Brewing a Brut IPA with Advice from Professional Brewers

Brut IPA - Brut Li by Fermaentra

The Brut IPA is a relatively new style of beer that is taking the craft beer scene by storm.  Professionals and home brewers alike are developing their own individual takes on the style.  With the style being complete new and relatively unexplored, the information available on the Brut IPA is sporadic and largely incomplete.  For this reason I reached out to four professional brewers who currently brew a Brut IPA for advice on guidelines for the style and help developing a recipe.

The four brewers and breweries interviewed for this article are from vastly different regions of the U.S.  All four of them offer a Brut IPA to their customers and have brewed it professionally.  By bringing these resources together I hope to provide readers with a clear definition of the style guidelines as well as the basic information necessary to create their own recipe.  These breweries have developed a wealth of information and advice based on their experiences commercially brewing the Brut IPA.

Panel of Experts:

  1. Brett Goldstock, Brewer/Owner of Duck Foot Brewing Company in San Diego, CA
  2. Bill McFarland, Head Brewer at Center Ice Brewery in St. Louis, MO
  3. Dan Graston, Owner of Arkane Aleworks in Largo, FL
  4. Brennan Mann and Spencer O’Bryan – Brewers/Owners of Fermaentra in Denver, CO

Defining the Style

Being a new style, the Brut IPA doesn’t have a historical background to drawn information from to develop home recipes.   There also hasn’t been a firm definition provided in the commercial world.  Long story short is that this style is still open to interpretation and being developed.  There are common traits and characteristics though that are generally agreed upon to be expected.

Dryness

The dryness of this style is noted by all four breweries.  “The Brut should be absolutely dry – this is its defining characteristic,” according to Goldstock.  McFarland goes further to say, “The Brut IPA is an experimental style that highlights the hop characteristics with a champagne-esque bone dry mouthfeel.”  This dryness is attributed to the low ending specific gravity through the use of specific added enzymes.  “With these enzymes you can achieve a final gravity of 1.000 or less,” says Goldstock.

The Brut IPA also has a light mouthfeel that come largely from the perceived dryness of the brew.  Some brewers add adjuncts such as rice or corn to add to this lightness.  Dan Graston of Arkane Aleworks notes that, “Flaked corn and a low mash temp will help.” Goldstock says that Duck Foot Brewing uses flaked rice in their mash in addition to the enzymes.  This helps develop the dryness and light mouthfeel.  “Beyond dryness, I believe that these should be light-bodied, light-colored beers.  Some brewers are doing bigger versions but I think the essence of the style is extreme sessionability,” according to Goldstock.

Effervescence

Again, all four breweries agree that carbonation is a key to the champagne style of the Brut IPA.  Fermaentra uses the phrase bright effervescence to describe the characteristic.  At Arkane Aleworks, Owner Dan Graston adds that he would like to even set up a dedicated draft line for pouring a, “Really highly carbonated beer.”

So what should we do as home brewers trying to recreate this in our Brut IPA?  Brett Goldstock of Duck Foot Brewing Company elaborates, “We’ve been doing carbonation in the upper 2’s but some are carbonating to 3.5 volumes of CO2 or more.”  So if kegging, home Brut IPAs could be as high as 3.5 volumes.  For those bottling their beer, this correlates to between 5.5 ounces of dextrose up to 7.85 ounces.  Just remember that glass bottles get temperamental around 3.5 volumes of CO2 and you risk bottle bombs.

Low IBUs

It’s an IPA, how can the IBUs be low?  Remember, we’re saying low IBUs, not low hop character.  Mann and O’Bryan with Fermaentra say the Brut IPA should be, “Bursting with hop aroma and flavor.”  Bitterness remains low in this style while the hop flavor and aroma play leading roles.  This is done by limiting bittering and boiling hops and maximizing flavor and aroma hops.  Duck Foot says that they try for 20 IBUs or less in their Brut IPA.

So how specifically do we accomplish low IBUs and high aroma/flavor.  “We’re only using end-of-boil and later hop additions,” says Graston.  Hops being utilized this late add very little bitterness to the end beer but their volatile compounds provide the flavor and aroma.  McFarland elaborates further, “This style is characterized by a huge hop flavor and aroma with damn near no bitterness considering that the hop additions are typically all on the cold side.”  Basically we keep the bitterness low by minimizing the boil hops and once the fire is turned off we hop the daylights out of the beer.

