When Tyler Cox, the brewmaster at Outer Light Brewing Co. in Groton, decided he wanted to learn how to make a brut IPA, he did something both obvious and brilliant. He called the San Francisco breweries that had first brewed the new style.
“I said, ‘Hey, I’m a brewer in New England, can you talk to me about how you did it?’ ” Cox recalls. “As is typically the case in the brewing industry, they were very helpful in taking me through how it was brewed and they sent me a lot of information.”
In July, Outer Light became the first Connecticut brewery to offer the beer when it released its Batch Five Hundred Brut IPA. Several other breweries started producing their versions soon after, and though the style remains relatively rare throughout the state, it is possible to find if you keep an eye out.
Conceived last fall by San Francisco brewers at Social Kitchen and Brewery and Cellarmaker Brewing Co., brut IPAs are a new sub-genre of IPAs. They are characterized by their dryness (non-sweetness), light, clear and decidedly non-hazy appearance, and lack of bitterness. The extreme dryness of the beer is accomplished thanks to an enzyme amyloglucosidase (“amylase”) that helps the yeast eliminate sugars during the brewing process.
Bruts have been embraced in reaction to the popular New England IPAs, which are cloudy and often on the sweeter side. However, like New England IPAs, they are extremely hoppy with low bitterness, thanks to a brewing process known as late, or dry, hopping. Some brut IPAs produced outside Connecticut are even served at higher carbonation levels to give the beer extra, champagne-inspired pop.
Thimble Island Brewing Co. in Branford offers a Brut Super Dry IPA that is a great easy-drinking beer with some of the tropical fruit-forward flavors associated with a New England-style IPA, but a more refreshing, less thick body.
“We hopped it as we would a NEIPA,” says Dan Carr, head brewer at Thimble Island Brewing. “To try and get as close to champagne we used a hop combination that leads to definite notes of white grape and citrus zest, notes and aromatics you would associate with a sparkling white wine or sauvignon blanc.”
Forest City Brewing in Middletown offers a brut IPA that is so dry, and has such a light mouthfeel, it is reminiscent of hopped ciders. Owner Chris Coughlin says he heard about the style when it developed on the West Coast and began researching it, “developing the concept of what I would want from a brut IPA — something effervescent and refreshing with a muted malt profile, a light-fruity hop character, and an incredibly dry finish that leaves you wanting another pour.”
Outer Light’s take on the style is light, and like other bruts, eminently refreshing, with a classic IPA flavor but with a lighter body that gives it many of the good qualities of a lager and makes it a better accompaniment to a meal.
“It’s just like champagne — the whole idea is to have this tingle on your tongue from the carbonation and not a whole lot of residual sugar, or in my case no residual sugar, left in the beer,” Cox says. “People love it.”