The West Coast’s answer to New England IPA was first brewed in San Francisco by Social Brewing’s Kim Sturdavant in late 2017. Brut is typically a wine term, meaning ‘dry’. Sturdavant says his “3 rules for the style” were that it is super pale, very dry (Below 1 degree plato*), and hop-forward/IPA-like/balanced. He also mentioned it should be pleasant to drink, champagne-like, and effervescent.
“They’re inevitably going to be really refreshing to drink and probably easy to drink more of,” Sturdavant says. “When you drink an extra brut IPA, you look down and your glass is already half gone. It’s kind of the refreshing sparkling wine elements in a beer form. It’s easy to drink and also, the balance is different because it’s all about the hops.”
That is why the Brut IPA might have a chance to be a widely accepted beer style, and not just a trend. Consumers have been enjoying New England IPA due to their broad appeal. They’re hop-forward, soft on the palate, easy-drinking, lacking in bitterness, and taste like tropical juice. The popularity has reached such a point that they have even been recognized as an official style by the Brewer’s Association and the Beer Judge Certification Program earlier this year.
So what makes a Brut IPA so dry?
Because the aim for this beer is as close to 0 degrees Plato as possible, amylase enzyme is added, as it helps the yeast eat up any remaining fermentable sugars resulting in a bone dry finished product. You may also hear these beers refereed to as “highly attenuated” a brewing term analogous with dry. So far, examples of Brut IPA seem to be all over the place when it comes to IBUs, but the dryness is the lowest common denominator. Even National breweries are getting in on the trend.
While many of the initial Brut IPAs I had come across used adjunct grains like flaked corn and rice to lighten the mouthfeel and color, a lot of them were not very bitter by design. They were a clean, almost neutral malt/yeast profile to really showcase West Coast hops.
Have you tried a Brut IPA yet?
We’re experiencing examples of Brut IPA slowly trickle into our stores across the country. Our Belmont, MA Beer Geeks have described 4 Quarters Brewing (Winooski, VT) Paddle On as having “a candied strawberry hop aroma”, with a unique mouthfeel, “…dry and more carbonated than the typical IPA. It feels lush and full-bodied up front, but it disappears off the tongue almost immediately.” I recently had the opportunity to try Cruz Blanca’s (Chicago, IL) Brut Suit Riot. I picked up lemongrass, blueberry, and white grape on the aroma. It finished dry and pleasantly effervescent.
Other commercial examples of Brut IPA that we have not yet had the pleasure of trying include: Boulevard Brewing’s (Kansas City, MO) Test Brut IPA, Maplewood Brewery & Distillery’s (Chicago, IL) Mega Dry, and Gathering Place Brewing’s (Milwaukee, WI) Dry Debate.
Bonus: because American brewers continue to push any and everything to the extreme, we’ve even seen a Stillwater Artisanal ‘Double Brut IPA’ on the horizon.
*a European measurement of the concentration of sugars in the wort prior to fermentation, expressed in terms of percentage (10 plato is 10% sugars).
Virginia is the Products, Programming, and Educational Director for Craft Beer Cellar. In addition to being a Certified Cicerone, she is an Introductory Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Her home base is Chicago, but she’s often found in the Boston area, or wherever her passion for good food & drink takes her.
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