What are your thoughts on Blondes Ales?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by tkdchampxi, Jun 17, 2014.

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  1. tkdchampxi

    tkdchampxi Meyvn (1,058) Oct 19, 2010 New Jersey

    I notice that many Belgian style beers that are identified as Blonde by name are classified on here as Belgian Pale Ales. On the other hand, there is a whole style classification for American Blonde Ales that is separate from American Pale Ales. Any idea about how this came to be?

    Other beers completely outside of these styles also sometimes call themselves "blondes," including a Barleywine (Behemoth Blonde Barleywine), a APL (Shiner Blonde), and an American Pale Wheat Ale (Sweaty Betty Blonde).

    Ultimately, these inconsistencies have led me to avoid Blondes almost entirely. It doesn't help that I personally haven't had any blondes I liked (though I wouldn't turn down Trappist Westvleteren Blonde, which is pretty well-rated). Thoughts? Any good ones worth discussing?
     
  2. Dupage25

    Dupage25 Aspirant (226) Jul 4, 2013 Antarctica

    In the context of Belgian beer, blonde, pale and golden all pretty much refer to the same kind of beer; some people also include tripel and single/patersbier in that range but that's a bit more controversial. Traditionally the word "pale" wasn't used by Belgian brewers themselves, that's just what foreigners applied to their blonde/golden ales. Duvel is the standard bearer here. It isn't a traditional beer (it dates from the first world war) and technically isn't very Belgian, but most of the subsequent "Belgian pale/blonde/golden" beers on the stronger end of the spectrum (7%+ alcohol) have consciously emulated Duvel. The yeast may be Scottish and the malts may be German, but it's one of the most influential beers ever brewed in Belgium.

    I have absolutely no idea what the hell an "American blonde ale" is. Every one I have ever tried was indistinguishable from an American pale ale.
     
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  3. Harnkus

    Harnkus Initiate (0) Oct 31, 2013 New York

    I don't care. I drink beer I don't categorize them.
     
  4. CaptFrothy

    CaptFrothy Zealot (510) Dec 9, 2006 Maryland
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  5. tkdchampxi

    tkdchampxi Meyvn (1,058) Oct 19, 2010 New Jersey

    Fine. But beers also have names. And some of them have the word blonde in the name. Had any good ones?

    Or do you have nothing constructive to offer to this conversation
     
  6. Preluderl

    Preluderl Devotee (495) Sep 27, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Trader

    Rivertowne Babbling Blonde is my wifes favorite beer. That's not going to help you out in New Jersey, but yeah.

    I generally like them just fine, though. It's just a style where you're probably unlikely to find anything truly outstanding but they'll be perfectly pleasant and drinkable.
     
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  7. tkdchampxi

    tkdchampxi Meyvn (1,058) Oct 19, 2010 New Jersey

    I'll keep an eye out. Thanks. I have access to Rivertowne stuff sometimes, and I particularly like their new Dayman IPA (session IPA)
     
  8. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,355) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    Belgian ambers are also lumped into the Belgian pale ale category with the blondes. This particular site makes greater distinctions amongst the styles that are more associated with American "craft." Take a look at other sources just to see how many distinctions there are for various Czech beers... for those in the know in that part of the world (and folks like Ron Pattinson). It's not perfect, and it limits cross-cultural understanding, but it's human nature and (on the upside) it's practical.
     
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  9. WI-Beer-Man

    WI-Beer-Man Devotee (497) May 29, 2014 Wisconsin
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    Not sure if this is a "Blonde Ale" exactly, but I do enjoy Leffe Blonde.
     
    #9 WI-Beer-Man, Jun 17, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 18, 2014
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  10. Beric

    Beric Initiate (0) Jun 1, 2013 Massachusetts

    My bet is that it has to do with the malt used, and how this malt affects the coloring. Blonde ales/lagers have a lower SRM than pale ales. Pale ales tend to hover between 5-14 SRM, while blonde ales tend to hover between 3-6 SRM.

    The distinction between Belgian beers calling themselves blonde and them being classified as a Belgian Pale Ale probably has more to do with the Belgian yeast than the coloring. If you called a Belgian blonde a generic "blonde" you're going to be expecting something quite different than what you get due to the influence the yeast exerts on the beer.

    As for your barleywine example, I'm again inclined to believe it has to do with color. You can brew an exceedingly strong beer from pale malts (just look at a Tripel, for instance). A typical barleywine is typically 10-19 SRM. A blonde barleywine is likely to be lighter in color due to the malts being used, but similar in other characteristics (such as hopping levels, yeast flavors, etc.).
     
