brut ipa thorn brewing

A Most Brut-iful Beer

One of the most exciting aspects of craft beer is the sheer creativity displayed by brewers all over the United States. The sky is the limit and while not all experiments get the desired results or reactions from beer drinkers, each creative brew brings about opportunities for new ideas and ultimately new beer. Over the last few years, we have seen Hazy IPAs rise in popularity and production. Now, the newest kid on the block is the Brut IPA, an IPA that is bone dry, pale in color and ebulliently effervescent. Created at San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewery by brewer Kim Sturdavant, this beer has caught the fancy of craft brewers all over the country who are trying their hand at this brand new style.

What Makes It A Brut?

Brut IPAs came about by experimenting with enzymes. Amyloglucosidase is an enzyme commonly used to break down the sugars from malts to cut down residual sweetness by reducing sugar levels. Most often used when brewing Imperial stouts to make them more drinkable, Sturdavant began using it in his triple IPA to cut down on the malty sweetness that can be a second-hand effect of such a high ABV beer. He decided to try using the enzyme in a regular IPA and the result was the birth of a brand new style IPA.

While this style hasn’t even been in existence for a year yet, brewers are excited to get in on the Brut IPA action. Brut IPAs are so dry and light that they are the perfect antidote to the dank, juicy hazy IPAs that are everywhere, right now. This style allows the hops in the beer to be highlighted in a brand new way by pulling out different flavors from the hops. At this point, many of the hops used in Brut IPAs are the more tropical varieties found in hops like Cascade, Citra, and Centennial which are all considered New World Hops.

Staying Power

While no one can predict if the Brut IPA style is here to stay, the fact that it’s an IPA is a good start. IPAs are still far and away the most popular beer style in terms of craft beer sales. While many industry insiders have expressed hop-fatigue, the fact of the matter is that the average craft beer drinker still goes for an IPA more often than any other beer style. In fact, right now there are 849 brut IPAs rated on Untappd. Not too bad for a style that has only been in existence since November of 2017. If anything, coming up with unique names for this style of beer seems to be somewhat of a challenge considering on Untapped there are no fewer than 46 brut IPAs named “I am Brut.”

thorn beer brut ipa

Here at Thorn Brewing, we wanted to get in on the brut IPA action and brewed up a batch with our friends over at Pure Project. Houblon Grand Cru Brut IPA comes in at 7.4% ABV and is delightfully bright and effervescent. We caught up with Doug Pominville, Barrio’s head brewer, in the brewhouse recently and asked him about this collab:

“When a new style emerges in the craft beer world and catches some legs it’s always fun to give a go at it while its still evolving into its own. When Winslow hit me up to brew a collab at a Thorn it was an immediate, yes, then he mentioned a brut IPA and it was a no-brainer that we needed to get this on the brew schedule. While most breweries have been using rice to lighten the body and color while still adding fermentable sugars, we decided to use wheat instead. The wheat adds some mouthfeel to a beer with minimal body while helping to produce that straw yellow color you expect from champagne.  The hops we chose were selected to help bring out the flavors of an outstanding champagne; Pear, apple, white grape, grapefruit, & peach. The beauty of this beer style is that it’s low in calories and carbs. The enzymes we add break down the maltose and starch polymers into glucose so they can be fermented out by the yeast. This leaves a very dry beer with little to no residual sugar and starches. Making this beer perfect for the hop head who is trying to cut back on the LBs while still enjoying a tasty brew.”

We are releasing Houblon Grand Cru on Friday, August 31st at our Barrio Logan location in 750 ml cork and cage bottles and they will be available until we sell out!

big beer Thorn brewing

Pay No Attention To The Big Beer Behind The Curtain

Recently, Vinepair put out an article entitled, “Craft Beer Was Built on an Us-Versus-Them Ethos. Now It’s Tearing Us Apart.” Strong words from the start, but I was eager to learn more. The author, Aaron Goldfarb, has a simple thesis when it comes to the issue of independence in beer:

It’s all in the eye of the beholder. And it’s causing a rift that is tearing apart the industry. This is a golden age of infighting among brewers, among fans, and among the beer media. It risks harming the entire beer industry with all its finger-pointing.

Right away, he places the blame on craft breweries for causing a rift that he feels is tearing the industry apart. He laments that independent breweries pulled out of Beavertown’s beer fest (which he describes as “a cult North London craft brewery owned by a Led Zeppelin rocker’s kid.” He goes on to deride the breweries that pulled out of both Beavertown’s Extravaganza and Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium Invitational after both breweries sold to big beer. “Why, there’s that esprit de corp the industry was built on!” he writes.

The strategy of this piece relies on laying out all the different ways that breweries have grown through investments, from big beer (Beavertown by Heineken) to private equity investors (Brewdog, Cigar City) to being bought or invested in by less-vilified big breweries (Duvel Moortgat and Firestone Walker etc.). He asks how these investments are different from each other? That if one investor is considered the “them” in this “us vs. them” scenario he harps on, why aren’t they all? Goldfarb goes on to compare the craft beer industry’s us vs. them ethos to other industries:

This small-versus-big, indie-versus-corporate, us-versus-them side-taking exists in just about every creative field, yet it doesn’t seem to result in nearly as much annoying, buzz-killing, business-bankrupting infighting.

Dave Eggers went from a hip, San Fran novelist to a publishing magnate. David Chang from owning a small noodle shop to a restaurant empire. Michael Kors from a small luxury brand to a rapidly expanded fashion house. They’ve all had mixed success and certainly muddied their legacies, but no one small feels threatened by their mere existence.

