"This beer sucks." That's something you won't hear anyone in his right mind saying about Firestone Walker's Pale 31 ale, a beer that's described as a classic California pale ale named in honor of America's 31st state. I don't know about the classic status; I've had better CA. pale ales, namely Coronado's which blew me away. Pale 31 is fairly ordinary with a bit of elegance around the edges. Its look and smell are pretty expected, slightly pale yellow with a huge white head, and the smell of citrus, sugar, and bread. It's got a momentary hop bite that gently eases off the palate, providing a lingering foundation for the sweet, slightly bready malts. Champagne-like carbonation makes it seem perhaps a bit more classy than a pale ale aught to be. Maybe that's what informed their serving it to me in a wide tulip. But nothing really stands out about this beer; and maybe that's the point.
What do women want? I can't answer that question. But what do you want in a great session beer? Something that's a bit interesting, doesn't get in your way, low ABV, not too filling. It's a beer you can barely describe later - no, not for that reason - but you know you enjoyed it. I knew this guy in school who got invited to every party, played on the rugby team, went to music shows, even got girls. We hung out all the time. Yet I can barely recall one conversation I ever had with him. He was one of those who just blends into the fabric seamlessly, never doubted, never challenged, never questioned, just there. All you remember later is that, "I had a really good time hanging out with that guy. He's totally coming to the next party." And sure enough he's on the "call" list for the next meet-up. Faces music is like that too. You can put it on in the background when you have folks over and it just keeps the party going. Rod Stewart, and occasionally Ronnie Lane, and really occasionally Ronnie Wood, wails on about some drunken nonsense over some boozy blues guitar, and you never think about changing the CD.
You just reach for your next beer. The craft beer you don't even have to think about drinking, and when the waitress comes by, you'd better believe you're "going again." That was sure tasty. What did it taste like? It had a really good flavor but I can't really describe it. That's Pale 31. It's listed at 4.8%. And that, my beer-loving friends, is any great session beer.
3.8 of 5 stars.