What is brut IPA? An introduction to the beer style

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

15 April 2019

Craft beer isn’t shy of experimentation. Quite the opposite. But the quest for the next big trend can appear to many consumers and to many beer professionals almost desperately frantic.

In case you haven't been on Twitter in the past 20 seconds, BIPA is the new kid in the block ('B' meaning ‘brut IPA’).

The style was originally brewed in San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewing, and was named ‘brut’ for its extreme dryness, as a reference to brut champagne. In fact, brut champagne contains up to 12g/l of sugar and isn’t the driest sparkling wine out there, but we’ll let that go.

Most beers have at least some residual sugar, and traditionally only a few styles have been characterised by marked dryness. The Irish dry stout is perhaps the most famous example; its dry character is given by the use of roasted barley in the recipe.

In the case of brut IPAs, all the sugar is converted into alcohol during fermentation thanks to the action of a special enzyme called amyloglucosidase. With no sugar left to caress the palate, the resulting beer tastes totally dry.

Other than its dry character, brut IPAs tend to have marked carbonation, a hazy appearance and a hoppy nose. That said, the style is fairly heterogeneous, with colours ranging from pale golden to amber, body ranging from thin to full and alcohol level ranging from sessionable to high.

To help you navigate such a new and diverse category, we’ve selected five different bruts to please all palates.

 

Mothership Brut Pale Ale

Pours pretty hazy and deep lemon in colour, with persistent foam and coarse bubbles. The nose is delicate and citrus driven, showing lemon zest and a bit of pineapple and nectarine. There’s plenty of piney and resiny character from the hops, too (Hallertau Blanc, Huell Melon, Nelson Sauvin and Mosaic all get involved). In the mouth it’s light, with a hint of tartness. For those in need of a sessionable one.

4.5%, POA/44cl, Mothership Beer

Padstow Brewing Cold Skies

A brut IPA with its own character. The look is as murky and lemony as expected, while the nose adds aromas of pomaceous fruit to the citrus, which enhances the complexity without affecting drinkability. It’s medium bodied, the finish is marked by the hops (Citra, Amarillo, Chinook, Cascade), with lots of grassiness and herbaceousness.

5.8%, £2.08/44cl, EebriaTrade

Durham Étienne

A brut IPA with a classic British touch, as the typical 50cl bottle also suggests.

While the hop character isn’t over the top, the nose is characterised by notes of bergamot, ginger, lemon and fresh spices. The palate is that of a classic British golden ale, refined by a touch of gooseberry in the finish. Can a brut IPA taste ‘traditional’? Now you know the answer.

6%, POA/50cl, Durham Brewery

Marble Guillotine

Pale golden, slightly hazy with a nice creamy head and plenty of piney, resiny and orange-zest aromas. There’s some caramel too, which gets louder on the palate. A drying, almost phenolic character leads to a markedly bitter, herbaceous finish. The best of the bunch to go with food.

7.1%, £3.15/50cl, EebriaTrade

Brewboard Le Commandant

Intense, very appealing deep golden colour with some amber hues. The nose is powerful, showing orange zest, resin, fruitcake and a hint of winter spices. The palate is full and creamy despite the lack of residual sugar, bursting with flavour and displaying intense herbaceousness on the mid-palate. Pungent and spicy, bone dry yet leaving a satisfyingly rich finish. Top.

7.4%, £2.40/44cl, EebriaTrade

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