And even the trends that do stick took time to establish themselves. Look at Alchemist’s Heady Topper, considered the first Hazy IPA. That’s been around since 2003, yet the haze craze didn’t really hit hard until the past few years.
To be honest, I first learned about this phenomenon on Monday. So over the past few days I’ve tried three of the five known versions in the area and found that maybe this isn’t just a gimmick. There might be something to this new wave of IPAs.
History and Process
The biggest surprise to me is that since the beginning of the year, brewers in Colorado, Michigan, New York, Virginia, Florida and many other places throughout the country have already created one or more versions of their own take on the style.
The real difference with this beer, one that seems diametrically opposed to the murky, sweet, and minimally conditioned Hazy IPA, is that it’s made to be clear and fully attenuated.
To remove that residual sugar naturally present after conditioning, an enzyme called amylase (traditionally used to reduce the body of stouts and porters without reducing ABV) is added during fermentation.
The result, based upon the research and tastings I’ve done, is a lightly straw colored, crisp and clean tasting ale that features a more floral hop flavor as well as a wine wine presence, with a strong dryness cutting the hop bitterness, all residing in a much lighter body.
So what would normally be a sturdy 7% abv IPA now exhibits a more champagne like crispness and a unique flavor profile all it’s own.
Brut IPAs on Tap in Portland
Being that it isn’t done conditioning, it’s hard to say exactly what the final result will taste like. In comparison to the others I tried though, it seemingly has a stronger hop bill (8 pounds of various hops were added in the whirlpool), was dry hopped with Mosaic, features 60 pounds of peaches (though still subtle at this point), and a slightly sturdier malt bill.
In speaking with Culmination’s Head Brewer Conrad Andrus, there was a deliberate focus on keeping the malt bill higher for fear of the end result approximating something closer to “hoppy water.” Most who have attempted the style and come away with mixed results were often disappointed with imbalanced, overly hopped outcomes.
During my research over the past few days I was also informed that Sasquatch Brewing (reportedly the first brewery in the area to put the style on tap, roughly 4 weeks ago) and Brothers Cascadia Brewing in Vancouver each have a Brut IPA available on tap as well.
I also noticed that Ruse Brewing will be featuring an Extra Brut IPA at the Portland Fruit Beer Fest in a few weeks. Called Invisible Machine, it will feature Pinot Gris grapes and dry-hopped with Mosaic. Additionally, Hopworks Urban Brewery is working on a Brut IPA as well, set to be released at their Vancouver location June 17th. It’s a collaboration with Imperial Yeast and will feature a hop-bill of Lemon Drop, Jaryllo and Mosaic.
Furthermore, on Monday I spoke with Sean Hiatt, the owner of Woodstock’s Proper Pint about the style and he seemed to think it’s going to be on tap everywhere in the next few weeks.
Why It’s a Trend
I really don’t know that the Brut IPA will dethrone those hazy beers, though I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a primary warm-weather seasonal offering, counterbalancing the colder months that have really become inhabited by those bigger, juicier options.
Also of note are the assertions made about this style being a “low-carb” option. Sure, it only makes sense that with an enzyme removing excess sugars it would result in a beer sporting fewer carbohydrates. If indeed that’s the case, especially if it’s a significant enough amount to draw in casual Michelob Ultra type drinkers, this style could really catch fire.
So keep an eye out for the Brut IPA style the next time you visit your local taproom or brewery. You might just find a new go-to summer beer.