Over the better part of a decade, craft beer devotion has become synonymous with a voracious appetite for over-the-top bitterness. The trend coincided with the proliferation of modern hops varietals high in alpha acids — the compounds responsible for those grapefruit-laced, rusted-tin characteristics. While some brewers boast proudly of a so-called “lupulin threshold shift,” wherein beer drinkers’ palates slowly migrate toward triple and quintuple IPAs, other brewers are bucking the trend, seeking to swing the pendulum back to a more balanced centerline.
Among these craft counter-revolutionaries is Greenpoint Beer and Ale Company. To wit, the Brooklyn upstart just released its appropriately titled Pendulum Pale Ale. As an exciting new offering, it’s an easy selection for Beer of the Week. But as a hops-subdued harbinger of a greater movement, it might end up the beer of 2015.
Greenpoint’s latest release is brewed entirely with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast commonly associated with funkier notes — barnyard and wet horse are frequent descriptors. Pendulum, however, relies on an offshoot called Brett C, which imparts juicier esters, such as over-ripened citrus fruit. The tonalities of the yeast arrive in lockstep with the hops, emboldening a powerful symbiosis, one enhancing the other. If you underestimate the significant flavors that a yeast strain can bring to a beer, this 6.1 percent pale ale will be an edifying experience. Notably, the Brett manages to simultaneously highlight the floral aromas of the hop strains on the nose while reining them in on the palate. In short, you’re going to smell much more bitterness than you’ll ever taste.
Brett has historically been a more esoteric yeast strain, atypical to widely approachable brews. So it’s somewhat ironic that this 100 percent Brett beer would serve as an olive branch to bridge the divide between insatiable hopheads and the more even-keeled light-beer enthusiasts. But Pendulum is versatile enough to bring both crowds to the bar. As beer preferences evolve, let’s toast this one to meeting in the middle.
You might also consider meeting at Brouwerij Lane in Greenpoint, where Pendulum is now on tap. Manhattanites can find it on draft at Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor in the Village and Waterfront Ale House in Kips Bay.