Blonde ale is an American classic, a session ale that promises not to be overpowering.
Beer lovers refer to blonde ales just like a friend everyone hopes to include in their gathering, calling them “approachable,” “well-rounded,” and a refreshing beer.
It’s an easy-drinking beer, perhaps embarrassingly drinkable due to the flavor accents leaning casually in the background. Honey, mild spices, and fruit flavors like orange peel often find themselves in the recipe for a winning beer.
- 1 History of the American Blonde Ales
- 2 Typical flavors of the blonde ale
- 3 So, what separates a blonde ale from a pale ale?
- 4 Do blondes really have more fun?
- 5 Brew techniques: It is all about relaxed complexity for the blondes
- 6 Spotting the favorite blonde ales
- 7 Top food pairings
- 8 Blonde ale takeaways
History of the American Blonde Ales
Blondes are relative newcomers to the craft beer scene. They began gaining popularity in the U.S.A. in the 1980s and developed as an easy-drinking beer competitor to the pilsner and lager markets. The American blonde ale has a prestigious heritage.
Its origins come from the German Kolsch and the English pale ale varieties. Brewers love sneaking their golden or blonde ales into summer beer lineups.
It sits so comfortably on the lighter side of the ale category that it is sometimes even called a “sparkling” ale. You might also find it labeled as a golden or blonde ale.
Typical flavors of the blonde ale
Stars of the summer patio but outlandishly enjoyable in any season, the blonde ales are big crowd-pleasers. Often described as straw or amber-colored and visually appealing, they will typically have a hoppy aroma and fruity esters. Low bitterness levels and relaxed sweetness make the blonde ale a great American beer festival standard.
Other common descriptors are smooth, golden-yellow, and light-bodied. Grading typically lands 3-7 on the SRM (color) scale, with a low to medium bitterness between 15 and 25 IBU and fair to good head retention. It usually lands between 3.8 and 5.1 for ABV. It’s generally presented as a low-ABV beer, an easy-drinking session golden or blonde ale.
So, what separates a blonde ale from a pale ale?
Blonde ale shares roots with pale ale, but they are different. Unlike its hop-heavy big brother, the golden ale will have a more subtle range of flavor tones.
Its easygoing characteristics gain fans among hoppier beer lovers and the light-lager community. It is all about balance for the blonde ale. If the brewer is too heavy-handed with the hop additions on a blonde ale, it might just find itself stepping into the pale ale category.
Do blondes really have more fun?
Lovers of hoppy ales might snub their noses at the lighter and more subtle blonde ale varieties, but the spectrum of blonde ales is wide. Picking a favorite is no easy task.
Refreshing blonde ale typically has a dry, sweet finish with only a mild bitterness. It will be the preferred beer for those who do not want to drink a hop-heavy beer.
Brew techniques: It is all about relaxed complexity for the blondes
Hop selection is fairly wide open in this category, but Willamette hops are a top choice. The grain bill finds American two-row barley is popular, and domestic pale or crystal malts are common choices for high-carbonation fruit-added brews.
For many brewers, a dominating malt is a 50/50 blend of Maris Otter and pilsner, popular when developing the primary fermentation depth of character. The yeast used is typically lager or ale yeast. Paying close attention to the water quality is more important than ever in yeast fermentation for blonde ales due to its subtle malt characteristics.
Blondes tend to be fermented at lower temperatures, helping the yeast create the expected crisp and dry finish and an original gravity ratio of 1.038-1.054. Being a popular style of homebrew with modern brewers, many kits are available.
Spotting the favorite blonde ales
Brewing a winner in the American ale category is never easy. Brewmasters report that it’s easy to accidentally create a more dominant color and flavor palette than the easy-drinking and visually appealing beers demand.
Picking favorites in the blonde ale category is also difficult due to the wide range of blonde ale beers. It might be given fruity esters, as is the case with the popular Sol Drifter Blonde Ale from Madtree Brewing.
In a less fruity style category, the smooth, slightly dry 5 Rabbit Cerveceria (GABF silver winner for their Blonde Ale) and Tree House Brewing (Eureka-Citra Golden Ale) are consistent fan-favorite beers.
Top food pairings
The medium body and gentle hop characteristics of the most approachable styles make refreshing beers that will pair nicely with almost anything. Famous food pairing partners are Pepper Jack cheeses or BBQ creations, but even rich flavors like a zesty Italian meatball dinner will match.
Going international in your dining? Not a problem; the smooth blonde ales mix well with everything from spicy Mexican to the aromatic dishes and spices of Morocco.
Blonde ale takeaways
Do blondes have more fun? Just like that friend who seems to get along with everyone, the most approachable style of blondes is consistent crowd pleasers.
With pilsner beers, what you see is typically what you get. With pale ales, more complexity and a healthy, hoppy flavor are expected. Blondes dance in the middle ground, and often, they don’t get the full appreciation they warrant.