Ballantine XXX Ale | Pabst Brewing Company

166 Reviews
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Ballantine XXX AleBallantine XXX Ale

Brewed by:
Pabst Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: American Blonde Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.85%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 07-02-2001

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Reviews: 166 | Ratings: 305
Photo of BloodSoakedAleMug
3.14/5  rDev +1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.5

Look: Consumed out of the bottle so I won't comment on the look, although I did notice a lot of floaters through the glass.

Aroma: Skunky. Sweet notes of creamed corn and thick, syrupy honey. I've honestly smelt worse. Mild hints of grass and roasted grains.

Taste: Sweet notes of roasted corn, honey, and slightly tart, grassy, pleasantly skunky hops. Vaguely bitter on the aftertaste.

Feel: Syrupy. Extremely thick for a 4.85%er, but it's tolerable.

Overall: Surprisingly not as horrible as I expected. I would buy this again, but only because it's a bargain at $2 a 40oz. For malt liquor (I don't consider this an American Blonde Ale) this is just about as good as it gets.

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Photo of davisrs
4.29/5  rDev +37.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

This was my go to brew of the late 1960s when they were the largest brewing company in the US and Blatz was the main beer offering in Michigan. The numbers above are from memory 40 or so years ago.
I have been trying to get my hands on some cans or bottles of the restart Ballantine by Pabst for about a year to no avail.
In the mean time, I have settled on Sierra Nevada as my brew of choice for crisp refreshment.
There are similarities, but I wish I could taste test them side by side!

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Photo of kojevergas
3.28/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

"America's largest selling ale" ...whatever that means.

Nabbed a 40oz brown glass screw-top bottle at a dodgy Mexican bodega in Brooklyn, NY. Best before: Nov 21 16. No ABV is listed on the label. The only style/categorization info from the label is "ale." (Pabst's website offers little more than that.) A little more research into the history of the brand reveals this had an English tax category of 30 shilling, and that it's top-fermented. I guess I'll approach it as an (bastardized) English ale?

HEAD: Soft and fluffy, with a nice complexion and consistency. Thick and coating. Frankly, it looks great - this is what a classic frothy head should look like, and the off-white colour is right on point. Retention is excellent (~10+ minutes), and nice (albeit inconsistent) lacing sticks to the sides of the glass as the head slowly recedes.

BODY: Clear blonde of average vibrance. Clean, lacking any visible yeast particulate or hop sediment.

Well-carbonated based on the appearance. Frankly, it's an apt appearance for what I'm assuming is a budget attempt at an English pale ale. I confess I didn't anticipate such a good appearance in a 40oz format brew whose brand is owned by Pabst.

AROMA: Honeyed malt, grains, blonde/pale malt, pleasant floral hop character, hints of nectar, some malty sweetness...this is quite appealing, actually. I detect no overt adjunct and it doesn't seem like the usual syrupy sticky fare you'd expect in a beer sold in this format at this price (regardless of style). I even think I find some specialty biscuit malt, and the yeast strain parses as English to me (of course, I'm probably wrong).

Aromatic intensity is average. I have to say, I'm really looking forward to the first sip.

TASTE & TEXTURE: This is a hell of a lot better than I anticipated...honeyed blonde/pale malts, floral hop character, nectary flowery notes, and a decently balanced malt sweetness. It flirts with a syrupy mouthfeel but keeps its thickness mostly in check, avoiding that pitfall neatly. Carbonation is right on the money (okay, it's a bit high if we're nitpicking), mouthfeel is aptly medium-bodied and approachably soft, with a complementary smoothness and wetness that makes it almost refreshing. Specialty English biscuit malt and an undertone of graininess keeps it interesting, lending it more character and depth of flavour than I'm accustomed to in beers at this budget tier.

Sure, it's not the most complex English ale I've tried, but it's well built for what it is and I find it surprisingly well balanced. Unlike many 40oz beers in this price range (many of them malt liquors), this won't be a chore to take down. In fact, I look forward to it.

