Looking at the Brutal Legend, the Brut IPA

By / Wine + Drinks / January 15th, 2019 / 6
Merit Brewing Hamilton Brut IPA

In craft beer there has perhaps been no other style that has undergone so many iterations over such a short amount of time as the IPA. Beginning with the English original that was once upon a time largely out of fashion in North America, we’ve come up with sub-styles like West Coast IPAs, Belgian IPAs, Sour IPAs, Brett IPAs, Double IPAs, Triple IPAs, Session IPAs, Black IPAs, Milkshake IPAs, Fruit IPAs and of course the New England IPA. Now it’s time to look at the Brut IPA.

While many purists may shake their heads at the amount of different sub-styles that are hitting the shelves, dismissing them as either flash in the pan trends or abominations of the original style, I for one think that they are a testament to the diversity and creativity to be found in the world of good beer.

With that in mind, it’s interesting to note that another sub-style of IPA has emerged and has quickly been capturing the minds of brewers all over the world: the Brut IPA.

The quick summary is this: a Brut IPA is a very pale, thin-bodied and incredibly dry IPA that attempts to be as refreshing and Champagne-like as its namesake. Think dry sparkling wine with hops.

The dryness comes by incorporating amylase enzyme, an ingredient commonly used to remove residual sugars in heavy stouts and porters without compromising the alcohol content, and essentially using it for opposite beer styles that are lighter and intentionally brewed with as little residual sugar as possible. To make such a base, the grain bill is altered to include incredibly light malts and in some cases adjuncts like rice, corn or wheat. The beer style also features very little bitterness, with most of the hops added only during the post-boil process for aroma.

As far as he knows, Kim Sturdavant, brewmaster at the Social Kitchen & Brewery in San Francisco was the first one to develop the style. Starting from an experiment late last year, the idea was soon enough picked up by a number of brewers in the area and lo, a style was born!

What makes the Brut IPA particularly attractive is that the recipe is so open that it allows for a lot of creativity from brewers. The ratio of grains/adjuncts are one puzzle, but the most attractive seems to be the hop additions, which should go well with the dryness. While Sturdavant usually goes with very fruity hop additions, others have made attempts with hops that impart a somewhat spicy flavour.

The style is still very new, so it’s reasonable to expect a gradual rollout, but as of writing, Canada already has a few. Hamilton’s MERIT Brewing Co. was the first to bring in the style with One For Us, Great Lakes Brewery from Etobicoke released Brutalism IPA, Hamilton’s Collective Arts collaborated with Aslin Beer Co. from Herndon, VA on Hot Pink, and Halifax’s own Unfiltered Brewing has Marcus Junius.

So, lovers of a nice dry bubbly, take note! A beer exists for you, and it’s delicious to boot!


Robin LeBlanc is a beer columnist, award-winning blogger at TheThirstyWench.com, and co-author of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, a guidebook to all of Ontario's breweries now in its second edition. She lives in Toronto.

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