The first time I heard about brut IPA, I was tasting through beers at Crooked Goat Brewing with head brewer Will Erickson this summer. We'd tasted an un-hopped raspberry beer, a pineapple-infused IPA and, a first for me, a "milkshake IPA" made with lactose and vanilla to taste like, well, a milkshake, because what more is there left to do with the IPA category?
Erickson had one more innovation to present: the brut IPA. "This is the new juicy IPA," he declared, pointing to a recent cover story in a brewing magazine. Was I ever late to the game! By July, this new IPA trend, attributed to brewmaster Kim Sturdavant of San Francisco's Social Kitchen and Brewery, was already seven months old. So what is this brut IPA?
"As the trend in beers has generally been towards making them drier and less sweet," answers Erickson in a Q&A with the Bohemian, "the idea with a brut IPA is to take dryness to the extreme and eliminate as much residual sugar as possible, like a dry Champagne. We do this with the help of enzymes, and, in some cases, the beer will have no sugar left in it at all."
But IPA is already so dry with the hops, right?
"The dryness in a beer is not due to the hops, but a byproduct of the fermentation process. The idea with a brut IPA is that since it is so dry, what is left to taste in the beer is the hops, so the hop flavor can be accentuated."
Erickson says the style has been a hit at the taproom. "These beers are also easier to drink as they are so dry, making for a more enjoyable drinking experience." Crooked Goat's brut IPA is available on tap at the brewery.
Meanwhile in Windsor, Barrel Brothers Brewing Company lost no time putting four-pack cans of Champaderade brut IPA on local beer shelves. At 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, it's only half a percent lower than Lagunitas Brewing's latest iteration of full-bodied Super Cluster Citra–hopped ale, also available in cans this year, and also a blast of floral, fruity hops. Besides a dash of firm hop bitterness on the finish, however, the Champaderade doesn't seem dry at all, it's so packed with juicy, tangy and sweetness-evoking flavors of candied kiwi, Meyer lemon and light malted barley.
Going brut on a homebrew budget? They've got all the fixings at Santa Rosa's Beverage People fermentation supply. Just ask for the amylase enzyme.