With IPA’s long-standing dominance in the craft-beer biz, it’s no surprise that the style frequently serves as a springboard for a number of spin-offs, trends and, occasionally, legitimate new styles. From the classic English brew came the now-ubiquitous takes like the American West Coast IPA, fruited IPA, session IPA, sour IPA, New England-style IPA and even coffee IPA.
The latest? Brut IPA, an emerging style developed by brewer Kim Sturdivant of San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewery. The process quickly spread to other bay area breweries, earned some media coverage and began turning gears in the minds of brewers nationwide.
As the name suggests, brut IPA is inspired by brut Champagne: light in color and body, sparkling, citrusy and dry.
The first to market locally is Largo’s Arkane Aleworks, which tapped its first batch of Brut Force IPA last month. The beer pours extremely pale because of a liberal usage of pilsner malt and has a quickly-dissipating head. Citrus and melon notes burst from the glass, aided by dialed-up, Champagne-like carbonation.
The combination of pilsner malt and corn that makes up the majority of the beer’s base provides a light grainy quality with a satisfying underlying sweetness that disappears quickly, leaving little more than a few mild fruit notes: mango, papaya, pineapple. These flavors work especially well with the beer’s effervescence.
There are three primary keys to the style. The first is the aforementioned light malt and corn-adjunct grain bill, which set the stage for a very light body. The second is the use of hops almost entirely for flavor and aroma rather than bitterness, a feat accomplished by only adding hops post-boil and during the dry-hop stage.
The final, and most unique, key is the addition of amylase enzymes that break down starches into fermentable sugars that would otherwise remain in the finished brew. The low residual sugar content is why the body of Brut Force is so light and the finish so dry, even at 6.3 percent alcohol by volume.
While Arkane has plans to experiment heavily with the style, the first batch is a must-try, and you’ll find it on tap at Arkane’s tasting room. For bonus points, visit on June 30th, when the brewery will host a two-year anniversary party.
— Justin Grant
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