Pearl Street Throwdown: Pearl Street, SATO Brewpub to Wage War at Battle of the Bruts

Pearl Street Brewery and SATO Brewpub are bringing Brut IPA’s, a brand new beer style that originated on the West Coast, to Buffalo. This new beer, which uses an enzyme to break down sugars so the beer is lighter than water to create something of a hop champagne, will be on display at the Battle of the Brut’s on April 27th at SATO (4:30-7:30pm).

Both Pearl Street’s Brut IPA (5.2%), which is brewed with Cascade and Centennial hops (and dry hopped with 2.2 pounds of hops per barrel) and finished with a final gravity of 1.000 – which is equal to water, and SATO’s Brut IPA, named Source Codes (8.4%), which used Hallertau Blanc and Citra hops with a final gravity of .997, actually lighter than water, will be on tap. Not only are SATO and Pearl the first Buffalo breweries to brew a brut IPA, they are the second and third breweries on the entire East Coast to do so.

Now, just what is a Brut IPA? Social Brewing’s Kim Sturdavant is credited with brewing one of the first (if not the first) brut IPA’s. While beer is (generally) a balance between sweet malt and bitter hops, this new style uses an enzyme to break down all of the sugar so that the beer is literally lighter than water. It’s then hopped with a ton of hops, but in a way that extracts only the flavor and aroma with hardly any bitterness. The result is a super light ‘hop champagne’ that is easy to drink, delightfully aromatic, and even low carb.

“Basically we mashed in, added some alpha amylase to the mash, mashed in for our normal amount of time, mashed out at 170, went into the kettle, added the enzyme in the kettle, which was actually temp tolerant, meaning it didn’t denature until 203F,” SATO Head Brewer Drew Hardin explained. “We had another enzyme rest leaving the mash tun into the kettle, enzyme rest in the kettle until the boil started, denatured that, boiled through for 90 minutes, then turned around and started whirlpooling. We then waited until the whirlpool dropped to 200F, dry hopped, added enzyme, did a 30 minute whirlpool with a 30 minute enzyme rest, then went into the fermenter. We transferred in on yeast with beta gluconates in the fermenter. The beer never stopped chugging and once it got down to .997, we stopped it.”

“Ours is mostly pale malt with a little pilsner malt and then we threw a bag of wheat malt in as well, with the idea that there wasn’t going to be any residual sweetness but we still wanted there to be body to it,” Pearl Street Head Brewer Chris Herr says of his brut. “The wheat helped with the head retention. We mashed like normal at a lower temperature to get it nice and dry to begin with, then didn’t boil any bittering hops, added 50 ounces of Wakatu hops, and whirlpooled with 11 pounds, half each, of Cascade and Centennial, and it got very dry on its own after it fermented down. We added the enzyme with the dry hop and it fermented for another three days and it dropped down to the same gravity as water.”

I was lucky enough to sample each of the brut IPA’s ahead of the battle. Source Codes features dry white wine aromas with a white grape, peach and stone fruit bouquet and a lively dry finish that leads to a floral aftertaste. It’s the anti-session session IPA.

“It’s weird, it’s got negative mouthfeel,” Hardin adds. “There’s nothing else that I can really compare it to other than a dry white wine or a champagne. It’s stupidly crushable. I never in my life that thought I would have an 8% beer that is so drinkable. I’m interested to see what Buffalo beer drinkers will think; a lot of people complain about IPA’s not having enough body as they are right now. Most breweries have a problem not getting body in their beer, this is meant to not have body. So, that’s different. I don’t think that’s a negative. This is the first run, so we will see.”

As for Pearl Street’s Brut IPA, it has aromas of a typical West Coast Session IPA. It’s fruity up front before the dryness kicks in, but the dryness doesn’t ruin your palette, it leaves just enough that you want to take another sip. Suffice to say, the pint goes quick.

“To me, it’s very well balanced,” Herr says on his own brut concoction, “because as far as this style goes it would be way too easy to overshoot it. I’m pretty happy with it and I think it’s going to go quick. It will be great for the summer on the patio. I think people are going to really like this and with any luck we might even get some white and champagne drinkers to try it.”

After reaching out to Sturdavant himself to tell him their plans, Hardin and Herr are sending crowlers to San Francisco to him to get his thoughts on their versions.

“I try and keep my thumb on the pulse; anything that I can find or read. I always try and keep an eye on what’s going on, who’s doing what, what’s weird, what’s interesting. I try to keep an eye out for what might push people’s threshold a little bit,” Hardin adds of the reasoning behind trying out the new style here in Buffalo.

At the event, which is free and open to the public, you’ll be able to try a 10oz. pour of each beer for $10 during this event. For more information on the Battle of the Bruts, check out https://www.facebook.com/events/1842089186096019/.

Brian Campbell is a co-founder/Brand Manager of the BNBA’s enthusiast arm, Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at buffalobeerleague@aol.com, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague) and www.buffalobeerleague.com.

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