Essential Pale Ale | Port City Brewing

58 Reviews
Essential Pale AleEssential Pale Ale

Brewed by:
Port City Brewing
Virginia, United States

Style: American Pale Ale (APA)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by ahalloin on 02-04-2011

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Reviews: 58 | Ratings: 197
Photo of Emerson1310
4.92/5  rDev +38.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This brewery is only a few blocks from my house. Great to slosh and then walk home!!

A: Golden with bright white 4-finger head, good carbonation and good lacing.

S: Lots of fruits and citrus, mild hops.

T: GREAT!! If you like fruit you'll like this. Along with grapefruit and orange there is another fascinating taste: Honeysuckle!! If any of you have ever smelled that wonderful springtime scent of honeysuckle flowers, then the finish/aftertaste of this ale will be familiar.

O: Reasonably priced, and a very sessionable beer. I drink this right at their brewery and also purchase 6-packs. Delicious!!

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Photo of mralphabet
4.74/5  rDev +33.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into pint glass

A: Poured a golden honey color with nice finger & a half worth of head that settles to a nice ring with good lacing.

S: Strong hops smells here.... Very floral with a touch of tropical and citrus notes. Wonderful smelling

T: Start much sweeter than I was expecting. But quickly turns on the hops... Wonderfully floral flavors with hints of grapefruit and pineapple, but the hops are not too over powering. Just right mix here.

M: Medium bodied with low to moderate carbonation. Feel is a little on the sticky side, with of hint of alcohol warmth.

D: A very good session beer, good ABV, great range of flavors and smells. I'm not a big hops guy, but this is a fantastic Pale Ale.... Well worth looking for.

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Photo of maketheheartglad
4.5/5  rDev +26.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Lighter brown, but like you'd expect from a pale ale.

S - Smells like citrus and flowers and something i couldn't place.

T - It tastes like goji fruit! almost exactly and similar to goji tea. It's an Asian fruit.

M - Slippery.

O - I like Goji fruit and that's why this is a good pale ale to me. It's like a fruit beer in that way, but also a good pale ale.

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Photo of dtreindl
4.12/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Great new beer from a worthy new brewery. If you like the citrusy style of American pale ales, this is one to try. Not too strong or unique so it's safe for repeated consumption. But a solid example of a delightfully aromatic and tasty American PA. You probably won't shout "WOW!" but I trust you won't be disappointed either.

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Photo of Beer_Runner
4.1/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Could not find an "enjoy by ... " stamp.
Poured slowly into a standard pints glass.

A: The color was golden with an orange hue. About half a finger head of dense foam. A long-lasting head. Plenty of carbon trails raising up.

S: The aroma was sweet malt, almost honey. There was also some pine and light floral. Overall, a very mild aroma.

M: Very smooth with a medium to light body and a plenty of carbonation. A slightly dry finish.

T: A very pleasing balance of malt and hops. It is not as sweet as the aroma. The pine floral mix is the most prominant flavor. And there is a good type of bitter after taste.

O: Overall this beer is greater than the sum of its parts. Everything blends together well. It is a good, solid pale ale.

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Photo of ordybill
4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 OZ bottle into a pint glass.
Aroma- Has a nice blend of citrus, hops and some malt tossed in.
Appearance- A murky golden color with some sediment and a small off-white colored head.
Taste- Nice blend of hops and citrus, nice example of an APA.
Palate- This is a medium bodied beer with medium carbonation.
Overall- A good APA, I would order this again.

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Photo of Rhettroactive
4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 32oz growler to nonic pint glass on 8/19/11
*From notes

The growler was filled at Port City's brewery about 30 minutes prior, by owner/founder Bill Butcher. Thank you for generously putting this one "on your tab," Bill.

A: Filtered sunrise golden. a generous pour yields an impressive 1.5 finger head and as I drink, some really solid lacing rims the glass.

