Pacific Ale (Golden Ale/Blonde Ale, 4.4%). Stone & Wood, Byron Bay, Australia. $8.65 per 500ml bottle.
It’s probably a bit late to be returning to the Australian beers, seeing as it’s now Waitangi day and I really should be getting on with the NZ brews waiting for me in the fridge. This one is worth doing though. It has just topped this list of the best Australian craft beers of 2011 which probably says more about the drinking options in Australian than anything else, but as it hails from Byron Bay, my old home turf, this one feels kind of special.
The first thing I noticed was the thick, white foamy head that bubbled and seethed away and tried to escape the glass. Can’t recall seeing that too often. It’s a pale and hazy yellow, even light gold colour, and there’s a big aroma of some kind of yellow fruit – passionfruit or pineapple, with a vague and not disagreeable sourness underneath. This is apparently down to the galaxy hops used in abundance. It’s unfiltered so the haziness clears a little as the yeast settles but even so the flavour is perhaps a little thin, as is the mouthfeel with quite high carbonation. It’s primarily a fruity, sweet tasting beer with only an eventual and quite faint bitter finish with a dry, perhaps biscuity malt that unfortunately I couldn’t quite figure out because disappointingly I’d finished the glass. It’s very, very drinkable.
Remembering the hot summer nights at the Great Northern Hotel, and imagining this on tap, fresh from the brewery – oh, this one would be a real treat. In my head John Butler’s playing in the back room – something from Sunrise over Sea, maybe – and it’s all good times. Unfortunately it’s price (which I would say is up there for such a light beer) and the weather here doesn’t really make it terribly suitable for New Zealand, and being unpasteurised it’s probably not always safe to assume it travels well – but at least now should I ever need to go back to the old home town there’ll be something for me to drink after all.
Verdict: Refreshing and sessionable, perfect for the kind of summer nights on the beach we hardly ever get here. 65/100.