The coating mouthfeel does verge on buttery, but luckily it stops short. When prompted, some drinkers may observe a green apple flavour that could be argued to be an off-flavour; for me, it's so muted it hardly matters.

No overt faults, no problematic adjunct (I don't mind the mild corn-like sweetness), no egregious flaws. While the balance isn't perfectly dialed in and it could use a lot of improvement in terms of intricacy and depth, there's a lot here to like.

OVERALL: A surprisingly drinkable gem of a budget brew, Ballantine XXX is a surprisingly competent expression of a bastardized English ale, boasting the kind of hop profile that would have impressed the average beer drinker in the 1970s. I imagine many reviewers will shit on this merely because they know the brand is owned by Pabst, but if we're giving credit where it's due I have to say this is well worth trying - and the more than reasonable price is a bonus (though price has no bearing on my rating).

Often, people wonder why someone would buy and try budget beers they don't anticipate will be good; this is the kind of unexpected treasure I'd point to as an example of why giving every beer a chance no matter its marketing or brand ownership sometimes works out for the best. For me, the softness of the mouthfeel alone makes this well worth trying.

Low B- (3.28) / WORTHY

12.10.16: I keep coming back to this beer; the price to quality ratio is tough to beat. $3.50 a 40oz screw-top bottle in Brooklyn.

The aggressive overcarbonation is troublesome but it does give this a cidery crispness. More full-bodied than most budget beers, with a nice balance though it's a simple shallow brew across the board.

Better than it has to be to compete with other brown bag 40 oz swill, Ballantine XXX is a surprisingly competently executed gem. Give this to your friends in a blind tasting and tell them it's a new lager from Jack's Abby. See how many criticize it.


03/09/17: I keep coming back to this as a solid go-to budget brew. $3.49 even in hipstery Williamsburg(h)...

Drinkable with no faults or off-flavours, including the usual metallic and watery pitfalls. It's simple and a bit insipid, but what's not to like?


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Photo of StoutElk_92
4.01/5  rDev +28.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz. bottle

Pours clear gold yellow with a creamy white foam head. Smells very green and slightly skunky with some fresh cut grass, herbaceous earthy pine, mild citrus, with an underlying vegetal straw grain note. Tastes very green and grassy with an herbaceous vegetal note reminiscent of string beans and pea pods, a unique woody sawdust grain note, leafy pine, with mild lingering citrus fruit. Feels medium-light bodied, creamy with moderate low carbonation. Overall a classic blonde ale.

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Photo of brap
2.75/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3

Got this out for nostalgias sake since I hadn't drank it for decades. It wasn't as good as I remembered it but then again when I drank Ballantine regularly the alternative was Carlings Black Label so at the time this was a relative treat and flavorbomb.

There were things about it that weren't terrible, at least it has some character. It certainly tastes like a Ballantine and nothing else.

The biggest disappointment was that it no longer had the rebus puzzle bottle cap. Now that made for a thinking man's 40 ozer!

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Photo of KACK1533
4.11/5  rDev +32.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A great heritage beer. Smell is hoppy, taste is hoppy with a slight twinge of malty sweetness. Feels nice on the palate, perhaps too nice. Overall this is a great beer.

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Photo of scootny
3.6/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This was my go to ale in the days of my youth and meager finances. Back then just over a dollar fifty got you a tasty and refreshing 40 ounces of top quality macro brew. I forgot to check the price when I bought this 40 but is was at there when I was making a craft brew run upstate and I couldn't help going for some nostalgia.

Surprisingly good head, (I was always drinking from the bottle back in the day) with nice lacing. Pale gold color. Nose has some light malt sweetness with a touch of musty citrus. A bit of fusel alcohol and metal. A light floral hop flourish. Taste is as I remember. Light malt body brings a bit of grain and honey sweetness. Clean hop dryness with a firm bitter finish. Light somewhat fizzy carbonation with a light body. If the old drinkability category were still around I' be inclined to go with a quarter point more in the final rating category. Still this is a top tier pocket change brew. Beast the heck out of the "King" when you have only macro brew.