S: Like all of Port City's brews, it's got a pretty up front grain bill. As you get past the initial malty, creamy earth, there's a floral yet bitter hop essence to it.

T: It's got a solid all-grain kick right up front. As it hits the mid, a pinch of tallgrass and bittering hops arrive and ride on into the the finish. When extremely fresh like this, I also detect a fair amount of floral yet biting hop oil that balances out the malts.

M: Just what I was looking for. Slightly thin, yet extremely quaffable. The carbonation is a bit low, though it adds to the beer's insane drinkability.

O: Port City's Essential Pale Ale has quickly become one of my go-to, everyday session beers. I can honestly say that this doesn't hold a candle to many others within the APA style, it's too straightforward. Yet that's what I enjoy about it. It's a beer, folks. "A good, everyday, I just want a beer" beer.

Port City has grown on me in a big way, and their Essential Pale Ale is my favorite of their small yet earnest repertoire.

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Photo of cbutova
4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A- Pours from a 12oz bottle into my glass with a semi-hazy apricot orange body and some chunks sinking to the bottom. A very tall, thick frothy white head rises up from the brew with very good retention. Lacing sticks everywhere.

S- Citrus and a hint of tropical fruit hops giving mostly orange and grapefruit notes above a very small hint of crackery pale grains. Clean and balanced; inviting.

T- Things open up all around with both the malts and hops gaining some depth. Hops take on a bitter edge with pine resin, orange peel, grapefruit, grassy and floral tones. This mixes in smoothly with yeast bread, cracker, slight toast and a hint of sweetness.

MF- Creamy and fluffy texture to what overall is a light bodied brew. High end carbonation lands smoothly and allows some of the delicate flavors to really get noticed. Ends with just a hint of bitterness.

Somewhat simple when it comes down to it but the things that are presented are done quite nicely. Citrus hop tones balanced out by a lightly sweet and crackery malt base.

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Photo of dedrinker
4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Light golden. clear color, like a continental pilsener. White head.

Light malt aroma with some twinge of caramel and mild hops.

Firm malt quality with a dash of diacetyl and some balancing bittering hops.

Medium, bodied, goes down easy, but with some substance; a good pub-grub sipper with your meal. I like it.

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Photo of patre_tim
3.99/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Golden cloudy with tons of sediment floating within, a finger of sticky looking off white head. No visible carbonation.

S: Candied pineapple, onion, garlic, light spruce notes, yellow life saver candy.

T: Fruit cocktail, sweet and malty, nice yeasty dough quality, light bitterness. Significantly sweet, like a pineapple candy, but not overdone.

M: Medium body, medium low carbonation. The hops clean the palate from the initial sweetness leaving room for another sip.

O: The APA’s I enjoy most are of this style. Fruity, balanced, sweet with a good hop ending, yet the flavours all play well together Bought in Williamsburg, VA at the Cheese Factory.

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Photo of MUTINY
3.97/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Very fresh 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

A: Slightly hazy gold with a 1/2" white head that seems to retain nicely after a little settling down. Minimal lacing.

S: Disappointing. Vague-as-hell tropical fruit with a touch of cracker & even then I'm stretching.

T: Nice fruity hop up front transitions into an oily, piney hoppiness down the line. The malt bill is just robust enough to reign in all the different hop-forward aspects. If they tweaked it one way or the other just slightly, this might be a disaster. However, in typical Port City fashion, this brew is inexplicably perfectly balanced. The little west coast punch on the end is kind of awesome.

M: Acceptable. I'd argue it's too light for all the flavors here, but any more malt would throw everything else out of wack. Carb is OK.

O: The palate is what really appeals to me here, if the flavors & balance weren't exactly what they are, this brew would have gotten a much lower rating from me.

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Photo of beer2day
3.94/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Gold to orange pour with light carbonation, very little head, no retention and very light lace.

Orange lemon citrus mix on the nose. Mild, not overpowering, but very nice.

