Craft beer, for me at least, is about a few key points. Creating something exceptional, something delicious is among the most important. Innovating, whether that means pioneering a genuinely new idea or creating something special from the history books – or perhaps a hybrid of the two – is another.
For a brewer like Kim Sturdavant of California’s Social Kitchen & Brewery, his creation of the Brut IPA in 2018 should have been one of those culture defining moments. By using the enzyme amyloglucosidase to chew through complex sugars yeast weren’t interested in, he created an ultra-dry, spritzy take on the American style IPA.
It got popular, fast. And within a few months his idea was being copied by brewers as far away as Japan, New Zealand and here in the UK.
But hardly any of the brewers attempting to innovate had actually tried Sturdavant’s effort. They were simply copying his idea based on word of mouth, which these days amounts to reading about it on the internet. Where’s the innovation in that? This is not what craft beer is about, surely.
The result was a trend that spawned a thousand dreary clones. I tried to like them, I really did. But I came across far too many uninspiring, or downright insipid interpretations of the style.
The biggest kicker, however, was that Sturdavant’s idea was far from original. In fact, he was pipped to the post six years previously by none other than Roger Ryman, brewmaster at Cornwall’s St. Austell Brewery.
As it happens, Ryman was producing a dry hopped, US-inspired IPA using amyloglucosidase since 2012 in a beer called Big Job. It’s a shame that St. Austell’s gravitas was not enough to propel the trend forward back then, so we could perhaps be done with it sooner. However, Yeastie Boys might have convinced me that there’s life in the Brut trend after all.
White Palace is an IPL as opposed to an IPA, as it’s a lager, not an ale. A smattering of German Huell Melon hops in its recipe are joined by passionfruit purée and the must (a wine-making term for the juice, seeds, skins and stems from grapes) of Pinot Gris grapes. Where most Brut IPAs fall down for me is their distinct lack of flavour. I understand the style is meant to finish dry and bright but please, give me something to enjoy before I get there. And it’s here, deep in the flavour zone, where White Palace succeeds.
First there are some gloriously juicy aromatics from the Pinot Gris, which is immediately followed up by the sharp, tropical acidity of the passionfruit. It’s brief but highly enjoyable hit of flavour that works perfectly in this style – one I feel as though I could return to frequently.
If more Brut-style beers are able to replicate this kind of deliciousness, perhaps it’ll be successful after all.
Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for numerous publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. This beer features in our February All Killer No Filler subscription box. Get on board here.