Last spring, I wrote about an emerging craze in craft brewing—a hazy, “juicy” IPA that brought a rich mouthfeel and sweet edge to this hop-heavy style. In the spirit of the ever-changing beer scene, this spring I invite you to try the newest IPA craze, which happens to be the exact opposite of last year’s Big New Thing. Brut IPAs dry out this style for an exceptionally crisp, effervescent beer that lets hop flavors and aromas shine through.
The brut IPA takes its name from brut champagne due to its dry nature. During the brewing process, most beers retain a certain amount of residual or unfermentable sugars, which leave some sweetness intact. To make this new style, brewers add an enzyme that makes all of the malt’s sugars fermentable, which means there are virtually no sugars left in the beer, making it very dry. That lack of sweetness changes how we perceive malt and hop flavors, opening some room for brewers to play with new flavor profiles.
Brut IPAs are golden and clear in color, relying on pilsner malts for a clean malt taste. They are typically highly carbonated—here again we see the champagne parallel—which accentuates the dryness and can add a bit of a bite to any bitterness the hops provide. After those basics, hop character can vary significantly among breweries.
Locally, a few breweries are playing with brut IPAs. Most notable in Bloomington is the double brut IPA brewed by Nick Banks at Bloomington Brewing Co. The beer relies exclusively on Centennial hops, giving it a gentle citrus and floral aroma. Because the beer is dry, all the hops were added late, keeping the bitterness low—a nice touch when dryness and effervescence can give a harsh edge to hop bitterness. Be aware that this IPA is deceptively 9.1 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), so don’t let it sneak up on you.
The Tap Brewery’s Jarrod May has been playing with the style, too, creating Take My Money, a brut IPA that redefines balance in the absence of malty sweetness. This beer has a good hop character, contributing a bit of fruit and pine flavor while keeping the bitterness in line with what the dryness will allow—a very well-rounded beer. Take My Money may have a short run on the taps, but the brewer is committed to playing with this new style, so keep an eye out for his next tasty experiment.
You can find brut IPAs in cans and bottles, too, although some of them are seasonal releases that are part of experimental lines, like New Belgium Brewing’s Up Next Series. This brewery’s brut IPA has more aggressive hop character, with citrus and tropical fruit flavors, and a slightly harsh bitterness that is accentuated by the carbonation. Those who like a bitter zing in their IPAs might find this beer a nice alternative to those that over-rely on sweetness for balance.
So, hop lovers rejoice—there are now even more IPAs to explore out there, and brewers are finding new ways to push the envelope in this already edgy style.
Greg Siering has been homebrewing since 2006 and is a member of the Bloomington Hop Jockeys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.