Talk of IPA’s, or India Pale Ales (a now barely mentioned reference point), is seemingly endless.
Even someone as beer-centric as myself occasionally grows tired of the style and main sub-style now dominating the market with often sloppy, muddy New England IPA (NEIPA) iterations.
But, as a purveyor of craft beer you cannot argue with the almost monolithic thinking driving current demand, even if many brews are not crafted with the same kind of expertise one has come to expect with craft beer.
What happened to a dry IPA? And where on earth did all the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) go?
Enter Brut IPA to the rescue, the greatest development in beer from 2018 that will hopefully, reclaim, and perhaps re-balance IPA production towards tradition and the elevation of craft brewing. Which for better or worse has changed dramatically by the huge infusion of “do it yourself” (DIY) semi-pros.
Recently highlighted by beer writer William Bostwick, the Brut was first developed by brewer Kim Sturdavant at his San Francisco brewery Social Kitchen. Incorporating many of the new hop strains with tropical fruit character, the Brut IPA uses a naturally occurring enzyme called amyloglucosidase, which consumes fermentable sugars until there is almost no sweetness.
The resulting IPA is a touch fruity, very bubbly, incredibly dry and a refreshingly bitter West Coast response to what the NEIPA has become -- in most cases sweet and sloppy.
As Bostwick points out, the style is “a subtler sort of brew, combining the dryness of light lagers with brighter, less brash, and more complex hops flavor,” which arguably takes more precision.
It is hard to predict whether the Brut IPA will catch on with a consumer palate that generally leans sweet, or if like some niche styles it will only be appreciated by a small cadre of brewers and aficionados aware of the mastery required to make a good one.
Never one to care about such things, Stone Brewing’s “Enjoy By 01.01.19 Brut IPA” is a great example, (that despite the name will still be pretty tasty for another month or so, before the hop character really begins to drop off.)
Otter Creek’s Brut IPA is another solid example I had the opportunity to try, imparting the dank-fruity notes IPA drinkers have come to love, yet with a more bubbly mouthfeel, dry finish and detectable IBUs.
Either beer, if you can find them, represent another tasty craft innovation well worth the pour!
This week’s recommendation: Stone “Enjoy By Brut IPA,” an effervescent DIPA with notes of peach, and a dry, moderately bitter finish. 9.4 percent ABV. Escondido, California and Richmond, Virginia.
Colin Hubbell is co-owner of the Green Onion Pub and The Beer Hub in South Utica, New York.