Brut IPA by Center Ice Brewing in St. Louis, MO.
Brut IPA by Center Ice Brewing in St. Louis, MO.
Sessionable

One quality that I didn’t expect to be included by the professional brewers what a desire for drinkability.  Rarely when I think of sessionable beers do any of the IPA family come to mind.  Three of the four breweries directly reference drinkability, sessionability, and quenching.  I believe this is largely in reference to the high carbonation and low bitterness.  The resulting product will have and approachable and drinkable quality that I didn’t originally consider.

Is the Brut IPA a Fad or a Today’s NEIPA?

This question was important for me to figure out.  I’ve read articles claiming that the Brut is going to replace the NEIPA and basically take over the world.  Other articles have called it a fad that will be gone before the next news cycle.  Still others, myself included, have called it a response to the popular New England IPA style.  I personally side with the last theory because the Brut came after the NEIPA and is on the far other end of the spectrum.  (Brut IPA – Westcoasts Response to the NEIPA)  Regardless, I asked each brewer if it was a fad, here to stay, or somewhere in between.  Here are their responses:

“I’ve seen a general trend toward drier IPA’s over the last 5 years or so.  Based on that, I think this style will be around for a little while or at least evolve into something similar.  Since it’s so new it’s hard to say but we’re getting good feedback on ours.”  – Brett Goldstock, Duck Foot Brewing Company

“I believe it’s somewhere In between.  What I do believe is that the ‘Brut’ Style will stick around for years to come because of how durable it is and the many different things you can do with the champagne characteristics.” – Bill McFarland, Center Ice Brewery

“I think it’s too early to tell where this style will end up, but I imagine they’ll be around for a while.  They seem to compliment the NE/Hazy IPA craze with their reduced bitterness and customers really seem to enjoy that right now.” – Dan Graston, Arkane Aleworks

“We see this as another style to add to the collective IPA realm.  In 2016, when we were some of the first in Denver brewing New England IPA, we felt the same as we do about Brut IPA and we all know how that panned out.  We personally don’t necessarily see this style being as controversial as New England IPA was a couple years ago and so it may or may not get the attention we believe it deserves, but nonetheless a different type of IPA that has quite a bit of possibilities.” Brennan Mann and Spencer O’Bryan, Fermaentra

Ingredients for Home Brewing the Brut IPA

Much like with American IPAs, our brewers have somewhat different answers that still lead towards the same common goal.  They all used grains, some used adjuncts to achieve the mouthfeel, all used heavy cold side hops.  But there were some differences, specifically in the grain bill, that showed a bit of uniqueness to each brew and brewer.

Grain Bill

When it comes to selecting grains, lighter is better.  Duck Foot uses a 1.6 Lovibond Pilsner for their base grain and around 20% flaked rice as an adjunct.  This leads to a very light in color beer with a naturally thinner mouthfeel even before adding enzymes.  Arkane says that keeping the grain bill simple is important and suggested flaked corn as an adjunct.  Flaked wheat is the adjunct of choice for Center Ice Brewery with 2-row grains and acidulated.

Brennan and Spencer from Fermaentra hit on a very important topic.  We need only fermentable sugars in our wort.  “The goal is to create a completely fermentable wort, so there is a lot of attention that must be paid to the grist bill, the mash temperature, and the execution of the mash, the health of the yeast, high cell count, the strain of the yeast being used, and of course a healthy fermentation environment.”  “Avoiding sources of unfermentable sugars is essential so anything that is caramelized (caramel malts), lactose, dextrins, etc. should be avoided.  For our most basic Brut recipe, we use a blend of extra pale pilsner, rice, and corn… the goal is to create a highly fermentable brew that will attenuate fully.”

Hops

All of my research has shown that hops tend to be the area of experimentation for brewers of the Brut IPA.  It makes sense for that to be true.  In this style they are truly the highlight.  More specifically, the delicate flavor and aroma hops get to shine without an overbearing bitterness from the boil hops.  This is a chance to try hops that would otherwise get lost in the noise of other beer styles.  Our professional brewers all expresses strong opinions about the hops selection.

“I would suggest very fruit forward hops such as citra, el dorado or hallertau blanc”…. “We brewed it with 5lbs of hops per bbl so it was very hop heavy during the process.  We double dry hopped as well, once about 3 days into primary and then again right after primary finished.”  Bill McFarland, Center Ice Brewing

“Since you are drying this out to a degree where bitterness will be perceived from zero residual sugar and high carbonation, we recommend the only hop additions to be from whirlpool on.  There will be a perceived sweetness that from all the alcohol as well so really the fun / challenging part is to strike a balance of hop additions that create huge aromas and flavor but don’t create a bitter experience.”  Brennan Mann and Spencer O’Bryan, Fermaentra

