In the words of Jacobim Mugatu, brut IPAs are “so hot right now.” If you haven’t yet encountered this style of beer, you likely soon will! Drier and easier to drink than typical IPAs, this beer has been trending across the nation. So, where did the brut IPA come from, and what exactly is it?
According to SFGate, the term “brut IPA” was coined in late 2017 in San Francisco, by creator Kim Sturdavant of Social Kitchen and Brewery. Using an enzyme typically associated with brewing darker, heavier beers, like stouts and porters, he sought to apply that body-lightening enzyme “to make a basically sparkling hop beverage with no sweetness in it.” Other brewers took note of this refreshing, more drinkable type of IPA, as nearby breweries began experimenting with the style. When SFGate reported on this origin story in March 2018, they listed only 10 California breweries, plus one brewery in New Hampshire, as brewing brut IPAs.
And just what makes a brut IPA a brut IPA? Beer47 details out some key qualities a brut IPA should have, according to Sturdavant:
- Very pale
- Very dry
- Hop forward
What about bubbles, or its ties to champagne? I spoke with local Chicago beer experts, Austin Harvey and Andrew Hilsberg, of Beermiscuous, to better understand the brut IPA. “Not all of them have that sparkling feel,” explains Hilsberg, the events and marketing manager at the beer cafe. And Harvey, the curator and manager, notes, “Brut IPAs can use champagne yeast, but the use of it is extremely rare,” adding that it’s that utilization of the special enzyme, amyloglucosidase, that gives the brut IPA its unique flavor. So, the “brut” of the brut IPA is that it’s dry, and easy-drinking, just like brut champagnes—though “bubbly” or not is up to the brewer’s preference.
Describing the style further, Harvey explains that some are filtered and some are not, affecting how hazy the beer is – though he prefers clearer varieties. Hilsberg contrasts the taste with that of super-prevalent New England IPAs, categorized by their juicy, sweet fruit flavors: “…you still get all those fruit flavors up front…but then it just finishes nice and dry—you don’t have that lingering sweetness that you get with the New England IPA.”
Though the trend is nationwide now, Beermiscuous features mostly Chicago-based brut IPAs. Harvey’s beer pick of the week was a Chicago-brewed brut IPA, Around the Bend Beer Company’s Extra Circus. He’s a fan of local Miskatonic Brewing Company’s Cryomancer, as well, adding that “customers have also been digging on the Hot Pink Brut IPA from Collective Arts out of Toronto.” Hilsberg’s favorites hail from two Chicago-based breweries—Middlebrow Beer Co.’s Art Brut, and Maplewood Brewery’s Mega Dry Brut IPA—but he laments that the latter is draft-only, so far. “I keep asking and begging them to can it but they haven’t canned it yet!”
Seems like you can’t throw a rock without hitting a brewery experimenting with the brut IPA style—and this is good news if you’ve been looking for an answer to those IPAs that leave you with too sweet or bitter an aftertaste. Bubbly or not, hazy or not, there’s likely a variety for you, as long as you like dry, easy-drinking, and hop-forward beers. So, check out your local brewery or bar and see if brut IPAs have made their way to a beer establishment near you—and if not, it’s very likely some nearby brewers have recently caught wind of this trend, and are working to get their take on the brut IPA into your neighborhood bar, and into your glass!
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Header image courtesy of Social Kitchen and Brewery.