For all the talk about brut IPA as “the next big thing” in craft beer circles, and the obvious next step in the evolution of NE-IPAs, I must be frank: I really haven’t tried many of them to date. There simply haven’t been all that many in the southeast beer market so far, but what I’ve seen hasn’t exactly instilled me with great fervor or anticipation. In truth, my experience with brut IPA to date has been almost uniformly underwhelming. The biggest problem is that beers labeled as “brut IPA” that I’ve sampled have typically been more or less indistinguishable from other modern, hazy IPAs—just as sweet, just as juice-focused and just as prone to the same successes or failings, especially when it comes to having too much hop particulate in suspension.
In short, I haven’t sampled a brut IPA that made me understand why this should be a viable offshoot to the IPA family tree.
That is, until now.
That beer is Sixpoint’s new Sparkler Brut IPA. It’s the first time I’ve sampled a beer with “brut IPA” on the label and thought “Yes, this beer is justifying the description of what brut IPA is supposed to achieve.” And perhaps more importantly, it’s the first time I’ve consumed one and then actually wanted another. This is key.
If you’ve been living under a rock—or are a normal human being and not a beer geek—then you might need a quick refresher on what “brut IPA” is supposed to be. Namely, these are hop-forward, typically hazy offshoots of Northeast IPA that trade in that style’s increasing trend toward candy sweetness and extremely full mouthfeel/”chewiness” for dry finishes, zippy carbonation and an emphasis on hop flavors without all the feeling of decadence/desserty-ness. Got that? Then let’s talk about Sparkler.
First, I must note something that I usually don’t bother to discuss, which is appearance. Suffice to say, when I first poured this into a glass, it was not exactly a pretty sight. Sparkler is hazy, yes, but it also has a watery, semi-translucence to it that is only amplified by a very light color that is somewhere between straw and tan. It looked dirty, for lack of a better word, and that’s coming from someone who finds the average NE-IPA look fairly appealing. It was notable enough that I reached out to Sixpoint, and they acknowledged that the look of the beer was something that had been heavily debated. Their words are illuminating, so I’ve included them below.
You’ve immediately touched on what has been a serious hot button issue here. I could link you through to pages of dialogue on the appearance of the beer alone. As a team we were quite aligned on what the beer should be like—in many ways we tried to create as large a contrast, texturally, as we could from our NE-IPAs. For me, I think drawing such a contrast should continue into the appearance of the beer and I wanted as close to clear as we could get. There was plenty of opposition and lively debate to say the least.
I can understand that, but the appearance did make me initially dubious. Once I tasted Sparkler though, I knew it was a winner.
On the nose, this IPA bursts with lots of funky tropical fruit notes. Juicy and “musty,” in the way that large doses of Citra and Mosaic sometimes are, it hits hard with big pineapple and passion fruit notes, which segue into freshly mown grass. Having been sampling more rum lately, the “funky”/grassy combination almost reminds me of the character you see in Jamaican rum or rhum agricole, which works well with the huge fruit presence.
On the palate, we get big, clean citrus impressions of pineapple, grapefruit and mango. Carbonation is zingy, as you’d expect it to be, and get this—it’s actually quite dry. Not entirely dry, mind you, but off-dry at the very least. Fruit flavors are the main focus, with low bitterness and a smaller contingent of “green” notes, but mainly this is citrus and tropical-driven, with the dry finish enhancing drinkability and your ability to go in and take that next sip.
All in all, THIS, and beers like this, are a version of brut IPA that I could get behind. At a time when so many of the sought-after IPAs are veering toward either milkshake or smoothie, and contain copious amounts of vanilla bean or fruit puree, a beer like Sparkler is a welcome reprieve from the constant sugar rush. It may not be the prettiest thing to look at (in my own opinion), but I would be thrilled to drink an IPA that tasted like this, pretty much every day of the week. Here’s hoping that if brut IPA continues gathering momentum, more of them taste like Sparkler.
Brewery: Sixpoint Brewery
City: Brooklyn, NYC
Style: Brut IPA
Availability: 12 oz skinny cans
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer guru. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.