It wasn’t that long ago that I was convinced brut IPAs were definitely going to be a thing. In a category increasingly awash with hazy and lactose-laden takes, it felt equal parts something new and a return to form. Finally, thirst-quenching IPAs would reclaim Center Stage! However, as I witnessed more and more such offerings languishing on dusty tap handles, it became clear that, not unlike Gretchen Wiener’s ceaseless devotion to “fetch,” brut was just not going to happen.
Robbed of both my favorite new style (and any illusion that I would ever be a tastemaker), I retreated into the shadows. There I remained until early 2019 when I heard tell of another dry, crushable brewery option taking the market by storm. Vindication was mine! Overjoyed, I soared into the nearest brewery to try it, only to be greeted by… a hard seltzer.
Before I go any further, let me assure that I’m not here to seltzer-shame anyone. There are plenty of valid reasons to be a seltzer aficionado. It’s a reasonable choice for the calorie-conscious, especially given that NOT drinking is hardly an option. It can serve as a welcoming gesture to those who aren’t particularly enamored with beer, but would still like to sip something while accompanying friends to the local brewery. It’s definitely a reprieve for anyone tired of sending fruity cocktails back to be remade “like this, but waaaaay more innocuous.” All I knew is this Zima-come-lately wasn’t the brut ale that my prayers beseeched.
My hopes of a crispier future for our children were almost dashed. Little did I know that in my ensuing emotional tailspin I would end up landing in the welcoming, albeit strangely stubby arms of one Brutus T. Bubbles, the perfectly symmetrical face of Tiny Bubbles.
Tiny Bubbles is the latest branding venture from the minds behind The Lost Abbey, Port Brewing Co, and The Hop Concept. Like its brethren, Tiny Bubbles is intended to signal a distinct approach to brewing, this time via canning live, sour beers. The “live” distinction (as opposed to a kettle sour) is an important one to Tomme Arthur, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer for all of the aforementioned. “No Lactobacillus was harmed in the making of this beer,” he shared.
To be more specific, Tiny Bubbles will offer a selection of tart gose-style beers, each finished with various fruits, inoculations, or whatever else tickles Brutus’ fancy. The first canned options will be The Original Brut Ale finished with sea salt and Brettanomyces, and Orange Guava Brut Ale.
Despite The Lost Abbey long being synonymous with craft sour beer, endeavoring to can such options presented many potential challenges. “Live” beer is often packaged with elevated sugar levels (from fruit or otherwise), causing them to continue fermenting and developing along the way. More fermentation means more gasses, and more gasses means packaging had better be substantial enough to contain it. Specialized bottles have a long tenure of being up to this task and cans simply do not. It was likewise unclear if the more acidic profile of these brews would play nicely with the can liners over time. However, now with considerable testing under their belt, Arthur believes the literal and metaphorical juice will be worth the squeeze. “Our feeling is the beer will evolve and change with live yeast and lactic cultures on board,” he offered.
While pre-sales for both The Original Brut Ale and Orange Guava Brut Ale have begun at shop.lostabbey.com, I was only able to sample the latter courtesy of some pesky pandemic. Its nose is boisterously fruity and tropical as one would expect, but there is a distinctive, almost funky, dried apricot note that leaps out at me. The palette is awash with vivid mandarin orange, which is sharpened a bit by a sparing, but distinct lactic sourness. It’s enough to make the mouth water without encroaching on full-blown puckering.
While the body is unmistakably lean, it doesn’t feel like a compromise in this format. It reminds of a wine spritzer – light, buzzy, and refreshing. It may be the most approachable sour for the sour-averse that I’ve tasted to date.
Of course, all of this begs the question of whether it would serve as a suitable proxy for the brut ales I so recently cherished. Sadly, no. Delightful as Orange Guava Brut Ale is, it scratches a very different itch for me. Still, as much as it pains me to admit it, this is a superior approach to delivering a brut-style ale.
I’m all for breweries diversifying their portfolio to welcome a variety of tastes. When everyone gets something delicious to drink (and I’m not forced to throw one of my trademark tantrums when someone has the audacity to suggest a winery), it’s a win-win. If seltzers accomplish that, I’m down. However, with something like Tiny Bubbles I am granted one additional benefit – a Candid Camera-type reveal to a skeptical friend that they have, in actuality, enjoyed beer. HAHA! YOU’VE BEEN ALE’D, SUCKA!
(Yeah, I know that tagline needs some punching up. I’ll workshop it with the network when the actual show comes to be.)
In addition to online sales, cans will be available in San Marcos this Friday (4/24), and in San Elijo and Cardiff on Saturday (4/25). All pre-sold beer will start to be delivered on Friday and Monday as well.