Finally, he wrapped up his piece by describing his favorite illustration of the “real boogie man” when it comes to craft beer…and it’s one that has been suggested time and time again by big beer:

I thought this was best lampooned by the Good Beer Hunting twitter account, which tweeted a video of a snake fighting a cat while simultaneously being eaten by a frog and simply captioned it: “Craft fighting macro while wine + sprits eats market share. (sic)”

All Investors Are Not Created Equal

First, to cut through all of the bull in this piece, not all investors are the same. Just because a brewery seeks outside investment it doesn’t automatically make them a “them.” The reason why many craft beer insiders and consumers are bummed when their favorite craft brewery is sold to AB InBev, MillerCoors or Heineken is because these big breweries are actively trying to squash the ability for smaller breweries to compete fairly in the marketplace.

They put big money into lobbying for legislation that favors big beer (AB InBev spent nearly $8 million lobbying last year while the Brewers Association spent $294,000 on lobbying in the same period). They take part in pay-to-play tactics with stores, bars, and restaurants earning tap handles and cooler space (and have been fined multiple times for such practices). They buy up wholesalers and distributors and in some regions, they are the only distributors for craft beer. On top of that, they incentivize these distributors to heavily sell their portfolio which they were fined for in 2017 citing anti-competitive practices.

Furthermore, AB InBev has its hands in every part of the beer industry. From owning stake in online beer related sites like RateBeer, October, and Good Beer Hunting, to owning both Midwest Supply and Northern Brewer, the two biggest homebrew supply companies in the country, to the countless alcohol distributors they own, to all the craft breweries that they have purchased over the last few years. AB InBev is invested in nearly every segment of this industry.

So when Goldfarb wants to know why people don’t view private equity firms or Kirin (which invested in Brooklyn Brewery) in the same light as being bought by big beer, this is why. They don’t actively and underhandedly try and fix the competition to favor themselves to the detriment of little players in the industry.

This is also why his comparison to Michael Kors or David Chang going big-time doesn’t hold water. David Chang doesn’t go around lobbying for laws that make it harder for the mom and pop shops to operate. Michael Kors doesn’t buy up all of a specific cloth so that it’s only available for his shops like AB In Bev did with the South African hop market last year, either.

Consider the Source

Goldfarb’s arguments are tired but they are also incredibly familiar. The whole “it’s not big beer, it’s wine and spirits!” argument was used by AB In Bev in their video by the High End where they laid out all the reasons why selling to Big Beer was awesome. Also, lumping together all manners of investments to try and make it seem like, “hey, they are all the same so if you don’t mind when a private equity firm invests you shouldn’t care when big beer invests,” is definitely muddying the waters. Who is this guy that identifies himself as an “us” multiple times in his piece when he is clearly acting on behalf of “them?”

Among other publications like Vinepair, Goldfarb is a regular contributor to October, a ZX Venture funded lifestyle website.  ZX Ventures is AB InBev’s venture capital team that was created to develop new products for AB. ZX Ventures just got a promotion because they just took over the whole marketing department for AB InBev. Furthermore, Goldfarb’s favorite illustration mentioned above was from Good Beer Hunting, another AB InBev owned online publication. Finally, he goes on to lament that the Brewers Association is “the most divisive player of any one currently in the industry.” Hmmm. This was exactly the sentiment of Pete Coors recently in his open letter to the beer industry.

The King of Craft Beer

Big beer is smart and has deep pockets so they have been successful these last few years in their quest to break into and ultimately dominate the craft beer industry. So successful, in fact, that Budweiser was just named the biggest craft brewer in the U.S. AB InBev’s stable of craft breweries is paying off, especially when their revenue from Bud and Budlight have dropped another 3% in the second quarter of the year despite lower volume produced than previous years. It’s likely they will continue to build their craft beer segment with these successes and continue to infiltrate every aspect of the industry.

And no, craft beer is not tearing itself apart. If anything, this discussion is good for the industry.  While many consumers don’t and won’t care who owns their favorite beer, for others, this sort of information is helpful and eye-opening. Transparency and shining the light on unfair and underhanded tactics employed by players within an industry only make it stronger in the end.

 

 

raccoonicorn thorn brewing

It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s a Raccoonicorn!

Brewing collaborations are one of the best parts about craft beer. Whether it’s a working relationship that brings collabs together or personal connections these co-brewing experiences help to create cohesiveness within the beer community as well as put out some pretty rad beers.

Recently, Thorn got together with brewers from two prolific L.A. breweries and something magical happened. They created a beer so wonderous that it had to be named Raccoonicorn. When asked how the name Raccoonicorn was decided, head brewer for Thorn Barrio, Doug Pominville said, “Getting to brew with a unicorn is rare and magical all on its own, but getting to the chance to brew with two of the best brewers in Southern California is a shooting star. Ralph is just along for the ride.” The two brewers he is referencing are Devon Randall from Arts District Brewing Co. & Alexandra Nowell from Three Weavers Brewing Company. These two women are making amazing beer at their own breweries and we were really honored and excited that they lent their time and skills to this collaboration of Raccoonicorn.

thorn brewing raccoonicorn

Brewed with Galaxy, Mosaic, Nelson, and Ekuanot hops, this 6.5% rye IPA is incredibly tropical & citrusy. After one sip you’ll be floating on the wings of a Pegasus as it takes you through a journey of awesomeness on your palate.

The Raccoonicorn IPA release is a limited can release and will be available in our Barrio Logan tasting room on Friday, Aug 10th until we run out. Come by on Friday and meet the brewers! Not only will Thorn brewers Eric Shelley, Doug Pominville and Eric O’Connor be hanging out to chat about all things beer but Alex and Devon are planning on making the trip down to SD from LA to hang with the crew. We also will have sweet limited-edition tees and tanks available until they sell out. On Saturday, August 11th Raccoonicorn will be released at our North Park location too, so come on by!