Lemon and pepper dominate from the get go. Really come out in the finish as well, with almost a chile pepper feel to the aftertaste. Very little malt character, but there is a little bread here.

Body is about right for the style. Not too heavy, but I could see others thinking so.

Except for the appearance, a fairly solid pale.

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Photo of localone703
3.91/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a much lighter colored pale ale than usual. Also, not very hoppy - even by standard modest APA standards.

Lighter in color and flavor than Sierra Nevada pale ale. It's a good beer, but maybe more like Frederick Brewing Co.s Tire Bite, which is a light golden ale.

I will drink this and enjoy it, but it is on the lighter side of pale ale while DC Brau is on the stronger side. Buncha weirdos around here I know.

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Photo of Jason
3.85/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz brown bottle with no freshness date.

LOOK: Nearly clear pale golden color, ample stickage of lacing

SMELL: Clean, bready, macadamia nuts, clementines, piney hops, ripe passion fruit, faint spice

TASTE: Very smooth, fresh grain, dried grass, citric peel, mint, biscuity, nutty yeast, faint ripe fruit, spicy dry finish

Very well balanced with a good use of hops, this pale ale is a step or two ahead of the pack and is something I'd go for on the regular basis.

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Photo of breardon1776
3.82/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

I love this pale ale. On a trip to Gaitherburg, MD for work. Great taste. Creamy comes to mind though it is def. not that kind of beer. Looks great too. Great with a burger or fish taco. I will drink this aain if I find it again. I would drink again.

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Photo of FirstBrewsoon
3.8/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Consumed from a tulip.

Poured a cloudy pale amber with half a finger of head which left mild lacing.

Smell is fairly constrained, hints of citrus and spice.

Excellent, balanced spicy taste, with more of the citrus than I expected. Nice lingering finish. Tastes great.

Perfect carbonation, somewhat thick mouthfeel.

Overall, a great session pale ale. I wish this were available back in Ohio where I live.

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Photo of jayhawk73
3.73/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a cloudy gold color w/ a nice one finger off white head. Good carbonation and lacing. Very murky looking, and darker than I was expecting for the style. Nose is hops, malt, floral, fruit notes. A little weak, but pleasant. Taste is definitely a step up from the nose. Hops come to the front in the taste, and a nice malt backbone on this APA. No alcohol taste present. Feel is highly carbonated, and has a little bite to it. Overall, this is a good beer, and I'm glad to support this local brewery by consuming their products.

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Photo of delta490
3.73/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A- came out a hazy orange with a creamy white head. minimal retention but did leave lacing throughout the beer

S-big citrus notes, a little tangy aroma to it

T- there is a nice balance between the malt (bready) and hops (citrus). One doesn't dominate or overwhelm the other and there is a nice interplay between the two

M- thinner but with a little carbonation fizz on the finish and a little bitter bite on the opening

O- a really good Pale Ale. Tasty and well-worth trying

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Photo of guityler83
3.73/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: 2 1/2 finger head, mixed bubbles, bright white in a standard pint glass. Great retention, as it fell there was a honey comb lacing on the edge of the glass. The beer is a hazy dark yellow color with no sediment.

S: Grapefruit and citrus hop aroma is moderate. slight biscuity / toasty aroma comes through from the malts. no esters detected.

T: Low to moderate grapefruit bitterness that follows through to the end. very clean crisp fermentation character. More pine and citrus hop flavors are noticable in the middle and add a nice balance to the grapefruit bitterness. Malt flavor is low but detectable as a toasty undertone.

M: Crisp mouthfeel with a moderate level of carbonation and low body. Very drinkable.

O: A very close beer to SNPA. Same grapefruit hop character with maybe a little more bitterness and some different subtleties peeking through. Solid pale ale just not all that exciting.

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Photo of cyclonece09
3.72/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a 14 oz "pint" glass. Pours a transparent orange with some floaties in it. Smells like flowery and piney hops, very nice. Tastes of light grain and flowery hops, but not overly bitter. Beer goes down really smooth and is highly drinkable for its light body. Overall, an above average beer.

