Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pale Ale Cage Match — Burleigh Brewing Co. vs. Lord Nelson Brewery vs. Maritime Pacific Brewing Co. vs. Kona Brewing Co.

Burleigh Brewing Co.
28 Pale Ale
(70s Style)
ABV 4.8%

Bright clear yellow (lightest in color of them all) with big white head .
Grapefruit, grass.
Clean, grapefruit and citrus rind.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Just a touch of bitterness that fades quickly.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):
Good +

Lord Nelson Brewery
Three Sheets Pale Ale
ABV 4.9%

Cloudy, yellow honey.
Aroma: Grain, citrus hops and soft malts.
Flavor: Starts sweet and malty with only a touch of hops towards the finish.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Balanced
Finish: Mild hop bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Mediocre +

Maritime Pacific Brewing Co.
Islander Pale Ale
ABV 5.0%

Dirty yellow.
Aroma: Heavy, smoky, bready, malty.
Flavor: Starts with bready malts then moves into big piny hops.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Hoppy
Finish: Long lasting piny hop bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Good

Kona Brewing Co.
Fire Rock Pale Ale
ABV 5.8%

Reddish caramel (darkest of the lot).
Aroma: Floral hops, orange blossom, sweet malts.
Flavor: Heavy, sweet and malty with very subtle hops.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Malty
Finish: Sweet fading to lingering bitter greens.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Mediocre

Blow by Blow
The forces of nature have once again brought the two Gibsons together (no idea what I'm talking about? Click here.) And what better way to celebrate the occasion than with an Australian vs. USA Pale Ale Cage Match! If you look closely at the photo above you might be able to make out some palm fronds and the beginnings of a sunset. That's right, this battle was not conducted in the frigid winter of Seattle, but in the balmy tropical paradise of Hawaii! Our lovely and patient wives also found time to put down their pina coladas momentarily to help decide the outcome of this epic battle.

Gibson-OZ brought two pale ales from Australia and I brought one from Seattle. Just to make it even more interesting we threw in one from local brewery, Kona Brewing Co., as well. We also tasted them blind so as not to be swayed by continental pride or loyalty. Yes, we are that committed to providing you with an accurate appraisal.

None of the beers were that similar in color. They ranged from the light yellow of the 28 Pale Ale to the deep reddish caramel of the Fire Rock. The aromas and flavors varied greatly as well. The Three Sheets from Lord Nelson Brewery in Australia was the the first we tried and it was fairly simple, but had just enough hop presence to eek itself into the Pale Ale category. A bit less and it may have tasted a bit too much like a macro lager.

Second up was the Fire Rock from Kona Brewing Co. in Hawaii which leaned toward the sweet and malty side a bit too much for our tastes. It honestly tasted more like an amber ale, so if you're looking for hops in your pale ale, we'd recommend avoiding it.

Third in line was the 28 Pale Ale from Burleigh Brewing Co. in Australia and with the first sniff we were all big fans of this beer. It had a wonderful fresh, grassy grapefruit hop aroma that carried through all the way into a mildly bitter finish that was delightfully crisp and satisfying. Ellen and I were a bit confused by the "70s Style" reference but it was explained by the Aussie contingent that Australian beer was apparently quite hoppy in the 70s. Who knew?

Lastly we tried the Islander (fitting, eh?) from Maritime Pacific Brewing Co. in Seattle and as you might expect from a Northwest Style pale ale, it was not shy with the hops. Unfortunately it didn't offer much in the aroma so it was mostly dominated by bitterness in the flavor and finish. We all agreed that the bold bitterness was a bit too bold and that the beer could have benefited from some kind of hop presence in the aroma.

So, in the end, the last beer standing was the 28 Pale Ale. We all, independently, chose it as our favorite as it was just bursting with juicy hops and left us wanting more. Unfortunately, the Aussies only brought one bottle so we savored every last drop. Apparently the craft beer movement in Australia is just beginning to get some traction, so we look forward to seeing a few of the best of them trickle over to the states in the near future. Hopefully Burleigh Brewing's 28 Pale Ale will be one of them.

Winner by unanimous decision: 28 Pale Ale

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