Community’s Public Ale Is Worth Its Weight In Gold.

Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we’ll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it’s local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!

This week, we sipped on Community Beer Company‘s Public Ale.

Fast Facts on Community’s Public Ale.
Style: Extra Special Bitter (ESB).
ABV: 5.5 percent,
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 38.
Color: Deep pale copper.
Availability: Year-round.

Overview.
It’s not often that a craft brewery’s flagship beer is a sessionable, malt-forward and balanced ale.

Typically, flagships go for flavor extremes like a strong Imperial Stout (such as Lakewood’s Temptress) or a more approachable beer meant for the masses (such as Deep Ellum Brewing Co.’s Dallas Blonde).

Rarely do you find a beer that probably belongs more in the middle.

But that’s what Public Ale is. And while Community’s brewers may not consider Public Ale to be its flagship brew, the increasing number of awards and accolades that this beer has won tells a different story. In 2013 alone, Public Ale took home a bronze in the Los Angeles International Commercial Beer competition, a silver in the U.S. Open Beer Championships, and a prestigious gold at the Great American Beer Festival, which earned Community the distinction of becoming the second Dallas-based brewery to win gold at the GABF in as many years. (Peticolas’ Royal Scandal won gold at the GABF last year, and, interestingly, it’s another English-style beer.)

Background on Extra Special Bitters.
An Extra Special Bitter (more commonly known as an ESB) is a beer that’s English in origin, and is essentially an English take on a Pale Ale where the malt flavors are generally more robust and pronounced than more highly hopped American counterparts. More specifically, ESBs should pour clear with a golden to deep copper color. A low to moderate white or off white head is acceptable. Aromas should boast moderately low to moderately high hops with a slightly stronger malt aroma at medium to medium-high levels. In addition, expect some notes of caramel, biscuits, and fruity esters. An ESB should be moderately bitter with a medium amount of hop flavor that should never dominate the palate. In addition, expect there to be a very present maltiness with a bit of caramel or biscuit flavors as well. As with the aromas, there may or may not be some fruity esters. If there are, they shouldn’t dominate.

Appearance.
Public Ale pours a deep amber copper, with just a slight amount of haze. There’s a medium frothy white head that fades into the glass but laces nicely to the sides of the glass.

Aroma.
If IPAs are frequently known as “hop bombs” typically involving strong hop aromas and flavors, then the Public Ale might be a malt bomb. As soon as I poured the beer from my growler to my glass, I was enveloped with strong biscuity and bready malt aromas — almost like walking into your grandmother’s kitchen when there’s a loaf of bread about to come out of the oven. A closer whiff revealed the ever-so-slight scent of herbal hops. There’s also just a bit of fruity sweetness.

Flavor.
This one is much more bitter to taste than its aroma belies. But the biscuity malts quickly rush in to bring things back into equilibrium. The hop flavors have a strong herbal quality to them; combined with what seems to be somewhat high levels of carbonation, there’s an intriguing spicy quality to this beer. Community chose to use Maris Otter malt in their grain bill here — it’s a classic English malt that produces rich, complex malt flavors that are hard to duplicate with other grains — and this choice manifests itself in the biscuit and bread flavors that are present throughout. They also serve to differentiate this beer from an American style Pale Ale. It’s also worth noting that, in tasting this beer, I didn’t get any of the fruity esters I did in the aroma. If they’re there at all, they seem to be drowned out by the hops and the malt.

Mouthfeel.
Public Ale has a medium mouthfeel with slightly elevated levels of carbonation. It’s crisp and it finishes dry.

Overall Impression.
Community’s Public Ale definitely deserves all the accolades it has received in the last year. Regardless of your personal preference for the style (if you don’t like a bitter beer on some level this isn’t for you), it’s evident that this is a well-crafted, balanced beer. Plus, it’s damn tasty.

If I have to ding this beer for anything, I’d have wished for more caramel notes in the aroma and flavor, and more clarity in the appearance. Still, those are minor issues for what is clearly one of the best ales in North Texas.

Score.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I’ll give Community Beer Company’s Public Ale a 9.5.

What’s happening in the area beer scene this week (and beyond)? (Powered by Dallas Brew Scene.)
Thursday, February 13. Lakewood Brewing Company’s Raspberry Temptress tasting with take home glasses at the Libertine Bar.
Friday, February 14. Love is in the Beer celebration at Flying Saucer (Addison), with two chocolate beers and a dessert for $15.
Saturday, February 15. Free Hallertau Brewing pre-production tasting at Jack Mac’s Swill & Grill.
Monday, February 17. Barbecue Beer Dinner with Real Ale brewmaster Erik Ogershok.

Previous On Tap Reviews:
Peticolas’ Royal Scandal: 10.
Community’s Mosaic IPA: 10.
Lakewood’s Temptress: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Goatman: 9.5.
Revolver’s Blood & Honey: 9.
Martin House’s Imperial Texas: 9.
Community’s Trinity Tripel: 9.
Deep Ellum’s Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
Rahr’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
Lakewood’s Punkel: 8.
Four Corners’ El Chingon IPA: 8.
Deep Ellum’s GOURDzilla: 8.
Peticolas’ Wintervention: 8.
Community’s Texas Pils: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Zomer Pils: 7.5.
Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
903 Brewers’ The Chosen One: 7.
Martin House’s Gateway XPA: 7.
Armadillo Ale Work’s Quakertown Stout: 7.
Peticolas’ The Duke: 6.5.
Deep Ellum’s Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
Cedar Creek’s Elliott’s Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Lakefire: 6
Lakewood’s La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
Franconia Wheat: 3.

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