I hadn’t heard of the Brut IPA style until I caught a reference to it on Marshall Schott’s Brulosophy podcast. This is a very recent style invented by Kim Sturdevant at San Francisco’s (now closed) Social Kitchen & Brewery.
The key difference between a standard American IPA and a Brut IPA is in the amount of sugar left in the final product. Beer always has some residual sugar that hasn’t fermented out—often maltose, which is undigestible by most yeasts. The balance between alcohol and sugar is one of the variables that makes a beer style distinctive. In a Brut IPA, the goal is to ferment out as much of this sugar as possible, which gives the beer a dry, champagne-like character—hence, “Brut.”
Among the tricks a brewer can use to do this is to add to the wort additional enzymes, such as Glucoamylase, that can break down the more complex sugars into simple ones that the yeast can eat. This isn’t quite molecular gastronomy, but it is what captured my imagination and sent me down the path of creating this recipe.
Since I was messing around with molecules anyway, I decided to double down and dose this beer with terpenes. Terpenes are a family of hydrocarbons with aromatic properties—among the plants that secrete them are hops and weed (which, if you didn’t know already, are close relatives). There’s a broad range of flavors and aromas in the terpene family, ranging from pineappley to berry to skunky. You can buy isolates and blends of individual terpenes for culinary (and I presume, more nefariously, vape-pen) purposes to dial in exactly the character you’re looking for.
So Hal and I conferred on a flavor concept. He suggested that Brut IPAs often give him a marzipan vibe, so we decided to go with a terpene blend called “Cookies”. I used a very light hand with bittering hops since there would be very little sweetness to balance bitterness. For aroma hops I went with Nelson Sauvin—a New Zealand hop said to give a white wine character—and an HBC-472, an experimental hop with characteristics of oak, vanilla, and bourbon.
This really ended up as an exquisite product with a unique flavor, strongly hoppy but not citrusy. It does taste like champagne and biscotti. This without doubt will join HLH’s signature beverage line.
Ionization is part of our Modern Composers series (along with Turangalîla-Hefeweizen, Unanswered Question, and Intonarumori). Edgard Varèse’s “Ionisation“, which premiered in 1933, was one of the first major concert hall pieces scored primarily for untuned percussion (with some sirens thrown in for good measure). It’s a bracing, clattery mess; one of the things that makes it appealing is that it’s both short and lucid, allowing even an untrained musician to start to discern its internal logic after a number of sympathetic listens through. I felt this dissolution of the tonal language of the orchestra had a thematic connection to the molecular play of the Brut IPA.
And this molecular play gave me a vision of the entire HLH brewhouse slipping into the type of vortex illustrated in MC Escher’s Print Gallery. Escher famously left a blank spot in the middle of this etching so he would not have to resolve the infinite recursion it implied—if you’re at all into math there’s a cool article about how the mathematician Hendrik Lenstra used elliptic curves to finish the painting, and a website (which may not be currently up) that shows some of the art that came out of it. Faizal from Indonesia brought the spiraling HLH tasting room to life in his homage to (ripoff of?) of Escher’s work. There’s also an Easter egg for another HLH beer in there – let me know in the reviews if you can find it!
Robert Fripp did a pretty remarkable pivot in the late 70s. King Crimson is credited with giving birth to prog-rock as a genre. By the mid-70s, what we can in hindsight identify as superficial elements of Crimson’s music—including orchestral bloat, technical virtuosity, and Ren-Faire lyrical conceits—had essentially taken over prog. Fripp identified this as a dead end, disbanded Crimson, studied with J.G. Bennett at the International Academy for Continuous Education, moved to New York, and started playing with artists in the fertile New York late 70’s scene.
Of course he reformed Crimson later but the drastically different and pared-down sound showed what was essential and lasting in the music, including a fundamental heaviness and free improvisation not rooted in the blues. “Under Heavy Manners” is something of a rough draft of Crimson’s 80s sound. David Byrne sounds like he’s really struggling to absorb all the philosophical stances being thrown at him—maybe this is what it was like studying under Bennett.