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 farrago
3.44/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Finger’s worth of close to pure white loose foam, starts to disintegrate swiftly to barely cover the surface, likewise the lacing is thin and easily slides off the glass. Light and transparent orange to yellow in color, few bubbles visible but what’s there are large, clean and clear but not much to look at. The nose is super-sweet with oodles of apricot and peach fruit, milk chocolate and malty caramel, some grass, wheat germ, pepper and lemon zest, perhaps some charcoal, a bit boozy like rum, neither bready nor flowery. Medium-bodied, soft and creamy mouth feel with fluffed up carbonation which extends the sensations from your tongue to the roof, here the orange to lemon citrus matches the sweetness of that apricot, peach, yellow apple fruit. The cocoa stiffer, brings out some coffee and country bread notes, light burnt toast. More of that mineral to charcoal aspect, seems incongruent with the whole. Firms up as it warms so serving temperature may play a role in how you enjoy it. That said, remains very much on the sweet end of the spectrum.

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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 TechTriumph
3.62/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From notes on 02/28/12:
No freshness date; Poured in a pint glass.

A - 1-1/2 off-white fluffy head with pretty good retention; Color is somewhere between copper and gold; Fairly hazy appearance with lots of visible sediment; Not too much lacing left behind

S - Pleasant aroma with notes of sweet apricot, pineapple, grapefruit, yeast, and floral qualities; There's just a little bit of a caramel malt backbone, but it's pretty reserved

T - I was surprised here with a big presence of tart apricot-like flavor with a little bit of bitterness tagging along; Though the apricot taste is the dominant feature here, yeasty, grainy, floral, and herbal flavors come through a bit as well; Caramel malts are very faint and hard to pick out; The tart apricot lingers well into the aftertaste

M - Light to medium bodied; Moderate carbonation; Mouthfeel is a just a bit syrupy with a semi-dry finish

O - In the big sea of available pale ales, this one fits right in the middle of the pack, but does provide a pretty unique flavor. The fruity/tart apricot-like flavor wasn't what I was expecting, but pleasant enough for me to have a few of these. Overall, this isn't a must have for me, but one that I wouldn't mind trying again.

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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 VncentLIFE
3.39/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Decently carbonated deep golden colored liquid topped by absolutely no head. hm odd.

Dried citric hops. Grapefruit, oranges, and lemons. Anything with citric acid in it. Yep.

Surprisingly more balanced than I thought it would be. A decent pale ale. Nice balance of bittering hops and aroma. What aroma is there consists of citric hops. I get alot of lemons zest.

I dont like the slight bite you get near the end, A little too crisp for my tastes.

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Photo of brentk56
3.26/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a clear amber color, capped by an inch or so of snow white foam that leaves a few dots of lace behind

Smell: Very lemony, though it trends in a Pine-Sol detergent direction; cracker malt underneath

Taste: Opens with a cracker malt flavor that moves in a sharp lemon direction by mid-palate, with a bit of pith and Pine-Sol; the flavors fade quickly after the swallow, the the bitterness lingers a bit in the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Overall: A straightforward APA that would benefit from a bit more of a malt bill; otherwise, it is decent and worth a look

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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 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 wowbagger
2.48/5  rDev -30.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pours a very pale yellow. Aroma is purely hops, initial flavor is the same. Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of the style, so it's not a favorite, but it is a good straightforward simple beer, miles better than the mass-produced "leading pale beers".

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Photo of LaCoursiere
3.58/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

No bottled on or best-by date. Poured into a tulip glass. Thanks to gwillyb for sending me some fresh stuff so I can edit my review.

A - Pours a nice yellow-orange with a half finger off-white head. Very fine carbonation is visible. Minimal lacing.

S - The nose is a bit mute, slightly malty and citrusy nose.

T - Very clean taste that has hints of citrus and peppery spice. Biscuity malts peek through in the middle. The hops have a nice crisp bitterness that is slightly herbal, earty and grassy.

M - Medium-light bodied that is slick on the way in with carbonation that is very fine and light. It goes well with the mild flavor profile. No alcohol presence.

O/D - This is a nice beer that is quite drinkable... It would do exceedingly well on a hot summer day with the crisp, clean hop bitterness and lemony citrus notes.

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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 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 BeerFMAndy
3.08/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle poured into a Sierra Nevada imperial pint.
5.5% ABV, no date.

Thanks to Thorpe429 for sending this brew my way!

A - Lightly cloudy pale golden yellow in color and topped by a long-lasting white head, Essential looks good but is missing an essential piece; lacing.

S - Faint hops leave much to be desired from this pale. Light lemongrass notes come before an also faint pale malt base. This brew needs more potency.

T - Surprisingly sweet at first, it takes a few sips for the pils malt to give way to bitter, resiny hops. Much more in flavor than aroma, these buds give off faint lemony notes.

