Tropical ale: it's one of the fastest-growing beer categories in the craft-beer market. The only problem is there is no actual definition of it.
"Tropical" and "summer" ales have become neat umbrella terms for describing a range of refreshing beers that offer certain, often fruity, characteristics.
Paul Daley, certified cicerone and National Craft Beer Ambassador for Sydney’s Malt Shovel Brewery, says despite the non-specific connotations, consumers have been quick to adopt the style.
“Fresh, fruity aromas characterise a tropical style, with a lingering bitterness,” he says. “This fruity aroma and flavour is often different in each country it’s made in. In Australia I find the big passionfruit character of Galaxy hops is very common – think Stone & Wood Pacific Ale or James Squire Swindler Tropical Pale Ale.”
Paul says a good example of the style has low bitterness, a fruity aroma and the flavour of summer fruits such as passionfruit, lychee and mango. “I think those with malted wheat soften out the body and bring a refreshing, slightly dry finish,” he says. “They’re great for warm climates, they usually sit around the 4 to 4.5 per cent ABV, which is great for sessionability in the heat. That’s in contrast to, say, an American pale. In 35-degree heat people can really struggle to get through more than one [of those].”
Here’s our guide to six of the best summer and tropical ales to try this season.
James Squire Swindler Tropical Pale Ale
Not content with winning a gold medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup, James Squire’s brewers have played around with Swindler since, adding dry-hopped Galaxy hops to the El Dorado to maximise the tropical and fruity aromas of passionfruit and melon. It’s an example of a tropical pale ale which is big on refreshment and easy to drink.
Little Creatures Dog Days Session Beer
The name Dog Days refers to the star Sirius, or Orion’s Dog, the appearance of which the Ancient Greeks believed signalled the extreme heat of late summer. The beer itself has peachy hop flavours, which marry nicely with the wheat malt. The bitterness is firm, but not so intense it overwhelms the light-malt character.
Two Birds Passion Victim
At five per cent ABV, this one is a little beefier than many summer ales, but Amarillo, Mosaic and Galaxy hops punch out the tropical summer fruits in this hazy beer that heroes the essence of summer ales.
Little Creatures Elsie WA Ale
Inspired by California’s steam ales, Elsie has a blend of pilsner malt, wheat malt and golden oats for a light but satisfying body with refreshment. And its citrus tang keeps you thinking of summer. The downside is this one’s only available in Western Australia.
Modus Operandi Session IPA
To quote the brewery, this is a “tongue-punching hop wallop” thanks to a selection of Simcoe, Citra and Chinook hops. While the citrus and melon hops scream IPA, the 4.1 per cent is kind, ensuring this flavoursome cracker of a beer is perfect for long summer days.
Stone & Wood Pacific Ale
Stone & Wood was one of the early progenitors of the style in Australia. It borrows a little from the Australian pale ale, the English summer ale and the American pale ale, and highlights the best characteristics of the Australian Galaxy hop.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with James Squire.