Chicago's Best Beers

Pale Ale Smackdown: American Style

Winner (tie)

Akari Shogun

Half Acre, Lincoln Square

The judges tasted tropical flavors, citrus, and pine in this top-rated wheaty brew. It’s often available on draft, but the judges poured from a can— which should put to rest most questions about whether quality can come from aluminum.

Score: 90

Winner (tie)

Gamma Ray

Lake Bluff Brewing Co., Lake Bluff

A “true-to-style” and “well-balanced” pale ale, Domingues and Quinn said. Maloney was indifferent but agreed it was “light and brisk.”

Score: 90

5 Grass

5 Rabbit, Bedford Park

“This is a beer that people should try,” said Quinn. The sharp, thick-headed amber brew earned the highest marks in the flavor category.

Score: 89

Ghost Bike Pale Ale

Spiteful, Ravenswood

The trio thought this beer tasted like cake batter. “That butteriness overpowers the hops,” said Domingues.

Score: 83

Iron Fist Pale Ale

Revolution, Logan Square

This clean copper-colored ale earned average scores. Descriptions ranged from “vegetal” and “cut grass” to “sour” and “vinegar.” Concluded Domingues: “It has a lovely malt finish.”

Score: 83

Paddy Pale Ale

Wild Onion, Lake Barrington

Unique—but a touch “medicinal,” the panel agreed. “It’s not like every other pale out there,” Maloney said. “That alone is cool.”

Score: 83

Diversey Pale Ale

Atlas, Lincoln Park

This crisp, slightly sparkling golden ale was a nice “sessionable” (or sipper) beer for Domingues; Quinn concurred, calling it a “good summer drinker.” The brewers showed talent, Maloney said.

Score: 82

Victory Pale Ale

Emmett’s, Downers Grove

Overwhelmingly sweet, the judges said, with cloying notes of caramel, toffee, and butterscotch. “Overpowering,” as Domingues put it. Maloney appreciated the “viscous” body and “great drinkable qualities.”

Score: 77

Cut Throat Pale Ale

Finch’s, Albany Park

This light, fizzy brew divided the panel. Quinn noted some “really cool lemon-lime notes” but thought it a bit “muddled.” Domingues found it “well balanced.”

Score: 75

Watch the Judging Process
The Pale Ale Judges

The judges blindly tasted 18 beers and scored them in five categories—appearance, aroma, flavor, body, and the intangibles—with a perfect score being 100 points. (The scores shown are averaged.) The scorecard was crafted by Chicago in consultation with Pat Fahey of the Cicerone Certification Program. Download it and have your own tasting party.

Melani Domingues, 42
Owner of the specialty beer bar Green Lady

Melani Domingues

Michael Maloney, 35
Craft beer distributor for Stoller Beverage

Michael Maloney

Chris Quinn, 36
Cicerone and owner of the Beer Temple

Chris Quinn

 

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comments
11 months ago
Posted by RonF

You didn't include the Daisy Cutter Pale Ale from Half Acre in the tasting? You missed the finest example of the style since Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was introduced!

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