beer for the BBQ.

Societe Brewing– The Publican

This San Diego brewery has been knocking people’s socks off and their pale ale has a gaudy 92 score on RateBeer.

Ballast Point – Even Keel

3.8% ABV on this beer and yet it packs a mighty hop wallop to your tastebuds.  But you would expect nothing less from San Diego.

Ironfire Brewing – Synner Pale Ale

Really spicy (in an herbal way) and pushing the boundaries of pale and IPA.  Really strong and it doesn’t let up.  Very distinctive label art as well.



Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman's writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

Blog Comments

I have had Hoppy Birthday in sample form at a couple of festivals but due to the nature of the Fest atmosphere, I wasn’t able to try it at it’s best. It is good, Alpine knows the hop, for sure. Maybe with the increased capacity they are getting, it will come around more often!

Alpine’s Hoppy Birthday is the best pale ale (APA) you can get in California. They don’t brew it often, so maybe Sean hasn’t tried it…?

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