M - Medium in body and sweet starting with a sharp dry, biting bitter finish. Balance seems conflicted. Instead of complimenting each other, the delayed bitterness ends up harsh.

O - A great pale is hard to nail down. Port City is on the right track with this one but the hop additions during the boil need tweaking, especially adding an addition of finishing aroma hops/ dry hopping. The nose on this could stand much improvement.

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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 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 TheDeuce
3.15/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Port City Essential Pale Ale…in the bottle at Old Ebbitt Grill restaurant in Washington D.C

Appearance-medium gold with a pale white head, I gave an aggressive pour and came back with three fingers of off white head that stay around for a little while and then summarily disappear.

Smell-light hoppy swirls arise first, alcohol along with bready malt, caramel in the nose as well.

Taste/Mouthfeel-light hops, fruit mixed in with a nice refreshing flavor, more citrus than piney, light to medium mouthfeel, a little thin but flavor doesn’t suffer much. Finishes with one last light fruit note, otherwise clean. I note that malt is very very subdued here.

Drinkability-fruit notes of the hops are refreshing, no issues.
Overall-an enjoyable and promising beer from these new guys. Not outstanding but a nice example of the style. I enjoyed it and will look forward to trying their other creations.

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Photo of Godot
3.55/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had this at the brewery. Very nice pale ale that I can see becoming a nice fall-back for me at restaurants in the area. Pours a light golden with a finger of bright white foam. The smell is underwhelming but not bad. The hops just are not very assertive in the nose. The taste is better. Fairly one dimensional citrus hops but done very well. Extremely sessionable with a refreshing grapefruit snap. I'm glad this brewery is here and I hope them all the best (for the selfish reason that I want to keep drinking their beers).

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Photo of THECPJ
2.88/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Reviewed from notes:

appearance: golden yellow orange with a 1 finger white head

smell: hops, malts, caramel,

taste: soap, caramel, hops, malts

mouthfeel: mild carbonation, medium body,

overall: refreshing crisp beer. Just wish it didn't have this soap characteristic to it.


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Photo of goblue3509
2.77/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours an amber color with almost no head at all and no lacing. The aroma is of sweet malt and a little bit of a citrus hop bite. The aroma is faint and a little weak. The taste follows suit yet a little stronger. There is a sweet malt backbone and a hint of breadiness to it. There is a citrus hop bite to balance out the beer, but the bite is weak and subdued for the class. The mouthfeel is low carbonation. Overall it was an okay beer, needs more in the hop department for taste and a little more carbonation.

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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 drabmuh
3.2/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Slightly better. Beer is yellow / amber, quite hazy, thin broken head, halo of bubbles, no real lacing, minimal carbonation.

Aroma is sweet with some malt, yeastiness, and mild hops.

Beer is mildly sweet, medium to light in body, overall a little weak in the profile but mildly hoppy on the finish, overall a decent beer, but nothing too special. Oh well, I still like their porter, their pales need a lot of work.

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Photo of tlazaroff
3.38/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a golden honey color with a thin white head. No visible carbonation, and it has a tad of haze.

S: Sadly, noting too noteworthy. I get some fruit on the nose, pineapple, tropical, that kind of thing.

T: Sweeter than I expected. It has a good flavor, the hops are present but not over-powering. Nice hop taste too, just like the nose, pineapple and tropical fruits.

M: Medium bodied with low to moderate carbonation. A tad sweet so its a tad sticky, which coats the palate.

D: High, this is an easy drinking, good pale ale.

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Photo of SummitVA
3.5/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pale straw pour with moderate carbonation.

S - Light hop character (a little pine and citrus), along with bigger sweet malts. Some breadiness here to a give complexity, but sweetness foremost.

T - Sweetness again at the forefront. This is followed by resiny pine hop character with just a hint of citrus. Big caramel with a bit of toasty bread. Hop bite in finish gives a nice crispness.

M - Nice light brew.

O - My favorite of the Port City offerings thus far. A solid pale ale, and I'll be happy to grab a pint when there is nothing more interesting available, but this is forgettable for the most part. Still, very happy to see Port City at so many places around town, and I'll happily try all of their beers.

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Photo of akorsak
3.3/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A bottle at RFD, poured into a glass.

A: The pale ale is a darker amber color, closer to nut brown than pale. Paired with the darker appearance is an off-white head that leaves a few layers of lacing behind.

S: The aromas are caramel and grains, a little biscuity, with a small hop afterthought. The hoppiness isn't a big feature of the beer, instead it opts for subtlety.

T: More grainy chewiness. Caramel and biscuit together with darker breads. Hops aren't that strong, more of a balancing aspect. Overall, the flavor is solid but doesn't come with any frills. Content in what it is, an accessible pale ale. Although, truth be told, a few more hops wouldn't hurt.

M: The mouthfeel is malty, very little in the way of citrusy hops. Too bad too, there are few things like a nice well-balanced pale ale.

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