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Photo of devilben02
3.7/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This is another solid offering from this fledgling brewery. It pours with a rich golden color and a thin yet persistent cream-colored head. The aroma is dominated by a wonderfully fragrant earthy hop character. The bitterness is a bit less pronounced in the flavor, but a combination of earthy and lemony hops is still dominant, with only a light bready malt character to balance. The light carbonation and medium body stand up well to the flavor profile and help this one go down with ease. Overall, this beer lacks in complexity a bit, but it is a solid, highly drinkable pale ale.

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Photo of got2
3.65/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Port City beers aren't as showy or typically available with the variety of beers from from companies like Flying Dog, but this consistency is what makes them so appealing. No flashy labels or trendy varieties, just consistently good beers. Their Essential Pale Ale isn't any different. It smells of yeast and alcohol, with a light head that dissipates quickly. The color is a rich yellow, accompanied with relatively low carbonation. Taste-wise, there's less of a bite than a nip (though there's a touch of bitterness at the end), though in this context that's okay.

That being said, it reminds me more of a pilsner than an ale.

It's nice, flavorful and the perfect choice for a hot summer day (or if you're weening someone off of 'barely there beers' like Budweiser or Miller).

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Photo of paulginva
3.65/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

APPEARANCE: This beer, poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass, produced an off-white creamy to chunky 2" head that dissipated quite slowly (nearly 4 minutes to go from 2" to 1/2") leaving excellent head lacing. Carbonation was lively in a hazy deep amber body.

AROMA: Fragrant hops all the way. A light note of alcohol.

TASTE: Heavy hops taste with floral and lemon notes and a tasty malt backbone to support the bitter hops. Alcohol was absent from the taste.

MOUTHFEEL: Smooth, light to medium body with good lacing that dissipated slowly. As the beer warmed, carbonation pretty much collapsed from lively to almost nothing at all. The initial flavor was moderately to heavily bitter with the medium-length finish being lightly bitter. There was a lightly bitter aftertaste that persisted for a short time.

DRINKABILITY: This is a good session ale, very easy to drink and repeatable. It's a good, unpretentious, unambiguous APA -- not best of breed by any means, but an honest, simple beer that tastes good and provides good value for its (low) cost. I expect to buy it again, probably many times.

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Photo of Hesperus
3.63/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Appearance: Cloudy and golden with a two finger white head with decent retention, leaving behind a layer of residual foam. Fairly good lacing.

Smell: Piney hops with some resin, grapefruit, some herbal notes and perhaps a little bit of spiciness.

Taste: Similar to nose, pine and grapefruit make up the bulk of the flavor profile, with some herbal and malt notes in the background.

Mouthfeel: Wet with middling carbonation. Highly drinkable and moderately refreshing.

Overall: A very serviceable pale ale that is certainly on the hoppier side of the spectrum. That being said, this is far from the best I've had.

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Photo of ahalloin
3.63/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served on tap at the brewery.

Pours a VERY clear golden color with orange hues. The white foam cap was decent but hard to judge on a 5 oz. pour in a taster glass.

The smell combined a more dominant toasty rich continental Europe malt with a lesser aspect of light hops. The hop aspect is what I perceive as a sweet, perfumy, lightly citric hop character that comes from Amarillo.

The taste is good and quenching, but subdued. Light toffee malt with some toastiness coral a light hop flavor. The hops used are definitely American used in a way to add a slight accent. Clean finish with little aftertaste.

Mouthfeel is nice with a medium body and low-medium carbonation.

Drinkability is quite good, but this beer doesn't overwhelm the senses in any form. Dare I say it's sessionable?! Well, it is. And it will be great for locals to get a fresh, locally-made APA.

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Essential Pale Ale from Port City Brewing
3.56 out of 5 based on 197 ratings.
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