India Pale Ales are revered for their freshness. In the quest for big, bold hops, most IPA purists look for very recent packaging dates, knowing the biggest punch of fresh flavor happens within days (or even hours) of packaging.
The explosion in IPAs that tout fresh, citrus-forward hops like Mosaic and Citra has taken the cult of hops to new heights (just walk into any craft brewery for proof). Beers like The Alchemist’s Heady Topper and Creature Comforts’ Tropicalia have become holy grails for those who pray at the altar of the almighty resinous cone.
But it seems that in the beer world, every trend has its own divergent twin. Like the “white” stout and the “dark” pale ale, the traditionally bright and fresh IPA has met its doppelgänger in the Brett IPA.
Brettanomyces (or Brett for short) is a wild yeast often incorporated into sour beers like Lambics and Flemish Red Ales. It adds a distinctive flavor known affectionately as “horse blanket.” The acetic acid produced by Brettanomyces is associated with funkiness, tart fruit, and peppery spicing in sour beer styles.
Adding Brett to an IPA seems counterintuitive and for good reason: even experienced brewers find Brett to be an elusive agent that can cause unexpected consequences. And for a style lauded for its fresh flavors, is “horse blanket” really something you want to throw into the mix?
The answer, apparently, is yes, and brewers from coast to coast are churning out Brett IPAs. Here are a few to look for on store shelves and in taprooms near you.
Allagash Brewing Company Brett IPA
Known for its Belgian styles, wild ale projects, and all-around love of yeast, Allagash was a no-brainer to attempt the Brett IPA style. It leans into the fruity aspects of Brettanomyces by using a light malt base with bold citrusy hops like Galaxy and Citra for the appropriately named Brett IPA. The end product is tart twist on the tropical IPA trend.
Stone Brewing Enjoy After Brett IPA
Stone’s unique “Enjoy After” series asks beer drinkers to wait until after a future date to drink the beer (in contrast to its “Enjoy By” IPA series). The additional bottle conditioning is part of the process and the beer isn’t considered fully realized until the date printed on the bottle. These Brett IPA bottles go back to 2015 and many bottle shops tucked cases away for later resale. Expect grass and hay flavors, a touch of earthiness, and that tell-tale barnyard funk.
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project Hop Savant
Like an over-hopped Saison, the peppery spice, floral notes, and slightly sour elements create a nice complement to the big hop bite. Crooked Stave’s Hop Savant is a complex, challenging, and refreshing beer that is worth seeking out, despite not being the biggest name on this list.
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