Brut IPA: The New “Champagne” of Beers?

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Just when you thought there couldn’t be another IPA, a new style emerged. Over the last year, Brut IPA became the hot new beer for brewers to play around with. The style, which was created by brewer Kim Sturdavant of SF’s Social Kitchen and Brewery in late 2017, is refreshing, crisp and completely dry. It became an immediate hit with hop heads who crave big aromas and flavors but are looking for something without all the heaviness.

The name “Brut IPA” alludes in part to Champagne and the beer’s highly carbonated profile, but more accurately, it’s meant to highlight the bone-dry style and little (to no) sugar that is its most defining trait. It still has an IPA’s signature aromatics, but it is crafted in a way to keep the body light and the finish dry and snappy.

The technique involves an enzyme called amyloglucosidase (“amylase” for short), which has been used in the beer making world for years. This enzyme helps to break down complex sugars, freeing them for the yeast to gobble up. In big beers, such as a triple IPA or stout, it is used to minimize the potential syrupy sweetness. (Interestingly, it has also been used in “lite” beers to remove calories, such as Miller Lite - coincidentally, the father company of the “Champagne of Beers.”) The amylase is added to the mash during fermentation to allow the beer to attenuate (a brew term that means the yeast has eaten up most of the sugars) much further than it would otherwise.

For the Brut IPA, which has very little malt backbone, the trick becomes finding the perfect balance of sweetness (or lack thereof) to bitterness. To do this, the hops are added a point in the brewing process where they can contribute aromas without adding too much bitterness. Therefore, you get big aromas but not a comparitively high overall IBU. Hop choice also becomes a very important feature and brewers are all over the map on this one. You can find very refined Brut IPAs using subtle German hops, as well as IPAs with more West Coast varieties that lend a big punch.

Although the popularity of Brut IPA has exploded with brewers, it is a style still in its infancy and there is a lot of experimentation going on. It will be interesting to see how it evolves and what comes next. What I do know is that it pairs well with sunshine - something we’re finally getting around here! Served cold from a can, these beers are extremely crushable and perfect for summer sipping outdoors.

Tonight, in our SF store (5-6:30pm), we’ll be exploring a variety of Brut IPAs. Come down to see what it’s all about.

-Megan Greene

Megan Greene