The Best American Pale Ales To Try in 2022 (Both Classic & Modern!)

Many beer fans are familiar with IPAs, but there are just as many if not more American Pale Ales (APAs) on the market worth trying. But what makes an APA an APA?

American Pale Ales are defined by their hop-forward character and are often brewed with Cascade hops. Their ABV tends to be 5-7%. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the most classic example of the style. Other popular examples are Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, Half Acre Daisy Cutter, 3 Floyds Zombie Dust and Alpha King, and Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.

Read on to find out more about American Pale Ale style, and a dozen of the most popular APAs in the U.S. to add to your tasting list.

What is an American Pale Ale?

American Pale Ales are a distinctly American style of beer, mostly distinguished from British or European pale ales by their American hops (most traditionally, Cascade).  

They are related to the popular IPA though typically have lower ABVs and slightly lower hop content. This means the lines between the styles are sometimes blurred.

Here are some common characteristics of the American Pale Ale:

  • Color – Light to amber, with SRM 5-14
  • Common flavor – Citrus, floral, or pine hop flavors, balanced by light or caramel hop sweetness
  • Aroma – Moderate hop aroma
  • Mouthfeel – Light, smooth, and crisp
  • IBUs (Bitterness) – 30-60
  • ABV – 5-7%

History of the American Pale Ale

In 1975, Anchor Brewing Company produced a limited run of Anchor Liberty Ale, considered by many, including beer writer Michael Jackson, to be the first American-style ale.

Brewer Fritz Maytag was inspired by British pale ales, which were brewed with malt and sugar. Maytag tweaked the recipe by using only malt and adding American Cascade hops.

In 1981, Sierra Nevada released its Pale Ale, which is typically considered the first commercially distributed APA and is still in distribution today. 

The best American Pale Ales to try in 2022!

With so many American Pale Ales on the market, it can be hard to know where to start. Some are available nationally but many have limited regional distribution. 

Here is a list of the most recommended American Pale Ales:

  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale
  • Half Acre Pale Ale
  • 3 Floyds Zombie Dust
  • 3 Floyds Alpha King
  • Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’
  • Revolution Brewing Fist City
  • Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale
  • Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale
  • Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale
  • Maine Beer Company Mo Pale Ale
  • New Glarus Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale

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1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

  • Brand: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
  • From: Chico, California
  • ABV: 5.6%
  • IBU: 38
  • Featured Hops: Cascade
  • Taste: The beer that supposedly sparked the American craft beer movement, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale boasts intense pine and citrus aromas from the heavy use of Cascade hops in its recipe. If you’re looking for a textbook example of a APA, look no further.
  • Where you can find it: Available in all 50 states and on Drizly.

2. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale

  • Brand: Oskar Blues Brewery
  • From: Longmont, Colorado
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • IBU: 65
  • Featured Hops: Cascade, Comet, Centennial
  • Taste: Dale’s is a trailblazing craft beer disguised in a red, white, and blue can that harkens to mass market beer culture. It’s hoppy on the nose with pale malts and citrusy, floral hop flavor. 
  • Where you can find it: Available in all 50 states and on Drizly.

3. Half Acre Pale Ale

  • Brand: Half Acre Beer Company
  • From: Chicago, Ilinois
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • IBU: 60
  • Featured Hops: Columbus, Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo
  • Taste: Daisy Cutter has dank, aromatic hops with a light, pale body. Its ABV is on the low end of APAs so it’s extremely drinkable.
  • Where you can find it: Available regionally and on Drizly.

4. 3 Floyds Zombie Dust

  • Brand: 3 Floyds Brewing
  • From: Munster, Indiana
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • IBU: 62
  • Featured Hops: Citra
  • Taste: Zombie Dust’s single hop profile makes it a showcase for Citra hops. Pine and citrus notes up front give way to sweetness on the finish.
  • Where you can find it: Available in 19 states and on Drizly.

5. 3 Floyds Alpha King

  • Brand: 3 Floyds Brewing
  • From: Munster, Indiana
  • ABV: 6.66% (really!)
  • IBU: 68
  • Featured Hops: Centennial, Cascade, Warrior
  • Taste: Whereas Zombie Dust is 3 Floyds’ hip, high-demand beer, Alpha King is their flagship. It’s bold yet balanced with a caramel sweetness and big citrus flavor from the three varieties of hops within.
  • Where you can find it: Available in 19 states and on Drizly.

6. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’

  • Brand: Lagunitas Brewing Company
  • From: Petaluma, California
  • ABV: 7.5%
  • IBU: 64.2
  • Featured Hops: Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Wilamette, Columbus, Amarillo
  • Taste: Sumpin’ verges on IPA with its big hop flavor, but is balanced by its unique 50% wheat grain bill. This makes it sort of an APA/Hefeweizen hybrid in a class all its own. It’s smooth and silky with hints of bubble gum, pineapple, cedar, and pine.
  • Where you can find it: Distributed nationally and on Drizly.

7. Revolution Fist City

  • Brand: Revolution Brewing
  • From: Chicago, Illinois
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • IBU: 45
  • Featured Hops: Cascade, Crystal, Centennial, Citra, Chinook
  • Taste: RevBrew describes Fist City as a “Chicago Pale Ale” that flashes with citrusy hops and crackles with a light, crisp bitterness.
  • Where you can find it: Available regionally and on Drizly.

8. Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale

  • Brand: Flying Dog Brewery
  • From: Frederick, Maryland
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • IBU: 35
  • Featured Hops: Northern Brewer, Cascade, Citra, Simcoe
  • Taste: Lightly sweet, amber malts balance bitter hops in this classic American Pale Ale. Flying Dog very cheekily describes this as “beer-flavored beer.” 
  • Where you can find it: Available nationally and on Drizly.

9. Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale

  • Brand: Deschutes Brewery
  • From: Bend, Oregon
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • IBU: 40
  • Featured Hops: Cascade
  • Taste: Mirror Pond marries crisp, citrusy Cascade hops with sweet caramel-colored malts. This is another textbook American Pale Ale.
  • Where you can find it: Available regionally and on Drizly.

10. Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale

  • Brand: Great Lakes Brewing Company
  • From: Cleveland, Ohio
  • ABV: 6.0%
  • IBU: 45
  • Featured Hops: Cascade, Centennial
  • Taste: Great Lakes highlights locally-grown ingredients in their flagship Pale Ale, including bright, citrusy Cascade hops grown in Michigan. 
  • Where you can find it: Available regionally and on Drizly.

11. Maine Beer Company Mo Pale Ale

  • Brand: Maine Beer Company
  • From: Freeport, Maine
  • ABV: 6.0%
  • IBU: 50
  • Featured Hops: Falconer’s Flight, Simcoe
  • Taste: Among the highest-rated American Pale Ales is the Mo Pale Ale, with aromas of orange, apricot, tangerine, and passionfruit. Tasting notes include pine and grass with malt sweetness.
  • Where you can find it: Available in 29 states and on Drizly.

12. New Glarus Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale

  • Brand: New Glarus Brewing Company
  • From: New Glarus, Wisconsin
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • IBU: 38
  • Featured Hops: Five unnamed varieties 
  • Taste: New Glarus famously holds its recipes close to the chest so the actual hops that contribute to Moon Man’s assertive, grassy hoppiness are a carefully guarded secret. Moon Man is golden in color with a dry bitterness.
  • Where you can find it: Famously available only in Wisconsin. Time for a road trip?

Psst…want to learn how to brew your own American Pale Ale?

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