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Photo of deansellers
2.89/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

I must admit I was disappointed mostly because I was expecting a Pale Ale. After thoroughly enjoying their IPA I was looking forward to this one. This is more of a lager than an ale, imo. A nice lager, as they go, but a pretty poor ale.

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Photo of rudzud
3.04/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

A - Poured into my Duvel tulip a crystal clear golden hue with a half finger white head that fades quickly to leave a thin wispy blanket and light halo.

S - Aromas of crackery malts, adjuncts, mostly it.

T - Taste is more of the crackery malts and adjuncts, though with a flash of herbal hops and a light light bitter pine finish. The malts are a bit sweeter and sticky, though the finish is nice and lightly bitter.

M - Mouthfeel is crisp, briskly carbonated, a touch watery.

O - Overall, this is not that bad of a beer. The adjuncts and malts are not overwhelming, and the hop profile is light and a touch bitter. Definitely a summertime lawnmower beer.

Serving Type: Can

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Photo of bobdrob
4.47/5  rDev +43.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A beer from my yout'? The local packy regularly stocked the XXX Pale, the IPA, and the lager. I didn't know at the time what an ale was,but it was pleasant enough & the price was always right. Had it at a wedding at a VFW this past august & was impressed. Now, as a nouveau hipster brew this could stand next to PBR as a cool slumming bev, only with flavor & character. A piney afternote surprised & convinced me. As good as Porkslap, Victory, or any other B+ pale.

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Photo of Doctor_Bogenbroom
4.1/5  rDev +31.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I bought this at my local distributor, one day before Thanksgiving. I give thanks for you, oh Ballantine. Bottle poured into a standard pint glass.

Appearance: Brassy gold color with lots of carbonation coming to the surface. There is a thin white head, less than a finger's width, that quickly collapses into a thin froth on the surface of the beer. Minimal lacing.

Aroma: Gentle malty aroma, as well as a faint metallic smell of tin.

Taste: Not as watery as I was expecting. A smooth, almost hearty taste on the tongue. I can taste the malts, and the hops are there as well, though muted. Slightly bitter on the approach, and there is a definite sweetness on the back end. A slight metallic aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, dry, very clean feel on the tongue. Light, almost medium body with carbonation leaving a lasting impression on the tongue. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Overall: I find this ale to be satisfying overall. It has a sweetness to it that balances well with the malt and hops. It's light, but not overly so. It's slightly bitter, but not overly so. It's a well balanced brew, maybe just a little weak overall, but I like it. On a future edit, I will attempt an experiment by mixing the XXX 60/40 with some Ballantine IPA I have on hand. Another reviewer recommended this strategy as a way to make the ale taste closer to its original incarnation. Stay posted.

Edit: A friend stopped by for a couple beers and he cannot get a hold of Ballantine IPA where he lives (Norfolk, VA). Not only did I give him a bottle (which he loved), but I also mixed my own IPA to the Ballantine XXX: 40% IPA, 60% XXX. And man, oh man, what a good choice that was. I heartily recommend trying this strategy if you'd like to transport yourself into the past. You won't regret it.

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Photo of lou50rp
4/5  rDev +28.6%

Good beer for a nostalgia trip.
Nothing fancy, not a lot of taste. What is there is good.
Good for a session or summer yard work.
Every so often I buy a six-pack, sit back and enjoy it.

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Photo of dacrza1
2/5  rDev -35.7%

DATE REVIEWED: August 9, 2014... GLASSWARE: Baltika stange... OCCASION: Sharknado with Matt, Jer and Shan--a win!...APPEARANCE: cler golden yellow body; bubbles are consistent; crisp white head that spreads upward with cirrus wisps; smeary lacing... AROMA: funky tin malts--as expected from a 40 oz. bottle--and some banana at the end--mostly wet pennies... PALATE: thin at first; beefy ending; gassy and slick; easy drinking otherwise... TASTE: lemony wheat grass; biscuity and toasted malts reign supreme in this otherwise thin profile...OVERALL: intrigued by its history--and ODB’s proclivity for it, according to song--this 40 drinks easy and malty with a bit of refreshment to it--but it also is a bit thin and unimpressive in its refrigerated neighborhood, where OE 800 and Mickey’s reside...