“…I’ve started by trying to keep the grain bill pretty simple and used late additions of hops with the characters I enjoy, mainly big, citrusy American hops and tropical Australian and New Zealand hops.  I’m sure you could make an awesome example of the beer with any high quality hop though.”  “Flame-out additions, whirlpool additions, dry-hopping etc; whatever works on your system.”  Dan Graston, Arkane Aleworks

“For hops, we use a very small amount of a clean bittering hop in the boil and then heavily load up on the dry hops.” Brett Goldstock, Duck Foot Brewing Company

The overall consensus is to be careful when using boil/bittering hops.  You want to keep the IBUs low so that you don’t overshadow the cold side hop additions.  So keep bittering hops low and go crazy with whirlpool and dry hopping.  According to our experts the sky is really the limit with aromatic and flavor hops.  This is one of the main hallmarks of the Brut IPA.

Yeast

As has been the trend thus far, all four professional brewers agreed about this ingredient.  Yeast should be a clean and high attenuating strain.  The point of this yeast, or so it seems, is to get the job done and stay out of the way.  With dryness, effervescence, and aroma/flavor hops already being highlights of this style, there isn’t much room for anything else in the form of yeast.

Graston of Arkane Aleworks notes, “Yeast is an interesting opportunity to experiment with this style, but avoid a strain with low attenuation.”  He raises a great point that the yeast selection remains a largely untested ingredient in this style.  Instead, the focus has been on keeping the yeast as a side note because of the other style characteristics being highlighted.  I’ll be interested to see if a more interesting strain of yeast can fit into this style or if clean flavors remain the popular choice for a Brut IPA.  Personally I’m not sure that introducing another factor into the equation would be a good fit.

Enzymes

The alpha amylase enzyme is another common factor in all four interviews.  Owners Brennan Mann and Spencer O’Bryan of Fermaentra do note that you could exclude the enzyme if necessary. “In lieu of that enzyme you could use a number of highly attenuating yeast strains (particularly brett strains) which can also yield a 100% attenuation (given the right conditions).  However they  and all of the other brewers use enzymes in their Brut IPAs.

To be true to this style basically requires the use of enzymes.  The alpha amylase enzyme will aid in the conversation of fermentable sugars.  This creates an ultra-dry beer that the style is modeled after.  In addition to the enzymes, low mash temperatures are also suggested to maximize the fermentable sugars available.  Also keep in mind that to stay true to style means avoiding grains that add unfermentable sugars, specifically caramel/crystal malts.

Replicating for Home Brewing

Though the Brut IPA is booming in popularity, you may not be able to find it locally.  This is due to it being a new style that hasn’t become a common staple in most brewery rotations.  For this reason, many home brewers like myself have the desire to create a Brut IPA.  Here are the main factors to consider when creating a recipe:

  1. Enzymes are a must. You’ll need to add an enzyme during the mash or after the boil depending on your enzyme.  Though you can still reach high levels of dryness without this but the enzyme really defines the style.
  2. Keep the IBUs low. Resist the urge to over hop until the boil is over.  After the boil, go as crazy as you desire.  For this style, citrus and tropical hops work well.
  3. Keep the grain bill simple. Stick to light color, low Lovibond grains that will provide fully fermentable sugars.  Avoid crystal/caramel malts, lactose, and dextrins because they will not ferment out.
  4. For yeast, you’ll want a clean fermenting yeast that won’t get in the way. The goal is for the flavor and aroma hops to be front and center.
  5. High carbonation adds effervescence to the Brut IPA. You need between 2.75 and 3.5 volumes of carbonation.  Carbonation is done via forced carbonation or bottle carbonation depending on your set up.

The Brut IPA is a style that all home brewers can replicate regardless of whether they brew extract or all-grain.  It’s rising in popularity but not found in every brewery around the U.S.  I expect this style to become more commonly available much as the NEIPA has become over the past few years.  For now, we can create this style at home with just the addition of enzymes to a typical brew day.

Have you brewed a Brut IPA?  Maybe you have further questions?  Leave a comment below and let us know.

 

Happy Brewing

Ryan Caldbeck

NewToBrew

 

Special thanks to our panel of commercial brewers.  Without your input we wouldn’t have been able to compile your valuable input in one place.  Please be sure to visit their breweries and try all of the offerings they provide.  Each brewery has brewed a Brut IPA commercially along with a large variety of other beer styles.

Fermaentra

1715 E. Evans Ave.

Denver, CO 80210

Duck Foot Brewing Company

8920 Kenamar Dr, #210

San Diego, CA 92121

Arkane Aleworks

2480 E. Bay Dr., #23

Largo, FL 33771

Center Ice Brewery

3126 Olive St.

St. Louis, MO 63103

 

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