The Gold Coast pale ale that has wooed beer-drinkers

Author: Emma Breheny
Photography: Supplied

Votes have been cast in the annual Hottest 100 Craft Beers - and a new style has come out on top.

An unusual pale ale from Gold Coast brewery Balter has won first place in the annual GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers, the beer world's equivalent of a blue ribbon at the state agricultural show. The awards operate like a people's choice ranking of microbrews, providing a useful yardstick for Australians' drinking habits.

Balter's XPA, a variant on a pale ale, led the field ahead of three-time winner Stone & Wood's Pacific Ale and ACT brewer BentSpoke's American-style Crankshaft pale ale. The XPA category is an unofficial term created by Balter, so we asked GT's resident drinks expert, Max Allen, to do his own taste-test of the champion beer, which he says is a surprising winner.

"It's great to see that that style of beer has attraction in the market," Allen says. "For 130 years or so the much less robust lager style has been the popular choice."

Allen's hunch is the "X" stands for extra pale ale: the beer is much lighter in colour, body and aroma compared with other styles of pale ale, such as an IPA, making it an excellent choice for those looking for something sessionable. However, it's not necessarily one to throw back.

"There's quite a lot going on in the palate," he says. "It doesn't smell too hoppy but there's a whack of hop bitterness in the mouth. It's seriously flavoursome.

"It's brilliant, actually, how it ticks both style boxes at the same time," he says.

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