Brut IPA New Competition For ‘Champagne Of Beers’
In the early 1900s, beer came in a bucket, not the fancy bottles you are used to today. If you wanted beer, you either drank it in a saloon or carried it out in a bucket called a growler. Factory and construction workers would send a boy to the saloon to bring the growlers back to them, and then they drank all they could get. America sure was nifty in some ways.
Then, in 1903, Miller High Life came onto the scene and took the moniker that it still holds today. The “Champagne of beers” came in a glass bottle. It was bright and bubbly, unlike the cloudier brews one would find at the local saloon. Better yet, it was easy to take with you and drink wherever you wanted.
High Life, of course, doesn’t really taste too much like Champagne. There are a bunch of other brands that seem like they’d fit that moniker better, but the name makes sense when you think about its origin. At the time, there wasn’t really anything else like it.
Fast forward more than 100 years, and High Life has some serious contenders. Current trends take a common beer style and stand it on its head. IPAs have long had a reputation for being a race to the bitter top, but recently brewers have explored the style in ways other than figuring out the most aggressive hop profile. Now, in 2019, we have the brut IPA.
The brut IPA is dry, just like its namesake, and has some Champagne-like qualities that don’t seem intuitive, but they work. An enzyme added to the brew allows it to ferment without a lot of sugar. The style hasn’t been around for a full year yet, so there is sure to be some growth, but already it has captured people’s attentions.
This week, I’m drinking Ommegang’s Brut IPA. The pour had more than two-and-a-half fingers worth of white, foamy head that never fully went away. The sound was that of carbonation. The liquid, meanwhile, looked bright and pretty clear. In appearance, I could confuse it with brut Champagne. It certainly wasn’t like an IPA.
It had a slightly yeasty scent with maybe a little bit of grapefruit and hops in there, but it all was very subtle, not putting off too much of a smell at all. In that sense, it was very clean.
I don’t know that I would have easily pegged this beer as an IPA by taste if I hadn’t read the bottle. It is so dry, and a floral quality hides in there amid the copious carbonation. The hops came across a little bit like lemon, and a biscuity malt backbone held it all together and set it apart from an actual Champagne. I kept expecting to taste a slightly sweet grape flavor, but it just wasn’t there.
Truly, if there was to be a “Champagne of beers” today, this would be it. This brew is worth trying if only for its novelty. That said, this style is going to stick around for a while. I’d grab a bottle and get in on the ground floor. Sadly, they don’t sell it in buckets.