The latest release from a Melbourne microbrewery doesn’t just push the boundaries of the IPA style, it challenges notions of craft brewing as well.
Wolf of the Willows ‘Southern Brut’ Brut IPA embraces the latest stylistic variation on the craft beer mainstay, the India Pale Ale, but with a novel twist.
The Brut IPA uses the enzyme amylase to break down any residual sugars from the mashing process to produce a beer that the brewery describes as “bone-dry, crisp, and loaded with vibrant hop flavours”.
The style, which has recently begun to gain traction globally, is believed to have been first brewed by brewer Kim Sturdavant at San Francisco’s Social Brewing and is often referred to as hop Champagne.
Apart from taking the IPA style in an interesting new direction, the use of amylase blurs the boundaries between ‘craft’ and ‘industrial’ beers.
Enzymes such as amylase are commonly used in the brewing process to create beers such as low carbohydrate beers, and so can be seen as being antithetical to notions of ‘tradition’ within definitions of craft beer.
Brewer Scott McKinnon said the brewing technique was a sign that small breweries are evolving and learning the best lessons of larger breweries.
“I think that actually it’s really a positive thing because it means that rather than standing on our soapboxes and screaming differentiation, we can produce better beer by taking some of the techniques that some of the bigger breweries use,” he said.
“Personally, why not. We’re all brewing on equipment that’s been designed on a smaller scale based upon the experiences of the bigger breweries. I want to take some of the other techniques as well.”
“I think that it would be remiss if breweries such as ours didn’t look towards the bigger areas and what they are doing well.”
McKinnon said the key issue brewers faced was one of disclosure.
“I think where I probably do get on my soapbox is where there’s a bit of smoke and mirrors about what is actually occurring and I think it really has to be about giving consumers the correct information for them to make an informed decision and that’s why we’ve been very clear about we have used this enzyme in this beer.”
He said that the technique was very effective at letting brewers showcase hop flavours in beer.
“I think hops is a key ingredient in beer and possibly one of the easiest things to understand in beer for a non-brewery trained person, so people have always gravitated towards then since late 90s,” he explained.
“What we’re seeing over the last couple of years as the number of breweries has grown so rapidly is we’re just seeing a process of evolution within the use of hops over time.
“It’s exponentially increasing with more breweries so more experimentation hence more different uses and ways in which hops can be displayed.”
He said that the current fixation with New England IPAs isn’t going anywhere.
“This particular style of Brut IPA just allows for hops to be shown in a very raw and probably naked form because there is basically nothing else in the beer,” he said.
“There’s no sugar to confuse the palate. The malt profile is either very low or or nil, it’s really hops as they are being displayed and I think that for consumers that’s easy to identify with.”
The beer, which was made in collaboration with Melbourne-based podcast Ale of a Time, uses no bittering hops in the boil, instead using a combination of Nelson, Motueka and Galaxy to dry hop at the start of and post ferment to generate a fresh aroma.
The brewer said the beer had almost no bitterness, but was an ‘incredible’ beer.
“You get this viscous oily sensation in the mouth because of the hops that are just there in their pure form and you will get that little bit of perceived fruitiness, which by association on the palate, I think human beings see sweetness.”
“It’s an interesting beer.”
Brut IPA bottle shop stockists and other tap pouring venues will be announced in the coming weeks and to Ale of a Time subscribers.