Easy-drinking pacific ales are perfect for this part of the world.

Request an IPA, NEIPA, XPA or any other popular contemporary beer style for that matter, and you would be forgiven for making for the exit to escape the discombobulating spectre of choice. The frontiers between brand and beer style have become so muddied that today, craft drinkers have become best defined by their preferred category rather than allegiance to a particular brewery.

Thus many in the industry were taken by complete surprise in 2015 when Byron Bay’s Stone & Wood walloped Melbourne’s Thunder Road Brewing (Elixir) with a lawsuit claiming trademark infringement under Australian Consumer Law over the use of the name ‘pacific ale’. Stone & Wood would ultimately lose the case and subsequent appeal in 2018, with the Full Court finding that “the words have a descriptive or non-distinctive quality”, going on to elaborate that the name was more connotative of geography than brand.

By 2016, global brewing giant CUB had already shouldered into the messy fray with its own Wild Yak Pacific Ale, adding further muscle to the argument that a pacific ale was a legitimate style of beer, beholden exclusively to no one.

Then suddenly the tanks flooded opened: 4 Pines, Coopers, Little Creatures and others jumped into the wild swell to ride the auspicious pacific wave. So, what exactly is a pacific ale? While still in the latter stages of its evolution, the style can loosely be described as a refreshing, slightly hazy, easy-drinking Antipodean ale, utilising a blend of supple malts – with the distinct fragrant addition of wheat, and Australian and/or New Zealand hops (most often galaxy) that garnish the brew with fragrant tropical aromas.

With mild bitterness, pacific ales tend to round off at a modest 4% ABV: dry, clean and lip-smackingly fresh.

Evil Twin founder Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø has found success with his stouts.

Stone & Wood’s ( stoneandwood.com.au) pacific ale began life as a ‘draught ale’ in 2008, but was renamed when released in bottle in 2010, going on to take out the GABS top gong the following year (as well as in 2015 and 2016) and win the heart of a nation. The secret was in the hops: the pacific ale was the first successful beer in the world to embrace Tasmanian Galaxy as a stand-alone hop, utilising dry-hopping methods to fashion a canny balance between aromatics, palate heft and a clean finish that demanded another round. The beer has since become a national icon, the prototype for every summer ale, tropical ale and now pacific ale to follow in its wake.

In 2018, with potential Stone & Wood legal challenges now muffled, 4 Pines ( 4pinesbeer.com.au) would release its own pacific ale using a colourful medley of malts to underwrite the raucous tropical notes of the plentiful galaxy hops, with the addition of Vic Secret to imbue some beguiling pine and wild herbal accents. At 3.5% ABV, this beer sits well and truly in the mid-strength category, further demarcating the pacific ale style from the pack as an easy-drinking, warm-climate, lifestyle beverage.

Evil Twin founder Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø has found success with his stouts.

As the pacific ale would further entrench itself into Australian drinking culture, other breweries started paying attention, including Coles’ in-house craft label Tinnies ( tinniesbeer.com.au), which has fashioned a juicy interpretation of the style that is big on mango and low on bitterness.

Albeit with its roots in the alluring Indian Ocean of Fremantle, Little Creatures ( littlecreatures.com.au) has also come to recognise the broad appeal of what for many has become the quintessential Australian beer style to rival the ubiquitous lager: a beer adumbrative of sun, sea and serenity. Newly released in cans, the Little Creatures Pacific Ale stays true to formula with this mildly hazy summer sipper (at 4.4% ABV), with great balance and the addition of European Magnum hops to help frame the Galaxy and ensure the trademark dry, uncomplicated finish.

From the slightly more brisk southern waters, Coopers ( coopers.com.au), too, have gone troppo with their own pacific pale ale, and while the tell-tale textural Coopers yeast is ever-present, the beer lives true to its exotic promise with masterful balance. The combination of Galaxy and Melba hops bring forward more stone fruit qualities, with a faint resin oiliness that allows for a longer finish.

While Australian state and international borders remain ever capricious, it is consoling to know your palate is never far away from a sun-drenched Pacific beach.