If there’s one beer that America does better than anyone in the world, it’s the pale ale. Since the first batches in the late 1970s from Anchor and New Albion, this highly-hopped, but easy drinking brew has become the biggest crowd pleaser in the craft world. Though the American pale ale is hoppy compared to its subtle British forefathers, as IPAs swept the country in the 2000s, brewers pushed ever more hoppy, bitter, and boozy beers — leaving the more balanced pale ale behind. Thankfully, discerning drinkers are returning from the headier beers to the more drinkable, with the pale ale leading the way.
To help us wade through this resurgent style, we consulted the author of Designing Great Beer and founder of the Cicerone program, Ray Daniels. The veteran beer judge recommended keeping our picks below six-percent alcohol to keep a clear line between pale ales and IPAs. Here are our 20 favorite picks — beers you should keep well stocked throughout summer and beyond.