Written by Jay R. Brooks for the Bay Area News Group and Mercurynews.com
Pale ales were once the darling of microbreweries — they were one of the styles that practically every brewery made, and some based their reputations on this now-often-overlooked style.
Pale ales originated in England in the 1640s, when maltsters realized they could control the temperature of their kilns by using coke, which is essentially coal with the poisonous toxins removed. This allowed them to make pale malt, which had more fermentable material than darker malt.
However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that pale ales — then synonymous with bitters, best bitters or bitter beer — came into their own. They weren’t particularly pale, but they were paler than the much darker porter, which was the most popular beer of that time, and the name stuck.
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