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Photo of lobotomy
3.12/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Take this beer for what it is and compare it to its peers. Does it hold up when compared to craft brewed beer? No. But it is a good macro beer. Has more hop flavor than others in its class. Has a corny adjuncty finish. It's far from horrible, it isn't the greatest beer ever made either. The beer has its place. Not as good as Yuengling in the macro category, but I'll take it over a Bud or Coors any day.

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Photo of DagenhamDavis
4.18/5  rDev +34.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Ballantine Ale is unique. For me it's a treat and a bit of a rarity, yet it is widely regarded as run of the mill type stuff for many due to its status as a heritage or granddad beer. However, leaving it at this would be a serious oversight of a great American ale.
Ballantine's is an affirmation that real hop flavor existed in beer well before the craft boom, and that heritage beers are not automatically shadows of what they should be. It's clean, refreshing, and has real flavor. I was truly surprised and said 'wow' out loud several times with my first pint can. While it's not quite on the hop level of a contemporary APA, Ballantine really has a similar feel to it. Will try again when I get the chance.

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Photo of metter98
2.89/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.25

A: The beer is crystal clear yellow in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a quarter finger high bright white head that died down, leaving some patches of bubbles on the surface, a miniscule collar around the edge of the glass, and bits of lacing running down the sides.
S: Light aromas of grainy malts are present in the nose along with some slight hints of skunk.
T: The taste mostly follows the smell and I can pick up traces of corn adjuncts along with a light amount of bitterness. There are also hints of skunk and these seem to be most prominent in the finish.
M: It feels light-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation. There seems to be slight amounts of wateriness.
O: This beer came in a green bottle, so that might explain the bits of skunk that I picked up in the smell and taste of this beer. However, it's not bad for a macro beer and doesn't have much in the way of adjuncts in the smell and taste. It also doesn't seem to be as bland as other blonde ales.

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Photo of MasterSki
3.55/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

40oz from Bruz. Busted this out to class up a whale tasting. Served in a Cantillon tulip.

A - Big white foam that lingers, leaving behind loads of splotchy lace. Transparent pale golden body.

S - Skunky, courtesy of the classy green bottle. Some herbal noble hopping, but largely evocative of the finest adjunct lagers; doubt anyone can perceive the ale yeast here. Perhaps a bit of cereal grain, and fairly restrained corn character.

T - The taste is surprisingly pleasant, with a mix of pale malt and corn sweetness, and some faint grassy hop. Quite mild, with no obvious alcohol.

M - Pleasant carbonation, medium body, slightly grainy in texture, and no alcohol heat. Fairly refreshing actually.

D - Surprisingly enjoyable once you get past the skunky aroma. I'd much prefer to drink this over PBR or other adjunct lagers, particularly if canned or kegged. Very much a lawnmower beer that wouldn't offend anyone. Not particularly complex, but significantly better than anticipated.

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Photo of ProfessorValue
3.6/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I drank this in college (early 80s) but did not recall the flavor. Today, liking the full range of ales, I found and purchased this locally at Finger Lakes Beverage. Ballantine is one of my favorite beers. Sure, it does not have the "punch" of heartier ales, but that's not what this beer is. Instead, it's clean, very dry and light in body. Good for drinking several at a sitting. I always keep a case on hand when it's in stock. Highly recommend.

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Photo of beerluvr
3.57/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours with a rocky snow white head over clear pale golden liquid. Nose is perfumey, a small amount of sharp metallic hop, mixed with light maltiness. Taste is light-bodied, with some more metallic hoppiness, some mouth coating sweetness and some adjuncty flavors as well. Finishes sharp and tangy though a shadow of it's former self and the poor relative to the legendary Ballantine IPA which was phenomenal. A nice, low-priced ale...very drinkable, especially on hot days.