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  11. Beric

    Beric Initiate (0) Jun 1, 2013 Massachusetts

    Not sure if you can get it, but Narragansett Summer Ale (it's a blonde ale) is a pretty solid example of a standard-normal American Blonde Ale. If you can get a can of that and compare it side-by-side with an SNPA, you'll notice they're very, very different beers.
     
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  12. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,355) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    Is that your response when a bartender asks if you'd like to try the Berliner Weissbier on tap? :wink:
     
  13. Jmitchell3

    Jmitchell3 Initiate (0) Apr 2, 2013 Arizona

    I enjoy good blonde ales, both belgian and american styles. That being said, I've not had many that I would call good. I think blondes kind of fall into the same brewing area as lagers, in that they are light, should be crisp and cleanly brewed, but with flavor! It is more difficult to brew a good beer that is by nature more delicate and light than to brew a darker beer...that may be a part of the issue, not sure.
     
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  14. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,355) Feb 15, 2010 New York
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    Yeah, but "Belgian blonde" and "Belgian amber" would do the job just fine. "Belgian pale" is just more inclusive as it's used here. Problem is you run the risk of over-fracturing.
     
  15. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,119) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    This is a good one, as many have stated it's dropped off a bit over the years, but still solid. Also Victory's Summer Love is excellent.
     
  16. Beric

    Beric Initiate (0) Jun 1, 2013 Massachusetts

    Man, if this beer has fallen off, I'd love to have known it before I tried it. I had it in Boston a few weeks ago and plan to buy plenty of it when I get to Boston for grad school in August. The beer really is fantastic- light bodied, ample carbonation, and a really nice hop presence without being in-your-face or abrasive. The perfect beer for when it's too hot to think.

    I agree with your point here. While it is somewhat annoying that every Belgian beer seems to be split into "pale" or "dark" or "strong dark" (whatever the hell that means), it still carries the important Belgian tag, which ultimately in some cases lends as much distinguishing factors to a beer as the style does.
     
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  17. Uniobrew31

    Uniobrew31 Zealot (514) Jan 16, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Trader

    Blonde Ale's to me seem bland and nondescript, I have learned to scuttle my disappointment and pass them up for something better. Belgian Blonde Ales however such as Leffe don't fit into the same category IMO. I will drink those on occasion when the mood hits me, and something worthwhile is on tap.
     
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  18. Harnkus

    Harnkus Initiate (0) Oct 31, 2013 New York

    totally fair comeback.
     
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  19. Harnkus

    Harnkus Initiate (0) Oct 31, 2013 New York

    Victory Summer Love is classified as a Blond Ale. I love it. Kona Big Wave the same. The two are light years apart in flavor profile.

    I'll resubmit my statement. I'll drink blond ales, but not with any intent of enjoying a blond ale, per se.

    That better?
     
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  20. Andrew041180

    Andrew041180 Defender (651) Mar 15, 2013 Massachusetts

    This beer is classified as a Blonde Ale, and I think it's incredible:

    http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/28743/109105/

    However, I've definitely had some that I would consider mediocre at best. I guess ultimately if its from a brewery that I trust I'll buy it and look forward to it. If I don't know the brewery, I'm probably more likely to pass by a Blonde Ale for something that would typically be more exciting to me - think IPAs, Dubbels, Hefes, etc.
     
  21. chimneyjim

    chimneyjim Devotee (448) Jun 23, 2004 Oregon
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  22. rather

    rather Aspirant (202) May 31, 2013 California

    they are for my red head girlfriend lol and are like most brown ales uninteresting to me.
     
  23. Jirin

    Jirin Aspirant (227) Apr 28, 2013 Massachusetts

    I buy blondes ales all the time.
     
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  24. ddobrydney

    ddobrydney Initiate (0) Oct 21, 2013 Vermont

    I have had HF Walden, TH Eureka w/ Citra, & NebCo Fat ten-er #6 recently and enjoyed them all quite a bit. Lower abv than your normal APA but still nice on a hot day. All of those were hop forward and super fresh which is always a plus.

    Interestingly enough, HF Walden is considered a blonde ale on BA but the growler was marked APA when I picked it up Friday --Interesting....
     
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  25. wedge

    wedge Poo-Bah (3,122) Jan 13, 2004 North Carolina

    American blonde ales are supposed to be less hop-forward than an APA - light, easy drinking, moderately hopped, with some toasty/biscuity/crackery malt coming through. Beers like Eureka, Summer Love, and Walden (if I remember correctly) are right in that zone between the two styles - probably technically a little too hoppy, but not quite a pale ale.

