Beer Review 0235: Founders Pale Ale

Ahh, Founders Brewing Company. One of my favorite breweries, based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Just do a search here for ‘Founders’ and you’ll quickly see their beers are some of the highest rated on this website.

It’s easy to identify why Founders is so successful — they make the kind of beer they enjoy, and don’t give a damn if you like it or not. So by making high quality beverages the seasoned drinkers at Founders enjoy sipping, they satisfy hardcore beer fans in the best of ways, not compromising quality for numbers.

That’s not to say Founders started out that way. The first bottles were brewed in 1997, and they were merely average. Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, the brains behind Founders, knew a drastic change had to happen away from simple Pale Ales and Browns, because they were quickly going bankrupt. And so they followed their heart and cut the mediocre, trading it for the outstanding.

Which leads me to this review: Founders Pale Ale is the only year-round offering from the company I have yet to review. A Pale Ale, you say? Yes, a beer style that is typically overlooked or frowned upon by seasoned craft beer drinkers. Founders calls this one “a testament to Cascade hops in a bottle.” Brewed to 5.4% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 35 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), here’s to hoping Founders most basic beer is something special.

Pouring made an average size head, bright white, soapy and frothy. The head quickly faded, and sat atop a bright golden drink that had a hazy body but was free of particles and sediment. Lacing was pretty good on this Pale Ale, even though the head did fade fast.

The aromatics immediately show a wonderful balance; there’s plenty of crisp hop notes, including a classic display of pine and grapefruit, along with soft floral notes. The balance comes in with caramel malt and some bread/biscuit notes, with hints of grain. It’s a very pleasant nose on Founders Pale Ale; classic, indeed.

As this beer meets the palate, the balance theme continues — the opening flavors are that of biscuit and grainy malt, which transitions into more of a hoppy kick in the middle; sharp grapefruit and some background floral tastes collide, mixing with a touch of orange and leading to a finish that carries a light amount of bitterness, caramel, and pine. As the finish opens more, the bitterness turns from pine to grapefruit peel. Mouthfeel was thin and refreshing, giving you a beer that was creamy and foamy with an average carbonation.

Founders Pale Ale is extremely flavorful and has an expert level of balance. Often, I think many Pale Ales lack hops, but this is hopped perfectly. In my mind, a Pale Ale is sort of an introduction beer for an IPA, and this is about damn near perfect when it comes to that job. I used to think Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale was the standard bearer, but I’m having second thoughts now — I would seek this out again, and will, for sure.

Founders Pale Ale, 88 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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