"Brut IPA" from San Francisco: is it the next big thing & how to make it

beer trends Mar 28, 2018

Social brewmaster Kim Sturdavant accepting the Gold Medal for "Mr. Kite's Pale Ale" in the "Classic English - Style Pale Ale" category at GABF 2015 (pic here)

San Francisco invented the "California Common" or "Steam Beer," one of the few recognized indigenous US-created styles. Of course, craft brewers in the US have been experimenting in every conceivable way over the last decade, but a brewer in SF may have just invented another new style with the "Brut IPA."

As soon as I drank one of these bone dry, pale, and super aromatic Brut IPAs I felt like it was something that could become big trend (plus it's fun for me to share something exciting that's happening in my hometown). You've probably never heard of Brut IPA, it's only been brewed by a few spots in the SF-Bay Area. It was invented by Kim Sturdavant, the brewmaster at Social Kitchen & Brewery in SF, and has been copied by many local brewers who love what they've tasted in it. So far, a version of Brut IPA has been been made by Social Brewing, Cellarmaker, Berryessa, Temescal, and Magnolia, but many others are jumping onboard.

Thanks to Alyssa Pereira, the author of the How Brut IPA became San Francisco’s newest beer style piece in the SF Gate, for doing a continuously great job of covering the Bay Area beer scene. Here's a little more info on the Brut IPA from her:

"Using an addition of an amylase enzyme, which breweries more often employ to lighten up the body of heavy stouts and porters without watering down the alcohol percentage, Sturdavant decided to apply it to a more approachable beer, made with extremely light malts and on occasion, flaked rice or corn.
"The drinkable, light-bodied dry brut IPA has little to no bitterness — most of the hopping is done post-boil just for added aroma. It’s a unique style that, in many ways, is a response to both the classic West Coast IPA hop bombs and the hazy, pillowy New England-style IPAs currently proliferating on beer menus around town."

After posting Alyssa's article to my Beer Scholar Facebook page (which you should go follow right now!) and seeing how much interest there was in the style, I reached out to Kim Sturdavant for more details on his brewing process. I wanted to know exactly how he makes the beer. Kim delivered the goods, big thanks to him for being willing to share! Here's what he has to say: 

Here is the gist of what's going on in my Brut IPAs.

The idea is for the beer to be as pale in color, spritzy, light bodied, dryyyyyy, hoppy, and as champagne-like as possible.

I achieve this by using a really light colored grist of pils malt and an adjunct like corn, rice, wheat...feel free to use no adjuncts or a whole bunch. Mine have been in the 27% range with flaked corn, but who knows at this point what works best? Crystal malt would be a big NO in this style. A dextrine or carapils might do something, but theoretically won't add any body once the enzymes do their job.

I use the Amylo 300 enzyme from BSG to break down all starch and complex sugars into glucose, so the beer finishes at or right near 0'P. Personally, I've been adding at the end of fermentation after I've harvested yeast for our next batch of beer (the enzyme will carry through with your yeast, apparently), but there are other applications of the enzyme on the hot side I haven't tried, that would allow you to denature the enzyme in the boil. [...] I'm only using 40ml in a 15 bbl batch...apparently if you use less the enzyme will still do ALL the work, it just takes longer...there's no option of adding less enzyme to finish with a little residual sugar.  For homebrewers, I'm not sure what their options are for glucolamylase enzymes, but the one we're using would need to be diluted to dose more accurately on a scale of a 5 gallon batch.  

Keep the bu's low and go really hard with the aroma additions, especially dry hopping. Whatever that means to you. We're all different :)

I have a personal thought that hops that don't have a lot of "grassy" character will be the best. Even something like Cascade, Chinook, or Centennial are more grassy than say, Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic I've been really focusing on heavy hitting, high oil hops with aromas of fresh fruits, danky notes, and petrol. I think they'll yield the type of flavors to work well with the lack of body and residual sweetness to balance, better than more classic hops. That's not to say people shouldn't try other approaches out, if it makes sense in their heads.  

Thanks for reaching out!  I'll let you know when our next rendition is ready.

Additional info added 4/2018 re yeast choice: I've been getting lots of questions about yeast choice for the Brut IPA style. I got in touch with Kim about it and he replied that he uses "neutral ale yeast" and that brewers making the style should "have fun and experiment!" What it comes down to is that so far most renditions of the style have used a fairly neutral yeast so as to allow the dry hopping to shine. You'll probably also want to use a yeast that is highly attenuative so the beer is extra dry (but of course, since you're using an enzyme to create lots of simple sugar, any yeast will attenuate to a higher degree than is typical of the strain in a regular application). Something like WLP001 California Ale yeast is perfect. WLP060, WLP080, WLP090, or WLP099 would all be good choices for high attenuation and neutral flavor. Personally, I think it'd be interesting to try some Belgian strains as well as strains like Conan/Vermont for extra fruitiness like we get in the trendy NE style IPAs. Heck, even English strains could be very interesting for flavor even though they are not as drying. 

If you're a brewer, let me know if you plan to make a Brut IPA. If you know a brewer, share this info with them. Let's see if we can spread this burgeoning style and it's unique production technique and flavor profile! Hit me back with any info on what you've learned when making the style and any other Brut IPA relevant info!

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