Brewers challenged to push the boundaries of IPA

Dick Cantwell

A new book encourages brewers to look beyond fruit additions to the myriad of other ingredients that could put a unique accent on an India Pale Ale.

Published by the Brewers Association, Brewing Eclectic IPA suggests ingredients and techniques for brewers interested in further pushing the boundaries of the style.

It was written by industry veteran Dick Cantwell, who discussed the book in a companion presentation at the Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville.

“Why IPA? What lends IPA in particular to combinations with other things? Why not Helles? Why not Stout?” Cantwell asked brewers rhetorically.

“All periods and pursuits have their cultural touchstones… IPA today is the dominant form of expression for brewers today all over the world.

“If you walk into a brewery from Vermont to Vietnam, tasting the IPA or IPAs on offer is a sort of calibration.

“IPA is like a common language, something we all clearly speak because we aren’t fluent. Not everyone makes them or loves them I suppose, but this is pretty generally true.”

A limitless canvas
The book’s technical editor was Mitch Steele, a renowned exponent of IPA, which he says provides “an almost limitless canvas” for brewers.

“With all the hop breeding and research that is currently being done, brewers will continually be able to evolve and refine the IPA style and their own IPA flavours,” Steele writes in the foreword.

“In recent years, I have been privileged to evaluate, sample and test brew with some amazing experimental hops that are being developed.

“These hops have a wide array of new and unusual flavours. I sampled hops that smelled like bubblegum, orange cream, lemon candy, key lime, strawberries and even bourbon barrel flavours full of vanillin and coconut qualities.

“Once these experimental hops are released, I imagine they will lend their flavours to a new wave of IPA that is sure to come.

“Combining these new hop flavours with other exotic ingredients will lead to more imaginative IPAs. The possibilities are endless.”

Brewing Eclectic IPA by Dick Cantwell

Vegetables and herbs
Cantwell co-founded Seattle’s Elysian Brewing, where he created pioneering beers including the Avatar Jasmine IPA.

He says fruit is the most common ingredient added to IPAs by brewers, who should consider broadening their horizons.

“While perhaps less flashy, broad brushed and aggressive, [vegetables] too can contribute to beers of distinction and inventiveness,” Cantwell says.

“Think about a couple of examples; the sugary depth of roasted carrots or sweet peppers cohabiting the heart of a double IPA, the right balance and astringency and variety-specific flavour of squash or pumpkin in a seasonal IPA.

“More than most other styles of beer, IPA lends itself well to herbal treatment. Rosemary, thyme, basil, shiso and spruce, these are the stuff of the brewer’s lazy strut, beguiling accents for the substantial beers we’ve been talking about.”

Brewing Eclectic IPA also explores the potential for additions of spices, coffee, chocolate and tea, along with techniques such as souring and wood ageing.

It’s out now through Brewers Publications.

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