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Drink614: New England IPAs, the champagne of beers

Hazy, “New England” IPAs took the craft beer’s flagship category to an extreme that is somewhat polarizing. Many enjoy the sweet and sometimes sticky style, while others see it as bad brewing.  

While that debate rages, a new style of IPA has infiltrated the market, with several local brewers paving the way.

Columbus Brewing Company entered the fray with Nelson Brut IPA. “Brut” is the name given to these bright, bone dry IPAs which are often described as champagne like.

The connection to wine isn’t a mere coincidence. Amylase is the enzyme that shreds complex starches into fermentable sugars. It’s long been used in winemaking to ensure clarity. Brewers have also used amylase to break down the residual sugars in high gravity beers to hedge against a syrupy mouthfeel.

Columbus Brewing Company heartily embraced the homage to champagne buy opting for Nelson hops, which tend to impart flavor and aroma profiles commonly attributed to white wines.

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The fruity, floral nature of these hops, along with the thin body, and paucity of sweetness, is an overt, bird-flipping counterpoint to New England IPAs.

Brews seem to prefer this style.

The exception dryness allows for subtle changes to the recipe to influence flavor. The approach to a New England IPA can be described as a “more is less” approach. Copious amounts of hops are squandered during late additions where virtually none of their bitterness is imparted.

A Brut IPA is extremely efficient. Because the beer is going to finish at such a low final gravity, hops additions have to be judicious.

You can expect to see this style saturate the market in the coming months. Sideswipe and Ill Mannered, Seventh Son and Zaftig already have versions at their tap room, while other brewers have their versions on the way.

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