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Photo of yankinoz
4.02/5  rDev +29.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I'm working from memory of my go-to beer, back when Ballantine brewed in Newark and this really was America's most popular ale. A point to emphasize about xxx is that to my tastes it was far better on tap than in bottles, a bigger difference than I have found in any other beer. Not only was bottled xxx often skunky, it always seemed slightly cooked and a bit thin in comparison. Once I tasted the draft, I rarely went back to the bottles.

From the tap it poured with a good head, although retention was below average. The aroma was floral and fairly strong, though less than from opening a bottle. Lacing? I was too young to care.

Malt came out in in the aroma, mouthfeel and a trace of sweetness, though it finished dry like a pilsner, all qualities less evident in the bottled beer. It was noticeably more bitter than any of the domestic lagers then available, but less than the German lagers then coming in. Overall, a beer that taught me what balance was.

I spent a year in England about then. Obviously the English bitters were different, but I can't say I liked the run of the mill ones better, only certain ones like Abott Ale and just about everything brewed in Yorkshire.

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Photo of barczar
2.72/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Dated August 12, so about 4 months late.

Pours a slightly hazy golden straw with a solid one inch white head that slowly dissipates, leaving sticky lacing.

Skunk, grain, and corn adjunct form the aroma. Lightly sweet malt is secondary.

Flavor leaves the skunk behind. Grain, lightly sweet, cracker malt, and a hit of floral hops form the flavor profile. Metallic flavors emerge.

Body is on the light side, with moderate carbonation and a touch of astringency.

Can't believe this beer got the ratings it did. Flavor is neutral, aroma skunky.

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Photo of Tucquan
3.25/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Had this on 2012-12-12 in Columbia, PA

A - Clear, bold yellow with a 1.25-finger white head and mild lacing.

S - Lemon, light hop floral, cracker. Not bad. Better than Bud or Miller for sure.

T - Tastes like a somewhat hoppy lager with corn sweetness, lemon and light bitterness. Perhaps leaning towards a Victory Prima Pils but nowhere as sophisticated, bitter, or, well, really not in the same league. Not upleasant though. The green bottle could have been badly skunked. I kept it out of the light and so perhaps did most of the rest of the supply chain since it's evident but barely.

M - Light-medium body and medium carbonation. More body than I expected.

O - It's not the piney / bitter brew I remember from the early 70's in North Jersey. I didn't know what hops were then but I knew I liked the flavor of Ballantine XXX , which I learned many decades later, used hop oil extract. This beer could use some of that but even so, I enjoyed this more than most adjunct brews.

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Photo of TwinSox33
3.42/5  rDev +10%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From a "Half-Quart" 16oz can

A: Golden hued traditional AAL look

S: Milled grains, husky grass.

T: Semi-sweet malts rounded out with a citric hop bitterness. The beer has a crackery presence, and the hops are like a watered down IPA.

M: Slightly above average for the style. Smooth and Creamy.

Very good for a retro Pabst owned (brewed by Miller) product. When you see it for $5-6 for a 6'er do not hesitate to pick some up! When PBR is at the same price point this wins.

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Photo of billybob
3.51/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

pours yellow-gold in color good one finger white foamy head and a nice spattering of lace. smell is on the weak side with a grassy metallic note. taste grassy along with a malt grain and slightly salty and metallic finish. mouthfeel is light with a crisp carbonation. overall a easy beer to drink a good beer for summer and summer time cookouts. or just anytime.

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Photo of MoreThanWine
2.5/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

It claims to be America's largest selling ale. Really? I see so little of it I find that hard to believe. Do they just mean it comes in a big can?

Poured an 1/8" white head which faded fast. Clear straw yellow color with almost all the carbonation exhausted. Smells very mildly of malt and grass. Taste mirrors the smell and really is just a pure BMC of a beer. Thoroughly average and forgettable.

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Ballantine XXX Ale from Pabst Brewing Company
3.11 out of 5 based on 305 ratings.
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