Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Essential Pale Ale | Port City Brewing

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 58 | Ratings: 194
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

 614 characters

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.

 1,110 characters

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.

 504 characters

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".

 247 characters

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.

 829 characters

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!!

 608 characters

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.

 1,389 characters

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.

 1,044 characters

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.

 532 characters

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.

 583 characters

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.

 903 characters

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).

 525 characters

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.


 297 characters

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.

 512 characters

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.

 326 characters

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.

 416 characters

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.

 534 characters

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.

 720 characters

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.

 807 characters

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.

 422 characters

Photo of mdfb79
3.41/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Have tried this one several times at the brewery, picked up a bottle at Rick's in Alexandria, VA on Saturday to give it a proper review. Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

a - Pours a clear golden color with one finger of white head and moderate carbonation evident. Head lasts for one to two minutes with one inch of white head lasting throughout the drink, and a tiny bit of lacing on the glass.

s - Smells of grain, bready malts, light orange and citrus hops, and light floral notes. Not offensive at all, but pretty average.

t - Tastes of bready malts, biscuit, and grain. Also some light citrus hops, pale malts, and floral hops again. Taste is a slight step up from the nose.

m - Medium body and moderate to high carbonation. Pretty smooth.

d - A nice, slightly above average pale ale. The smell is a little bland and average, with the taste being a little bit better. Overall this is my least favorite beer of the four Port City is currently brewing, but it's still a decent beer worth checking out.

 1,023 characters

Photo of kevinv
3.18/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into a pint glass. No freshness code noted on the bottle.

A - Pours a clear golden color with a half finger of bubbly white head, which dissipates quickly. No visible lacing is left on the glass. Very little visible carbonation.

S - Light pale malts with the ever-most subtly scent of floral hops.

T - Slightly sweet pale malts, with again, a light hop presesnce and bitterness. Clean and straight-forward, but I'm left looking for more.

M - Light body with a crisp finish. Low-medium carbonation.

D - This could be a "sessionable" beer for me and it's a pretty easy drinker, but kind of boring. Looking forward to trying their other offerings.

 661 characters

Photo of smakawhat
2.76/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass.

A two finger head of white bubbles forms but quickly fades off the pour. Very clear and simple amber color is present. Very much borderline.

First impression off the smell for this beer is rank off-putting. It hints at an orange or other citrus fruit, but it's as if the citrus fruit went bad or is at least going rotten. This does NOT smell nice at all.

Taste overall is kind of strange. Finish is probably the best part of the beer but it's a bit wet/watery, a little carbonated sweet in the palate, and has at least a good bread finish. Taste brings at least a basic supermarket orange to the table, but it's also bitter in a bitter fruit way, with no hop or malt presence at all.

Overall this pale ale is very un-even. Not really a good beer from this brewery they have done better. This is disappointing to say the least.

 878 characters

Photo of CuriousMonk
2.43/5  rDev -31.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

On tap at Stoney's in DC. Poured into pint glass. Pours a a golden straw/yellow color along with a small white head that fizzles quickly leaving some light lacing throughout. Aroma is medium sweet, orange/lemon, some grapefruit, biscuit with notes of mild malts and hops. Taste is medium sweet, grapefruit, lemon/ornage, light bread, lager lemon. Light-medium body, some acidity which hurt the score. Mild carbonation throughout. Was too bitter and left an unpleasant taste at the end. I cannot go with this one here for the style...

 533 characters

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.

 314 characters

Essential Pale Ale from Port City Brewing
3.56 out of 5 based on 194 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • 10 Years of BeerAdvocate Magazine

    We're celebrating 10 years of BA mag with $10 print subscriptions for US residents!