Monday, May 14, 2018

Books on beer: Exploring the realm of Eclectic IPA

Image courtesy of Brewers Publications.

Dick Cantwell likes to say every beer has a story. So here, in his fourth book for Brewers Publications, is the story of Eclectic IPA. Though, truth be told, it's not so much a narrative as it is an idea book, focusing less on the "how to" and more on the "what to try" when pushing the boundaries of the IPA.

Calling it an idea book has to do with style specifics and Cantwell's repeated reminders to not worry about taxonomy. Eclectic IPAs, incorporating the flavors of fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, or coffee and chocolate, don't meet a defined style guideline. Well, other than the fact that they are all just American IPAs - albeit with a bit of augmentation. In other words, there isn't just one way to do things when working in this medium. Moreover, when crafting this type of beer, it doesn't matter what a recipe ingredient is called or how you classify it...what matters is whether you have the makings of a delicious IPA.

Now, that's not to say you should throw caution to the wind with regards to eclectic IPAs and their ingredients. Naturally, there are things to consider. For example, is that exotic herb you've discovered safe and palatable? Or, worse yet, will it be a key ingredient in your new hemlock IPA?

Indeed, the choice of ingredients is one thing, but deciding how (e.g. raw versus cooked, whole versus processed) and when to use them (e.g. hot side or cold side) is quite another. Oh, and let's not forget about balance, and how it's best not to approach flavor presence "through the metaphoric use of a Tom & Jerry mallet."

Those topics and more are examined in the book, as Cantwell offers a wide range of ideas in both text and tabular form that encourage experimentation. Of course, there are an abundance of recipes as well, which serve as a jumping-off point to kick-start your explorations.

As for going beyond that, Cantwell says it's entirely up to you. His ideas are just that, and Eclectic IPA is a book that's meant to be built on. For it's you, the reader/brewer, that will assume the role of "interpretive opportunist," as you seek to add your own personal touch to craft beer's most popular style.

Eclectic IPA is published by Brewers Publications (pre-release copy provided for review). It's available for purchase now on the publisher's website, with copies expected to be on sale at retail in early June.

Dick Cantwell co-founded Elysian Brewing Co. of Seattle, Washington, in 1996. He is currently the director of brewing operations at Magnolia Brewing Co. in San Francisco, California. His writing credits include Barley Wine: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes (1998), The Brewers Association's Guide to Staring Your Own Brewery, Second Edition (2013) and Wood & Beer: A Brewers Guide (2016).

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