Over the last twelve months, you may have heard talk of a new kind of IPA, perfectly clear, effervescent, bone dry. Brut IPA was supposed to be a dry West Coast answer to the juicy sweet New England IPA. The first examples were brewed by Kim Sturdavant at Social Kitchen and Brewery in San Francisco. He added
amyloglucosidase, an enzyme that breaks down complex sugars to make them more digestible by yeast, to his usual IPA recipe. The result was a beer with zero residual sugar.
The technique caught on and soon spread from San Francisco. New examples popped up at beer festivals and inspired other brewers. Brut IPA seems to have become its own thing. Even Old Town Brewing released one. Just in time for New Year’s Eve, la Brut is an effervescent, brilliantly clear, bone dry IPA. It actually tastes quite a bit like champagne, a shimmery quality on the nose, sharp fruit notes, a quick sharp finish that leaves the tongue scraped clean. It’s quite a feat of brewing, but it’s not as new as some might think.
If you pick up an old book of beers, not super old, but a good ten years will do, you’ll find another beer style influenced by French bubbly. Only back then it wasn’t an IPA, it was a Flemish beer called Biere Brut. Producing Biere Brut is a little more involved than Brut IPA. Instead of adding enzymes to create a lighter body, Bieres Brut are fermented with actual champagne yeast. The spent yeast are then “disgorged” from the bottle the same as in traditional sparkling wines.
Few breweries ever really produced Biere Brut, and the best known example is still DeuS from Brouwerij Bosteels, the makers of Tripel Karmeliet and Kwak. All other examples I’ve seen listed were one-offs and special releases. The style didn’t exactly catch on, but the beer left an impression on important beer writers like Michael Jackson and Fred Eckhart and made it into their books and thus the beer pantheon. Any book of beer written before 2010 had to include Biere Brut because it was part of the canon.
And just as the invention of kettle souring suddenly made Berliner Weisse and Gose cheaper and easier to produce, amyloglucosidase is making beer Brut again. Whether it catches on or goes the way of the original Champagne of Flanders, well, we can look and see in 2020.