The IPA has certainly evolved from and continues to be conduit for innovation. The Brut IPA is its latest iteration, bone dry, effervescent, low bitterness with a vibrant aroma of American hops. Much like its name sake it resembles champagne in many ways and it could be another beer that helps unlock the the mental block many non-beer drinkers have.
It started out in the 18th century as a India Pale Ale created by the British brewers as a malt forward presentation of earthy and floral English hops. A relatively tame version of what we now know the style to be but back then is was radical.
The Americans, inspired by their past masters, did what Americans do. They made it huge. The also acronymised India Pale Ale , as they tend to do, USA case in point, to IPA. They made it their own and used it to show off home grown hops that have now changed the way the rest of the world view beer. USA are the leaders of the world wide craft beer phenomenon and the IPA is its poster child.
The early 2000s saw somewhat of an arms race, whereby brewers in America decided that bitterness was the battle ground. Everyone was lusting over this taste profile and the bitterer the better. They had to grow up at some stage and moved on to a plethora of alternative IPAs. Different iterations seem to appear and disappear just as quickly. Some stuck like the Rye IPA , some did not like the black IPA. These different versions test the style’s ability to still be a style and is pulled in so many different direction with only one criteria, use a ton of hops. It seems the market is indeed growing up and instead of more hop bitterness and high ABV, it’s now complexity of flavour development usually acquired by extreme experimentation and a rather more grown up understanding of ingredients and flavour nuances.
The latest trend which still seems to be raging is the juicy and hazy version, The New England IPA, which resembles unfiltered juice and largely tastes like it. Breweries are making this style ad nauseum with many having exactly the same flavour development. I for one will not be sad to see the back of this style and have acquired NEIPA fatigue.
Then came along the Brut IPA. Half expecting it to be brutally hopped and bitter as hell, I was glad to hear that it was in fact reference to champagne “Brut” and indeed its dryness. Being a big fan of Champagne, MCC and dry white wines I was very keen to get my hands on a local version. I missed out on Stefan Wiswedel’s, Little Wolf, early attempt but heard some good reviews.
Then came my first encounter. It was one of those moments in life where your senses afford you pure joy. The now much lauded collaboration between Saggy Stone and Metal Lane breweries was put in my hand late October by Murray Middleton of Metal Lane. Fresh as a beer could be, the Champagne Citra Nova, reminded me why I love beer. My hairs on the back of my neck shot up with excitement as I took in the aroma of pure unadulterated Citra. I had not had that reaction to a beer in a very long time and would have given it 10/10 for aroma. It was just so well balanced and fresh like standing in a hop field. It did not end there. I have at times been very excited about aroma of a beer to be only let down by the lack of transfer into the flavour development. The beer delivered here too, a perfect stage for the citrus nuances of the Citra hop to dance across your tongue. Finished bone dry and perfectly attenuated.
An accomplished and vibrant beer and in my top three for the year. I must note that I again had another dance with this beer a couple of months later and its aroma and hop flavour were not as vibrant. This is a style to be consumed fresh which will ultimately make this style suited to limited release and best in cans to keep in that fresh burst of hop joy.
Innovation was the mother of this style like its siblings came about from experimentation and brewers meddling with nature. California brewer,
Kim Sturdavant Social Kitchen And Brewery, only last November decided to up the levels of amylase enzymes, commonly used to dry out massive triple IPA, into a normal strength IPA. Simple yes, but often innovation is. The amylase enzymes breaks down long strain sugars into bite sized chunks for the hungry yeastie beasties to feed off. Thus leading to very little to no residual sugars left in the brew post fermentation and therefore bone dry yet balanced.
I hope the style Kim created sticks and does not go the way of the other fad IPAs although that sentiment is not always shared by others. The case I put forward for the Brut is that is the most accessible style of IPA and due to South African’s elongated exposure to wine it make sense that it would be a style to win over oenophiles. This is also supported by the relative low bitterness (IBU) which is often the biggest barrier for many to enjoying beer. It’s dryness lends towards pairing with fresh food which is suited to our climate. It’s bouquet is intoxicating and really highlights the complex mirage of hop oil aromas that excites the senses like nothing else I have come across before. Murray Middleton adds, ”
South Africans love easy drinking and moreish beers.
Brut IPA fits in perfectly as it’s incredibly sessionable and provides the easy drinking thirst quenching characteristics we crave”.
As Julius Caesar said to Marcus Julius Brutus , “Et tu Brute” (You Too Brutus) in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. I hope that ‘You Too’ will enjoy this style and hopefully it is here to stay and does not go the way of Julius Caesar and get resigned to the archives of IPA history.
Make some more soon please.