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American and English Pale Ales can be wildly different from each other despite being rooted in the same techniques and stemming from similar pale malts, resulting in what could be the world's most common beer style. The two indigenous recipes call for different styles of malts, yeasts, and hops that convey very different flavor profiles and aromas; while having approximately the same body and color. The hop schedules of the two regional variations also differ in that American Pale Ales typically utilize a 3-stage hopping system, while those lazy, lardy Brits only use two. Then, of course, there are a thousand-and-one subsets of variances within each of these specific styles based on region, recipes, etc.
Brooklyn and Odell -- two of the giants of American microbrewing -- have each has interpreted their own versions of an English Pale Ale. Melissa and I opened the two bottles together and poured what appeared to be the very same liquid into four separate sampling glasses.
Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55 is an homage to the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers World Series championship team (which seems perplexing to honor with an English Pale a mere half-century after the fact) that had all the makings of a take-no-names, ass-kicking collection of legends like Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Erskine, and Tommy Lasorda. To state this simply, Brooklyn Brewing had a ton of lineage that they honored by producing this deft little beer -- a characteristic that can accurately describes that '55 Dodger team as well.
Because English Pale Ales are less hopped than their American counterparts, the note that emerges is the malt profile. In the case of Pennant Ale '55, Brooklyn uses Scottish Maris Otter malts, which produces a very smooth, biscuity, toasted-bread flavor that finishes light and dry and very awesome. Its the kind of beer that is made to be enjoyed in an place with a widely varying climate like New York City, so that it can be enjoyed anytime from the Mets to the Giants. Its an all-weather beer.
In fact, at one point in time, I proclaimed Pennant Ale '55 as my Desert Island beer -- since its adaptability makes it totally drinkable in all types of weather patterns and geographies -- assuming my island was a tricked out interstellar island like on L O S T.
Odell 5 Barrel, by contrast, tastes like it was made a world away. Brewers in the east and brewers in the west are as distinct as Bad Boy vs. Death Row, despite producing the same merchandise. And just like b-boys, beer nerds definitely have their preference in topographic style. Where the east coast pale ales focus markedly on their malt profile (and less so on their hops), the West Coast really does the exact opposite of that, crafting California-style hop-forward beers that are characterized with floral and piny notes and less breadiness than their East Coast rivals.
If you've ever had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale you will have had a really general (and tasty) example of the West Coast style. Odell 5 Barrel demonstrates a similar flavor to Sierra Nevada, except the brewers use five different varieties of British and American hops, then adding these hop flower essential oil additions during the boil at five different intervals, bypassing the customary three-stage hopping system. It is really a remarkable technique that shows off Odell's brewing prowess and denoting the region of the country in which they brew.
Overall, these are two outstanding English Pale Ales brewed by some of the leaders in small brewing. There is really no incorrect choice given the option of having access to both, however, because only one of these brands is available in Texas (Pennant Ale '55), my hand in the matter is usually forced. Depending on the season -- or if you are in Texas, the last 20 seconds -- you can decide if you want either of these to pair with whats going on in your part the world.
Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55
Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale
Acquired: Southwestern Bottle Shop