“Flowery” is a common put-down when it comes to craft beer, and not an unfair one. The fickle, expensive hop cones used to both flavour and preserve beer have been craft’s brash point of difference since American indie brewers got started in the ’80s.
The US in particular fell hard for India pale ale (IPA), a bitter, particularly hoppy style invented in the 1800s so beer could travel from England to India with minimal spoilage. These days the acronym is as synonymous with “craft beer” as latte is with “coffee”. When you stick your schnozz in a glass and smell strong aromas of pine, resin or tropical fruit, chances are, you have an IPA.
But as these things go, people became fatigued by the endless parade of bitter beers. Throughout much of last year, Aussie brewers and drinkers were moving onto the next thing: New England IPA (NEIPA), a style accidentally invented by a Vermont brewer circa 2011. The hazy, pulpy-looking beers invariably described as “juicy” retain the big, hoppy character of regular IPAs, but dial down the bitterness in favour of generous sweetness. They’re a much easier drink.
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But as of December, even NEIPA is no longer the “it” style. Social Brewing in San Francisco had the novel idea of dropping amylase into one of its IPAs. Usually, the enzyme is used to break down starches and give heavier beers, such as porters and stouts, a more lithe mouthfeel. In an IPA, it results in a bone-dry finish, not unlike champagne, which led brewer Kim Sturdavant to dub the result “brut IPA”. Others have begun calling the pale, straw-coloured, effervescent style “hop champagne” or “champagne IPA”. Expect to spot one at your local brewery or bottle shop soon.
Six brut IPAs available now
Southern Brut, Wolf of the Willows Brewing Co, Victoria
Brut Force DIPA, Bacchus Brewing Co, Queensland
You Bruty!, Sauce Brewing Co, New South Wales
Brut IPA, Mountain Goat Beer, Victoria
Das Brut, Tallboy & Moose, Victoria
Champagne For My Real Friends, Mr Banks Brewing Co, Victoria