Versus Battles #4: Amber Ale


Cue the Rocky music, da, da da da, da da daaaaaaa, because ‘Versus Battles #4’ is here. The segment that pits two beers of the same style head to head against each other. The 2015 BJCP style guide lines will be used to judge both beers on its aroma, appearance, flavour, mouthfeel, with my own personal opinion rounding out the analysis. I fully understand that most breweries don’t brew beers to match style guide lines and that is why I have added my own personal opinion. Matching style guide lines means that even though a beer is brilliantly made and extra tasty, it wont necessarily win any awards due to not matching style. The style guide lines for American Amber ale have been added to the bottom of this article for anyone who wants to have a look.

Prancing Pony have an ever-growing core range spanning over a broad colour spectrum.  Their Amber Ale sits in the middle of the core range and is an American inspired beer that has been hopped up to six times with American and Australian hops.

Swell Brewing, located in McLaren Vale and contract brewing out of Vale Brewing, have experienced some great success in the past year. At the 2016 AIBA awards in Melbourne, Dan and his Swell Golden Ale took out the best pale ale category. Another American inspired Amber that is low in bitterness with only 20 IBUs and at 4.7 percent alcohol.


Style Factors

Prancing Pony


Category Winner

Aroma No hop aroma but instead some fruity esters and good whack of caramel malt. A combo of three smells, grassy hop, some fruity esters and a nutty malt.  Prancing Pony
Appearance Deep copper in colour and extremely hazy. Medium size off white head with good retention. Amber in colour and is quite clear. Huge fluffy white head that sticks around.  




Flavour Malt is definitely the dominant flavour, with toffee and caramel characteristics. Finishes quite bitter. A fair amount of grassy hop that just slightly overpowers the malt. The malt is toffee, nutty and little caramel. Dry finish but not bitter one bit.  

Prancing Pony


Mouthfeel Quite a spritely carbonation supporting a medium-full mouthfeel. Medium carbonation and a medium mouthfeel.  

Prancing Pony



The King’s Opinion An easy drinking amber that has some good caramel/toffee malt tastes. Finishes dry which entices you back for more. A very different version where the hop just out shines the malt. Style guides wise this isn’t good but I think it adds a fullness to the flavour  









Again, another close one with Prancing Pony edging out Swell stylistically.  They are both very different versions of the style, where Swell tends to be a little far right of the guidelines and Prancing Pony far left. They were both great examples of an Amber, with Prancing Pony’s a little easier drinking and Swell’s a little more on the hoppier side.

American Amber Ale

Overall Impression: An amber, hoppy, moderate-strength American craft beer with a caramel malty flavour. The balance can vary quite a bit, with some versions being fairly malty and others being aggressively hoppy. Hoppy and bitter versions should not have clashing flavours with the caramel malt profile.

Aroma: Low to moderate hop aroma with characteristics typical of American or New World hop varieties (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon). A citrusy hop character is common, but not required. Moderately-low to moderately-high maltiness (usually with a moderate caramel character), which can either support, balance, or sometimes mask the hop presentation. Esters vary from moderate to none.

Appearance: Amber to coppery-brown in colour. Moderately large off-white head with good retention. Generally quite clear, although dry-hopped versions may be slightly hazy.

Flavour: Moderate to high hop flavour with characteristics typical of American or New World hop varieties (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon). A citrusy hop character is common, but not required. Malt flavours are moderate to strong, and usually show an initial malty sweetness followed by a moderate caramel flavour (and sometimes other character malts in lesser amounts). Malt and hop bitterness are usually balanced and mutually supportive, but can vary either way. Fruity esters can be moderate to none. Caramel sweetness and hop flavour/bitterness can linger somewhat into the medium to full finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body. Medium to high carbonation. Overall smooth finish without astringency. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth.

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