Blonde Ambition

 Photo: Max Kelly

Photo: Max Kelly

Why are brewers embracing blonde ales? For Imbibe magazine, I investigate the trend, which is rooted in creating a crowd-pleaser that brewers can move in bulk. 

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During its foundational era, Real Ale Brewing released beers at a pace a snail could appreciate. Full Moon Pale Rye Ale and Brewhouse Brown Ale debuted in 1996, leisurely chased by Rio Blanco Pale Ale in 1998. The Blanco, Texas, brewery then cranked its tempo, adding a fourth year-round beer and a single annual release in 2002.

President Brad Farbstein was good friends with the founder of Austin bicycle company Firemans Texas Cruzer. They’d ride bikes and drink beer, a synergy the small businesses decided to embrace. “We thought it would be cool for a beer to promote his bikes, and when people rode his bikes they could get our beer,” Farbstein says.

The collaboration would align with outdoor pursuits and warm weather, via an agreeable sipper that could lure Texans into Real Ale’s flavorful fold. Back then in Texas, “most bars had three taps, and they were Bud, Miller and Coors,” Farbstein recalls. “If they were crazy and off the edge, they’d put Shiner Bock on.”

Real Ale formulated a fairly straightforward blonde ale, unfiltered and honey-scented, smoothly refreshing and supremely flavorful. “We tried not to simplify it or dumb it down,” Farbstein says. “It’s truly a craft blonde ale.”