Vintage Cellars take a look at six styles of craft beer that are taking Australia by storm, and recommend examples from local craft brewers for you to try
Once upon a time, the Australian craft beer industry was made up of beer lovers tinkering with homebrew kits in their sheds. They dabbled with diverse flavours and methods, experimented with different strains of hops, innovated with fruits and spices, and created personal takes on the most popular international flavours. And essentially, that’s what they’re still doing, albeit on a far grander scale — passionate brewers seeking to satisfy the demand from the ever more sophisticated beer-drinker. All this innovation makes it easy to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. But where to begin? Read on.
Australia’s favourite beer style, pale ales are so-called because they use pale barley malts in the brew. Their popularity stems from their versatility. Within the genre they can range in colour from pale gold to reddish-amber. Floral, fruity and often hoppy, they aren’t too complex, but medium-bodied and a good partner for fish and chips or even stronger flavours such as Tex-Mex.
We recommend: Little Creatures Pale Ale
Brewed using whole hop cones sourced straight from the US, this beer is full of beautiful hoppy aromas and delicate bitterness. Made without preservatives or additives, it displays flavours of citrus, nectarine and burnt toffee.
India Pale Ale s came about as the answer to a problem: how to provide beer for the British Empire in India. It was too hot to brew locally, so what was needed was a beer that could survive the gruelling six-month journey. It is a hoppy style of beer within the pale ale category and encompasses numerous styles. As a rule, IPAs get their characteristics from hops and herbal, citrus or fruity flavours.
We recommend: Bentspoke Crankshaft IPA
With a delicate balance of citrus and pine flavours, and a fragrant floral aroma, there’s plenty of punch in this medium-bodied beer.
Brewed for all-year-round appeal, XPA has its roots in the USA. Bright and refreshing, it has a substantial hop presence, as in ‘eXtra’ hop aroma and flavour. The term is open to interpretation but as a rule of thumb, this style is generally described as a cross between two other popular brews: bigger than a pale ale, gentler than an IPA.
We recommend: Little Creatures Extra Pale Ale
Whole hop flowers in this pale ale give it a pretty serious citrus and stone fruit flavour, balanced with specialty malts and a decent hit of bitterness. Preservative and additive free, it is live yeast conditioned in the bottle for unmatched freshness and character.
It was Stone & Wood who pioneered Pacific ale more than a decade ago. Inspired by the brewery’s home in Byron Bay NSW, it was designed to reflect life in this little piece of paradise, blessed with sun, sand, surf and a laid-back vibe. Since then, the term ‘Pacific Ale’ has come to be accepted as a catch-all way of describing beers brewed close to the Pacific Ocean, using Australia and New Zealand barley and hops.
We recommend: Stone & Wood Pacific Ale
Created as an homage to its home on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, this beer is brewed using all Australian barley, wheat and Galaxy hops. It’s cloudy and golden with a big fruity aroma and a refreshing finish.
Hazy beers have a cloudy pour, which mostly comes from proteins and polyphenols in the malt, grains and hops – particularly the oats that take a starring role. Hazies are also known as New England IPAs (NEIPAs) because that’s where they were first made. They have a juicy aroma and flavour of upfront hops, with tropical and citrus fruits.
We recommend: Tinnies Hazy Pale Ale
A silver medal winner at the 2021 Australian International Beer Awards (AIBAs), this Melbourne-brewed Hazy Pale has bold hop aromas and flavours of citrus and juicy tropical fruit, balanced by a luscious, creamy mouthfeel.
These tart, hoppy, fruity beers are one of the beer world’s new darlings. Sour ales get their flavour from specific yeast strains, or barrel aging, during which craft brewers can decide the level of sourness they want to achieve. A fruity sour is wonderful with smoked meats; on the lighter side, they work nicely with shellfish.
We recommend: Wayward Raspberry Berliner Weisse
From Brew HQ in Sydney’s Inner West, this refreshing ale is bursting with bright raspberry flavours, balanced by zippy tartness and a crisp, dry finish.
As the name suggests, this is a bright, refreshing and thirst-quenching beer. Typically light-bodied, it’s fresh and fruity with sweet malts, and finishes crisp and dry. It’s a pleasingly simple style, one to be enjoyed with grilled seafood. And don’t be fooled – it’s a drink you can enjoy all year round.
We recommend: Gage Roads Single Fin Summer
Refreshing and fruity, this light-bodied beer from Western Australia is packed with aromatic Galaxy and Enigma hops. It has a big, tropical fruit bowl aroma that’s balanced by subtle bitterness and a clean finish.
Also known as brown ales and black Indian pales, dark ales encompass a varied category that includes styles from stouts and porters to dark IPAs. They typically use roasted malts for colour, and feature strong hop bitterness and an accompanying effusion of hop flavour and aroma. You can also expect a higher level of malt and sweetness. That said, the range of flavours is diverse, from dry and spicy to sweet and malty.
We recommend: White Rabbit Dark Ale
From a small brewery in Healesville, Vic, this is brewed using open-top fermentation that gives the beer its complexity and fruity tones. It has a rich, dark colour with subtle toffee and caramel characters that are refreshing on the palate.