Food & Wine

Brut IPAs combine Champagne dryness with IPA hop intensity


Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
San Francisco’s Social Kitchen and Brewery, the originator of the Brut IPA style, produces Puttin’ on the Spritz.

Brut IPA is a relatively new beer style, developed in late 2017 by Kim Sturdavant of San Francisco’s Social Kitchen and Brewery.

Tim Sciascia, head brewer at Cellarmaker Brewing Co., introduced Sturdavant to the enzyme amyloglucosidase, which converts many unfermentable sugars to fermentable sugars, resulting in a much dryer beer. Brewers used the enzyme to reduce the residual sweetness of high-alcohol beers, but Sturdavant used it in a traditional IPA to render out all of the sweetness, resulting in an extremely dry beer, with the mouthfeel of Champagne.

To mirror the light color of Champagne, he also used adjuncts such as rice or corn, which are lighter in color than even the lightest barley malts. Contrary to popular assumption, the original Brut IPA was not fermented with Champagne yeast, instead using a neutral ale yeast to help highlight the hop character of an IPA. Sturdavant prefers resinous and tropical hop varietals, but other breweries have experimented with many hop profiles.

Since the creation of the style, numerous other brewers in California and beyond have brewed Brut IPAs. I recently visited Social Kitchen and Brewery to try two Brut IPAs on tap there, and I was able to find a couple of bottled or canned examples at local liquor stores.

The two Social Kitchen Brut IPAs on tap during my visit were Puttin’ on the Spritz, at 6.7 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), and Dry Bones, at 6.8 percent ABV. Both brews featured a hazy straw color and long-lasting, fluffy white heads, as well as medium-light bodies and spritzy carbonation. Neither beer showcased malt or yeast character, really allowing the hops to shine. Following is a roundup of those two Brut IPAs and two others.

Brut force

• Puttin’ on the Spritz was brewed with flaked corn as an adjunct, and Loral and Strata hops. The aroma featured notes of pithy grapefruit, and the flavor character was quite similar. Light bitterness was present from the initial impression all the way through the dry, bitter, long-lasting finish.

• Dry Bones was brewed with flaked oats and Kazbek hops. Just a shade murkier in appearance than Spritz, the aroma highlighted bright, fresh mandarin orange and touches of pine. The beer was moderately bitter up front, with tart, fruity hop flavors of lemon rind and raspberry, and the berry notes remained on the palate through the very dry finish.

• Brightside Extra Brut IPA from Drake’s Brewing Co. in San Leandro was 7 percent ABV, and poured a light golden color with just a touch of haze, along with a low white head that dissipated quickly. The hop aroma showcased sweet notes of fresh orange, cantaloupe and white grape juice. On the palate, a moderate piney bitterness presented first, with other hop flavors somewhat muted, perhaps by the extreme dryness, creating an interesting contrast in aroma and flavor characteristics. Well carbonated, with a light body, the finish was quite dry, with the sharp pine lingering on the palate.

• Mouthful of Miracles, a double Brut IPA brewed by Turlock’s Dust Bowl Brewing Co., poured a brilliantly clear light golden color with a substantial, dense, very long-lasting white head. Hop aromas of grapefruit and passionfruit dominated the nose, but additional hop character came through on the palate. In addition to the grapefruit and passionfruit, hop flavors of pineapple, mint and mild oniony dankness revealed themselves. Sturdy bitterness was present from the first sip all the way through the long, dry finish. With a light body, moderately high carbonation, significant alcohol warmth (8.5 percent ABV), pronounced bitterness and no residual sweetness, this brew did showcase hops, but it was definitely lacking some balance. I’ve never had another double Brut IPA for comparison purposes – while this one tasted very well made, the intensity was a bit over the top for my palate.

Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.

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