Fizz the Season
Here are a few questions for you: Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne?
Yeah. We have no idea what these words mean, either. The great Scotsman Rabbie Burns penned them back in 1788, and, while we might ask Jack Wright — publisher of Exit Zero and a real, live Scotsman — for a translation at the next Burns Supper, it’s not going to help us around midnight on New Year’s Eve.
What will be helping us around that time is our latest release, Fizz the Season — a Brut IPA that mimics the experience of Champagne — perfect for ringing in the New Year.
“It’s extremely dry,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm, “with literally zero residual sugar, and a higher-than-normal level of carbonation for that fizzy mouthfeel, as well as using some hops with grape-like aromas and even some white grape juice.”
Using all of that in a Brut IPA simply made sense. After all, “brut” is an adjective usually applied to champagne. (And that cologne your grandfather used to wear, but that’s a different story altogether.)
“Brut IPAs are all the rage these days and have a lot of Champagne-y qualities to begin with,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink. “And it’s a fun beer for the end of the year, in the spirit of holidays and all that stuff.”
We got on the Brut IPA train earlier in the year with our orange crush-inspired brew, Crushin’ It. And, while the pun has been beaten to death, the brew truly crushed it. It was a fantastic introduction to a style that’s taking the craft beer world by storm.
Jimmy sees the Brut IPA craze as a bit of a reaction to the super-hazy New England IPA: where NEIPAs are cloudy and practically opaque, Brut IPAs are the opposite.
“Trends are either driven by catapult or pendulum,” he says. “When someone comes out with something slightly new then someone else will either launch it to the extreme or they’ll swing it back to the other extreme. As the trend of the heavy-bodied NEIPAs begins to become more mainstream, I think it was only natural that someone was going to get the idea to take it the other direction, and so here we are.”
And, since CMBC has always been intrigued by the new and interesting — Tiny Drink Umbrella anyone? — we took the bull by the horns and jumped in with both feet (while completely mixing metaphors).
Although, we did so a little reservedly. While many brewers have been getting good results using champagne yeast, we’ve never used it on an entire batch and weren’t exactly sure how it would turn out. So, we played it on the safe side: dumping thirty barrels of beer down the drain would have been a horrible way to end 2018.
Instead, we used our old standby, London Ale III.
“It has an ester profile that really accentuates the hops,” Brian says, “and I feel like it has a much smoother mouthfeel than our other standard American Ale yeast. There’s no body in this beer — that’s the whole angle with Brut IPAs — but I like a softer, more rounded finish in these beers. I feel the London Ale yeast really adds a complexity to the finished product.”
“Nelson has this white-wine-y gooseberry flavor to it,” Brian explains, “and Blanc is named as such because of the strong fruit-leaning white wine note on the aroma.”
This hops combination isn’t exactly new for us: we used the same ones back in June of last year in Geek Out 4.0, another brew meant to mimic the flavors of white wine.
“We use them when we’re going for some very specific flavors,” Jimmy says. “Both Nelson and Blanc have a very distinct aroma reminiscent of white grapes, but Nelson is a bit heavier in this regard and also has some gooseberry qualities, whereas Blanc also has a bit of a tropical fruitiness and lemongrass notes.”
Furthermore, Nelson Sauvin has a bit of dankness to it that isn’t found in Hallertau Blanc, so pairing the two together made a lot of sense.
“The hops have a lot of similarities to each other,” Brian says, “and Citra makes everything better, so we added just a light touch of Citra to help out and bring it all home.”
Laboratory Manager Lauren Appleman really enjoyed this combination of hops.
“This beer leans a different way due to the hops that are utilized,” she says. “Hallertau Blanc and Nelson Sauvin are hops that we don’t get to use very often, so it’s fun to get to bring those out. The white grape attributes of these hops really lend to the champagne-ness of this brew.”
Everything used in this brew was done with the intention of keeping it as light as possible, even to the grain bill, which used flaked corn and flaked rice, neither of which we’d ever used before.
“These were chosen to specifically lighten up the body and color and to limit the malt character,” Brian says.
Generally speaking, both corn and rice are considered off-limits in the craft world, as the big guys use it in Swill®️ and Swill Lite®️ to keep them bland, flavorless, and cheap. However, when you compare a very dry champagne to, say, Cape May IPA, that’s kinda what we’re going for.
“They help to make the beer pale in color,” Jimmy says, “just like champagne, and they are also very light in flavor to allow the grape-like qualities of the hops and the juice to shine through. Our Maize Haze took the beauty of blue corn to the forefront, and here we use them to mimic some of the qualities of champagne.”
Then, to play up the white-wine characteristics even further, we added a fair amount of grape juice toward the end of fermentation.
“Because we fermented out the grape juice,” Brian says, “the flavor isn’t quite as intense as the unfermented juices we do with beers such as The Bog, Crushin’ It, Tiny Drink Umbrellas, etc, but it’s definitely still there. It’s similar to how apple-y Apple Bomb is: enough to know it’s there but not so intense that it’s all you taste.”
The defining character of a Brut IPA is the use of amylase enzymes to completely break down whatever sugars are left in the beer after fermentation. When we brew, there are naturally some sugars left over with molecules that were too big to be broken down by the little, tiny yeasties. These enzymes break down those molecules into pieces that are small enough to be a late-night snack for the yeast.
If you’ve ever tried to shove a whole cake in your mouth, you get the idea. It works much better if you try to eat the whole thing with a fork. (Though, live your best life. It’s the holidays. We don’t judge.)
And, since champagne is referred to as “bubbly” for a reason, we upped the carbonation of this brew. Still less than the real deal, but you’ll notice a bit more tickling of your nostrils as you sip.
What we end up with is a slightly fruity brew, bone dry and tremendously effervescent, reminiscent of a champagne, but with enough beeriness to remind you that you’re drinking a beer, not some lame French sparkling wine.
“In the future,” Lauren says, “I think it would be fun to really push the envelope and do a bottle-conditioned version of this with champagne yeast.”
So, as the clock nears midnight on the 31st, while those around you are popping bottles of cheap champagne, you can pop a can of Fizz the Season.
You can even pour it into a champagne flute so you don’t feel left out. It won’t help you understand the lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne” any better, but you’ll be ringing in the New Year with style.
Fizz the Season is out for distribution on draft now and will be available in the Tasting Room on draft and in 16-ounce cans in conjunction with our Open House on Saturday. See you then!