With all of these funky new beers, many of which were unimaginable even a few short years ago (and I say that as a guy with a vivid imagination when it comes to beer), I often forget that a good pale ale is one of the true treats of the beer world: delicious; low enough in alcohol to drink several without causing the world to spin, yet flavorful enough to thoroughly enjoy; and strikes the right balance of bold flavors and drinkability for a craft beer neophyte to enjoy. Few things make me happier than seeing the inroads Sierra Nevada has made with marketing its flagship Pale Ale. No matter how lame the bar is (and I have been in plenty of lame ass bars), these places will usually now carry Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale as a sop to beer snobs like me. No matter how lame the pizzeria (or now that I am in Texas, a taqueria is more likely), they usually have a few bottles of it handy, or better yet, a tap devoted to it.
I am genuinely surprised that I have not already reviewed Victory’s Headwaters Pale Ale, as it has become something of a ‘go to’ beer for me over the past year or so. It is not a groundbreaker in any way. It does not push the limits of what can be defined as beer. It does not redefine the pale ale genre. It does not make me see visions of comely wenches lounging languidly as I drink and guffaw in my Falstaffian glory, and yes, there are some beers that do that. Frankly, it is not even my favorite pale ale, as the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is still my number one pale ale.
It may not be any of those things, but it is still a damn fine beer. The hops are assertive without being overpowering, and there is some malty sweetness on the back end to make this a nicely balanced beer. It is dry, crisp and refreshing, not heavy at all, and at 5.1 % ABV is an excellent session beer. This is the type of beer I would give to a beer neophyte in order to introduce them to the world of good beer, and yet is good enough to give to beer snobs, as I did with GEB a few weeks ago. Yet another fine offering from Victory, 7.5/10.
The version of The Harder They Come that Jimmy Cliff sang in the movie is not the same version that was used on the soundtrack.* The lyrics are slightly different, and the performance is remarkable. Listen to that silky smooth guitar line snaking through the song, and Jimmy’s most soulful vocal performance. I love the version on the soundtrack, but the movie version is better.
The Euphoria Pale Ale by Ska Brewing is silky smooth and easy drinking, with just a mild grapefruit bite from the hops, perfectly balanced by the toasted caramel malts. Only 6.1% ABV, so you can drink a bunch of these at a sitting. The folks from Ska Brewing not only have good taste in music, they make some damn fine beer also. I am giving the Euphoria Pale Ale a 7.5/10, and am on the lookout for other offerings from Ska Brewing.
* The Harder They Come is the greatest soundtrack album of all time, and if any of you are thinking of making an argument that The Big Chill, or, god help us, Footloose is better, please leave my blog and don’t ever come back. However, to show how magnanimous I am, I will listen to arguments made in favor of Valley Girl.