Brut Beer (BIPA): What is it, exactly?

A beer connoisseur can explain in detail all the “classic” different types of beers available on the market. You have your IPAs, pilsners, lagers, porters, wheat beers, etc. But anyone following the craft beer market for the past 10 years know that this list isn’t static – creative brewers are always coming up with something new. One of the latest inventions is Brut Beer. Originally from Social Kitchen and Brewing in San Francisco, Brut Beer, or “BIPA” (Brut IPA), is named after brut champagne due to its characteristic extreme dryness.

What is Brut Beer?

There are many words used to describe the taste of beer. In alcohol lingo, a beverage is referred to as “dry” when it has less than 0.5% residual sugar. This means that the “dryer” it is, the less sweet it will taste. For example, brut wines are not sweet at all and are often referred to as dry wines. The dryness is a result of the absence of sugars to coat our palates.

There is a more specific classification of dryness, which ranges from off-dry, extra dry, or sec, which is used to describe a product that is only slightly sweet. Fun fact about brut champagne: it contains 12g of sugar per 1L, which means it’s not the driest sparkling wine on the market.

As for beers, they typically contain some residual sugar, and only a few beer styles have been classified as completely dry beers. One example is the famous Irish dry stout that utilizes roasted barley in its brewing process.

Characteristics of brut beer

For brut IPAs, fermentation causes the majority of the sugars to be converted into alcohol with the help of special enzymes called amyloglucosidase. Besides tasting notably dry, BIPAs also have a hazy appearance, marked carbonation, and a hoppy nose. In alcoholic lingo, BIPAs come with a range of colors from amber to pale golden, and in terms of the body, they can range from thin to full. Whereas for alcohol levels, they also come in low to high concentrations.

Based on these descriptions, I guess you can say brut IPAs are the closes thing to champagne than an IPA can get, and its blend of fruity, hazy, and creaminess is why it is dominating markets across America.

The technology behind brut beer

Besides skill and art, there is also (predictably) some technology involved in the creation of brut beers. One of the critical factors in making brut beer is to source tropical-fruity types of hops to give it the signature fruity flavor.

However, brewmaster Kim Sturdavant from California’s Social Kitchen and Brewery’s research has also discovered the use of the aforementioned enzyme amyloglucosidase. This particular enzyme is no stranger to breweries, as they break down sugars so the yeast can easily feed on them to convert them into alcohol. And to create a light, refreshing, and effervescent beer, the enzyme is added to standard-strength IPA.

The initial vision was to create a standard-strength IPA but using the enzyme to make it as dry as possible. Then, this vision evolved as a light coloured, refreshing, pale, effervescent beer is produced and with great qualities.

Finding the right balance

The most crucial factor in crafting the beer goes in finding the right balance between hop flavor and bitterness. The bitterness from hops is usually canceled out with malt sweetness. But since there is no malt, the beer will taste like bitter hop water, and you do not want that to happen.

As a result, it is always the magic in toning down hop bitterness to find the right aroma and flavor without it tasting too bitter. The first creation was a super dry, extremely pale, and incredibly effervescent IPA, which he named Hop Champagne Extra Brut IPA. It is safe to say the first brut beer opened a whole new world of possibilities.

The future of brut beer

When Sturdavant first released his Champagne Extra Brut IPA, his customers were confused, but local brewers in San Francisco loved the idea. The news of the new brut IPA then broke across the Bay Area, and soon, brewers from all over the country were intrigued. Thankfully for beer enthusiasts worldwide, Sturdavant is not selfish with his discovery.

Like most beer connoisseurs, he is excited to see what other brewers come up by experimenting with this new idea. After all, that is how most great beer styles are created, by sharing great discoveries among brewers, and seeing what new ideas each person can come up with their experimentations.

Popular brut beers available on the market

What are your choices when you want to get a brut beer? We take a look at a few of the popular choices for you as a beer lover.

New Belgium Brewing Co. BIPA

As a first in their release of a new “Up Next” rotator series, New Belgium Brewing Co. released their effervescent brut IPA. It is described as using a fruity-citrus hops blend with a 6.7% ABV.

Drake’s Brewing Co. Brightside Extra Brut IPA

At the forefront of brut IPAs, Oakland origin Drake’s brewing was one of the first ones to jump on the brut IPA bandwagon. Since then, their experiments have led them to release a variety of versions but ultimately released the Brightside Extra Brut IPA.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Brut IPA

This brew of brut IPA is described as having a pop of citrus that can even replace a mimosa.

Brewers are always on the lookout for the next great taste and style of beer. Kim Sturdavant’s discovery no doubt has led to a whole new arena of possibilities creating fruity and citrusy hop flavors that create an effervescent, champagne-like beer that is here to stay.