    Keep in mind that the BA users add the beers and enter the styles, so depending on if/what the brewer classifies the beer as, there's bound top be some blurring between styles in the database.
     
  26. jhartley

    jhartley Poo-Bah (2,469) Aug 22, 2010 Florida
    Trader

    I prefer reds myself.
     
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  27. vette2006c5r

    vette2006c5r Poo-Bah (3,216) Oct 14, 2009 Minnesota
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    I have had some Blondes that have been very enjoyable. The good ones seem to be hard to find, but I have found some great ones at little local brewpubs mostly. They do seem to go nice with a warm hot sticky summer's day.
     
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  28. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,627) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
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    While often seen as a boring style, a really malty American blonde ale can be wonderful.
    Anyone who loves a straight forward malty beer - don't overlook one made by a good brewery.

    In general, I think the term "blonde ale" (and golden ale, too) tends to encompass the milder and maltier pale beers, while "pale ale" seems to be a differentiation used for the hop-focused light colored beers. It doesn't necessarily make sense or always work that way, but it seems that way more often than not.
     
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  29. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,119) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I feel blonde ales (or golden ales as @Domingo stated) fall into a similar category as brown ales. They're labeled for the most part as "uninteresting" and are simpler, lower abv beers. As a result brewers have a hard time making excellent versions of either style. In addition to that, there's no real trademark beer for either style, which also adds to the complexity in brewing them.

    When done right, I find blonde ales (and golden ales) excellent and one of the more drinkable style. Especially a golden ale on cask at NERAX.
     
  30. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (364) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    I don't drink a lot of blondes but, on a hot day especially, a Mayflower Golden Ale goes down easily and offers my palate a nice respite from the bold and the hectic.
     
  31. charlzm

    charlzm Poo-Bah (2,151) Sep 3, 2007 California

    All I can say regarding "American Blonde Ales" is that this seems to be brewed as a gateway beer for macro lager drinkers that come to the brewpub and want a Bud/Miller/Coors and can't get one.

    I have never had one worth drinking a full glass. And I have had plenty! Almost every time I go to a brewpub or brewery, I order a complete sampler. Most of the time, these include a "blonde". And without fail, they are awful, watery messes.

    Blecch.
     
  32. JasonR1975

    JasonR1975 Zealot (566) Jun 11, 2013 Michigan
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    Atwater's Dirty Blonde is criminally bad.
     
  33. BJRHOMEBREW

    BJRHOMEBREW Initiate (0) Dec 18, 2008 Ohio

    In my opinion Deep Ellum's in Dallas and Conquest Brewing's Artemis in Columbia, SC are two of the best. In general I think Blonde Ales should have a more subdued hop character and a dryer finish than most American Pale's.
     
  34. MisSigsFan

    MisSigsFan Initiate (0) Mar 2, 2013 California

    I tried Saint Archer Blonde once and thought it tasted like a macro but just a bit hoppier.
     
  35. Ozzylizard

    Ozzylizard Poo-Bah (3,839) Oct 5, 2013 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    I won't comment on Belgium beer nomenclature because I don't know enough about it. I do know that generally the "blondes" I've tried seem to be over-carbonated and under-flavored. I generally try them only if they come from a brewery I like and respect, or to fill out a mixed-6er.
     
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  36. fx20736

    fx20736 Savant (998) Mar 7, 2009 New York

    This time of the year I drink a ton of Naragansett Summer Ale which is classified as an American Blonde Ale. It is a great easy to drink beer.
     
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  37. joelwlcx

    joelwlcx Aspirant (219) Apr 23, 2007 Minnesota

    Just because a beer has "blonde" in it's name, doesn't mean the style is an American blonde ale.
     
  38. SteveB24

    SteveB24 Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2013 New York

    IMO many of these terms are arbitrary, since there are no quotas that must be met to call a beer whatever you want, there is no reason that a brewer would not use any term they felt would make the beer more enticing or make themselves seem more diverse. From a business standpoint you can't blame them. (but i do anyways)
     
  39. DarkDragon999

    DarkDragon999 Aspirant (243) Feb 13, 2013 Rhode Island

    Gansett Summer for me too as well. I'll take it over their Del's Shandy.
     
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  40. Sponan

    Sponan Initiate (192) Jan 20, 2008 Tennessee

    Do you feel similarly about beers using the term "black" in the name? Neither Bell's Black Note or Sprecher Black Bavarian is a black ale. Neither is Allagash Black or New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale.
     
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