It's been a landmark year for India Pale Ale (IPA) in Australia.
Thirty IPAs were voted into the influential GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beers poll in January, indicating Aussies' increased thirst for these somewhat polarising brews, highly hopped and typically stronger in alcohol content than standard pale ales.
The plethora of IPAs that have recently hit the market suggest brewers are in no doubt about where drinking trends are headed this summer.
An acquired taste
Customers of Canberra's Bentspoke Brewing Co demanded its Crankshaft IPA be released permanently in cans this month, according to co-founder Richard Watkins.
"Crankshaft's been by far our biggest selling beer, since day one here," he says.
"It's surprising really, considering we do have a lot of other beers that would be considered more sessionable."
Hopping on the trend
Watkins typically has no less than four IPAs on tap at his Canberra brewpub. They currently include Cluster 18, an outrageous 18 per cent ABV "sextuplet IPA".
Highly hopped beers are also on trend at Sydney craft beer mecca, Royal Albert Hotel, where owner Michael Bain estimates sales of IPA are up 30 per cent this year.
"Some of them are high in alcohol, massive beers, but people are loving them. If you're getting them super fresh, they taste amazing," he says.
The value of freshness is a common refrain from any modern IPA enthusiast, but the first beers known as India Pale Ales would have been anything but fresh by the time they were consumed.
Built for long-haul travel
The IPA style owes its origins to the antimicrobial effect hops have on beer, in addition to the flavour, aroma and bitterness they contribute.
Long before the advent of refrigeration, British brewers added more hops to the pale ales they brewed for export to colonies in warmer climates such as India.
This helped fortify the beers for the long journey at sea, resulting in the conception of India Pale Ale as a 'style' in the 1800s.
Today, however, IPAs are the ultimate celebration of the tropical fruit, pine and citrus characters that modern, new world hop varieties can bring to beer, which are most vibrant when it is at its freshest.
A beer for progressive palates
The intensity of flavour, aromatics and bitterness can be challenging for drinkers used to Australian-style pale ales, according to Little Creatures marketing manager Ash Cranston.
"There's a natural progression as you get used to more bitterness and it's tough to go from Australian Pale Ale all the way to IPA," he says.
But Cranston says palates are progressing as drinkers get increasing exposure to hop forward American-style Pale Ales, such as Creatures' flagship beer.
"Creatures Pale drinkers now want something more, so they're leaping over to IPA," he says.
Scroll through the gallery above for a selection of some of Australia's best India Pale Ales.