Few beer varieties are as widely loved but misunderstood as a simple and delightful blonde ale. Blonde ales are one of the most commonly drank and brewed varieties on the planet. They’re simple, straightforward, unmysterious, and absolutely delicious. Blonde ales are a great place to start if you’re just venturing into the world of beer, but seasoned connoisseurs also love them. These are one of the easiest beers to brew and drink and are defined by their refreshment, drinkability, and approachability.
If you ever wondered just what makes an ale a Blonde ale, keep reading for all you’ll need to know about this crowd favorite beery style.
What is a Blond Ale?
We recently discussed “session beers” on this website, which refers to a beer that you can enjoy for long periods at a time. Think of a 12 or 24 pack of beer that you would take on a camping or rafting trip and not get tired of. Blonde ales are the stereotypical definition of a session beer. They’re defined by their moderate alcohol content of 4 to 6 percent but usually stay on the lower side.
These ales are sometimes called summer ales because of how crisp and refreshing they are. They tend to have the perfect balance between bittering hops and malty sweetness, which makes them approachable by all types of beer drinkers.
History of the Blond Ale
Blonde ales are often considered the perfect medium between a Kolsch and a pale ale. They’re also a cross between a traditional lager and craft beer. In America these ales were initially created to transition mass-market drinkers from lagers to craft beer. If you want a deeper history of blonde ales, their exact origin is unknown. This is likely because they were first brewed so similarly to pale ales that many people couldn’t tell the difference.
However, the modern blonde ale originated in the 1980s, and it’s now brewed worldwide. Belgium, France, South America, and North America all this style of ale and have their unique twists that they apply. It’s important to note that not all light or golden-colored beer is considered a blonde ale — they have their own unique brewing style and characteristics that put them into their own category.
Characteristics of a Blond Ale
Blonde ales are defined both by their color and refreshing qualities and how they’re brewed. However, because they’re so similar to lagers, pale ales, and Kolsch-style beer, the line often gets blurred, and anything that seemingly fits the description of a blonde ale gets thrown into the same category.
The typical blonde ale is light and crisp, but not to the point of Light beer. They’re also smooth, clean, and easy to drink. While they can have qualities such as maltiness and slight bitterness, they never go too hard in either direction. They’re slightly dry with a medium body and a slight malty sweetness. Modern brewers also like to throw in subtle fruit flavors and hoppiness, especially microbrewery.
The term blonde ale covers a wide variety of beer. You never fully know what you’re going to get until you take your first sip because of the amount of diversity among blonde ales. However, the typical blonde ale should have a slight bitterness, subtle fruit and hop flavors, malty sweetness, and hints of spices and herbs. Spices, herbs, fruit, and hops are especially typical of more recent brews and microbrews.
Blonde ales allow brewers to explore their boundaries and get creative. However, there are still certain limits they have to stay within in order to have their brew classified as a blonde ale. Going too far in either direction will change the drink to a Kolsch, pale ale, or lager.
As the name indicates, these ales have a blonde or golden-yellow color. They can also be on the lighter side and take on the color of straw, or be on the darker side and have an amber appearance. However, blonde ales are seldom dark or even brownish in color. A medium snow-white head should cap the top and should also have good retention characteristics.
Clarity refers to how brilliant or bright beer is in its color and texture. One of the reasons that blonde ales are as popular as they are is because of their clarity. They are often brilliant to having a slight haze, which is one of the most appealing levels of clarity out of any beer variety on the market. Hazy pale ales are often confused with light-colored blonde ales and are sometimes lumped into the same category.
One of the biggest distinguishing factors of blonde ales is their alcohol content. Like I said before, they’re the definition of a session beer, which is when you can drink four or five of the same beer and still have your wits about you. The typical alcohol content of a blonde ale is between 3.5% and 5.5%. However, if brewers get crazy, they can be as high as 6% or even 7%.
These are the perfect dinner or snacking beer. You can pair almost any type of food with them, including pizza, wings, chicken, burgers, Mexican food, Italian food, and Chinese food. Essentially, if you’re not sure what to drink with your dinner, you should opt for a blonde ale.
The best way to enjoy a classic or modern blonde ale is to serve it at a temperature of 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold, and you don’t get the fullness of their taste and flavor, but too warm, and they tend to be overly wheaty. For the sake of presentation and visualization, you should opt to serve them in a classic pint glass or a tulip glass. Tulip glasses are preferred because they trap the ale’s sweet, malty aroma.
Where Can I Get a Blonde Ale?
If you’re in the mood for one of these ales, the good news is that there’s no shortage of purchasing locations. Every bar, brewery, grocery store, and liquor store should have several ales of this beer style on-site. If you’re looking for the best of the best, here’s a list of the current top ten blonde ales in the US.
- The Tree House Brewing Company makes Citra, one of the top blonde ales in the country
- The McKenzie Brewing Company makes Keller Kolsch, another top-notch ale
- Make sure to try Kirby from the Echo Brewing Company
- For locals to Minnesota, make sure to check out the German Blonde Ale from Bemidji Brewing Company
- The Sweetwater 420 from the Sweetwater Brewing Company is a personal favorite
Because of how popular blonde ales are, this list is only scratching the surface of the great options that are available.
How are Blonde Ales Made?
These ales are brewed much the same way that other beers are brewed. The main difference is in the temperature at which you brew your blonde ale. You have the option of warm fermenting using lager yeast, or a cooler fermentation with ale yeast. Because you can go either way, these ales are an excellent variety to learn how to brew to please beer drinkers on either side of the aisle.
- Very heavy on malt in most cases.
- A quarter of the brew is sugar or wheat adjuncts.
- Typically, American or English hops are used but on a limited basis.
- Yeast is a must, preferably American or Kolsch.
- You can also add fruit, spices, herbs, or other flavorings.
- It’s a hybrid beer which means you can use either ale yeast or lager yeast.
Can I Make This Beer at Home?
These are one of the most popular homemade beers. If you have the right ingredients and brewing tools, there’s no reason why you can’t brew a blonde ale at home.
Blonde ales are one of the world’s most versatile, broad-reaching, and under-appreciated beer styles. Because they’re often looked at as a cross between different varieties, a true blonde ale doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves. However, when brewed to perfection and given the right amount of attention, these ales are one of the top brews on the planet.