Skip to main content

Whether It’s Here to Stay or Not, Brut IPA is Shaping the Future of Craft Beer

tulip pint beer glass
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Several new beer styles seemingly pop up every few months and it’s often a crap shoot whether they have lasting power or not. 

New England-style and Hazy IPAs still tend to be the beers du jour after their slow rise to prominence. There’s another IPA style, though, waiting to see if whether it will turn out to be a flash in the pan or have staying power: Brut IPA.

First brewed in California at Social Kitchen and Brewery, the style draws inspiration from brut sparkling wines, and the dry finish makes for a surprisingly crisp and sessionable beer that was quickly anointed the next big wave. The hype has faded, but retail shelves are still likely to be packed with the style this summer as breweries determine whether Brut IPAs can stick.

One reason for a quick fizzle could be how quickly breweries jumped on the Brut IPA train in the first place, said Eric Bachli, the brewmaster at Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery.

“New England IPAs, now you see a lot of them, but it was a gradual progression, going back to Heady Topper. People slowly latched on and now it’s everywhere,” Bachli said. “With Brut, there was rush and there’s thousands of breweries now trying to get them out. I think it’s cool in a way because you get to try others and I’m impressed how quickly breweries like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium got them out.”

Sixpoint’s Sparkler Brut IPA will hit shelves in its distribution footprint soon, with Bachli’s background from Trillium Brewing shining through. He’s leaving the beer hazy, but adding the enzyme that removes the residual sugar, resulting in a beer that is dry as a bone on the finish.

Bachli’s experimentation with the beer is part of the reason why some breweries aren’t packaging their Brut IPAs. At Washington’s Elysian Brewing, brewmaster Josh Waldman is leaving the style up for variations.

“My first impressions of the style were it was very cool with a catchy name and the concept was interesting,” Waldman said. “We didn’t catch on right away, and having heard of this emerging style, we realized we weren’t first to market so what do we have to do to make it special?”

Further Reading

The brewing team at Elysian took their time and sourced hops from the lush hop fields in the Pacific Northwest, ranging from established well-known hops to experimental varietals. Waldman said in making a Brut IPA, which should have plenty of hop notes on the nose without too much bitterness to go along with that dry finish, there are plenty of problems.

“A few of the challenges really were how to get more aroma, and that required less malt body for it to relax on,” he said.

Elysian isn’t packaging its Brut IPA, and doesn’t have plans to, as the brewery has released a few variations at its taproom. Part of the problem was after the first batch they had to switch out the hop bill entirely.

Waldman said he’s still trying to figure out what kind of legs the Brut IPA style might have, but he thinks it’s a promising brew, even if it lies low, because of the way it accentuates flavors and aromas.

“It fits in line with the hybridization of beer and wine,” he said. “It’s a concept that lends to both of those, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it continues on.”

Even if Brut IPA goes away, the techniques employed the enzyme in so much light lager production and it’s now used in craft beer.

Back on the East Coast, Bachli had similar sentiments about the style’s wine comparison and how beer can play in that realm. His Sparkler, however, is an interesting concept as a derivative of two styles: Brut and New England. Bachli believes the small differentiation could pay dividends even if Brut or New England IPAs fade away.

Even if they both do, and Sparkler doesn’t see a ton of success, he sees plenty of uses for the main piece of the Brut process: the enzymes.

“Even if Brut IPA goes away, the techniques employed the enzyme in so much light lager production and it’s now used in craft beer,” he said. “A lot of breweries will now eye that enzyme in all kinds of styles.”

Few breweries can stand out like Social Kitchen and Brewery did with its introduction of Brut IPA, as breweries all over try to kick out the next big beer style, but even flashes-in-the-pan can alter the industry for the better.

Editors' Recommendations

Pat Evans
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Pat Evans is a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, focusing on food and beer, spirits, business, and sports. His full…
Super Bowl of Beers: The Best Brews from San Francisco and Kansas City
2020 super bowl beers best of san francisco kansas city fieldwork feature

While the highly anticipated ads may tell you otherwise, what you drink this Super Bowl Sunday doesn’t have to be generic suds. In fact, you can drink some great stuff from in and around the two cities represented in this year’s matchup.

As the Kansas City Chiefs get set to take on the San Francisco 49ers, another rivalry comes to life — that of craft beer from the two American cities. We’ve picked three of our favorites from the Bay Area and the city that sits in two states to suit up and fetch a W in the name of beer excellence.

Read more
Why Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout Has Such Staying Power
Old Rasputin beer bottle pour

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout began back in 1996, when everybody was watching ER and Celine Dion was assuming global domination. This was essentially the infancy era for craft beer, a time when IPAs were still relatively obscure and a lot of people were throwing back Red Dog or Zima.
The beer is the work of North Coast Brewing Company, a celebrated outfit out of coastal northern California. It’s an imperial stout and one of the best out there, even almost a quarter-century later. While a lot of beers in the category are either too hot (it comes in at 9% ABV, almost a session imperial given many of its peers) or completely out of whack in terms of flavor. Old Rasputin is a showcase of big, balanced flavors, kept in check with a nice hop bill.

It has pulled in a boatload of awards. Most recently, it was issued gold at the 2018 World Beer Championships in Chicago. The beer is jet black with flavors to match, showing dark chocolate, caramel, espresso, and nutty goodness. Old Rasputin opened my eyes to the versatility engrained in a good beer. It’s an imperial stout, sure, but not a cloying one. It can be enjoyed on its own or paired with any number of rich, dessert items. To this day, it remains a faithful sidekick to a good triple-chocolate cheesecake. Not a lot of beers can claim such a role.
The label is about as legendary as the liquid inside. It’s an old mug shot of Rasputin himself, framed by Russian text that translates to “a sincere friend is not born instantly.” For context, Rasputin the man was a Russian mystic from the late 19th century. Grigori Rasputin, the "Mad Monk" as he was known, believed himself to be spiritually gifted and convinced a lot of powerful fellow countryman of just that. Some believed he had healing powers and he ultimately earned the respect of state royalty. As the Russian dynasty became less popular, so too did Rasputin. He was nearly stabbed to death by one citizen and was killed (somewhat mysteriously) by a group of others.

Read more
2 New Whiskey-Beer Collaborations to Drink Now
brooklyn four roses

Wintertime is the season for dark beers like stout and porter, and beer that has been aged in a whiskey barrel offers a particularly warming sensation with added notes of oak, vanilla, and spice. There are two new barrel-aged beers available just in time for the holidays, both from craft breweries that have collaborated with some top-tier whiskey distilleries.

First up is the brand-new Barrel-Aged Baltic Porter from Harpoon Brewery, which has locations in Boston and Vermont. Not too far from the Vermont facility is the WhistlePig distillery, so it made perfect sense for the two companies to work together on this new beer. They decided to take the brewery's already successful Baltic Porter and age it in WhistlePig rye whiskey barrels for a period of time. The resulting beer is sweet and malty, with hints of vanilla, baking spice, and dried fruit that pop throughout each sip. According to Dan Kenary, CEO and co-founder of Harpoon, the plan was to reintroduce this beer with what he calls a special edge. “We thought, what better way to foster innovation than to partner with our neighbors at WhistlePig," he said in a press release, "bringing our brewers and their talented distillers together for a meaningful and delicious collaboration.”

Read more