The Brut IPA That Didn't Quite Go Our Way
At the beginning of the year as Dallas- Fort Worth turned hazy, I started reading about a new style of IPA being talked and brewed about in California. The Brut IPA was first brewed at Social Kitchen & Brewery by their brewmaster Kim Sturdavant in November 2017. A Brut IPA should be dry and effervescent with a light mouthfeel, be fruity (derived from hops not yeast) with moderately low bitterness.
Sturdavant has said in recent interviews there are 3 rules to keep in mind when brewing a Brut IPA.
Pale as possible
Super dry (as close to 0 Plato as possible)
Balanced but hop forward
A Brut can be hazy or clear. I opted for clear because well, I am missing clear beer in this hazy hop wonderland. Remember the goal of the grain bill is to be pale as possible with no residual sugars. I wanted some complexity to the grain bill to create balance. I used Ireks pale ale, pilsner, and wheat malt. Sturdavant uses adjuncts of corn and rice to create more fermentable sugar. But without going above 7.5%. So, if you are using Beersmith, change the estimated FG to 1.000 so you can get a better idea on what the ABV could be and keep a limit on it.
For hops you are looking for under 30 IBUs. Mostly late addition, whirlpool, and dry hops. You are looking for varieties high in oil, so think resinous and/or tropical hops. Look for a sweet profile instead of grassy or earthy. I had some New Zealand hops calling my name. We had purchased them on Black Friday and they had alphas in the range of 21%. I decided to use them in the whirlpool and added a double dry hop. I used .5 oz of Galaxy at 30. Then .5 oz of Galaxy, 1 oz each of Vic Secret and Ella in a 15 minute whirlpool about 155 degrees. I dry hopped in secondary with Vic Secret and Ella and added a second dry hop with Vic Secret, Ella, and Summer. I chose these because I had them on hand and they fit the high oil, tropical, sweet profile.
I used Omega HotHead Ale because my fermentation chamber is full of kegs and the closet where we put the fermenter ranges in temp through the year--and we brewed in Texas summer. You want to use a neutral or hop forward yeast. Using a wine yeast will not do anything for this beer so it's totally unnecessary.
This is the secret ingredient to this style. It breaks down complex sugars to simpler sugars for the yeast to chew through. Sturdavant has used it in two different ways with pros and cons for both. It can be added to the mash. Temp is key as the enzyme is only stable at temps under 145. However, he has found the beer does not finish as low. The other way to use is in fermentation. It is added after the beer finishes fermenting. This will add another day or two to fermentation as it will kick it off again and you want it to finish completely. Doing it this way my Brut finished at a final gravity of .994. The downside to using it during fermentation is that you will not be able to reuse the yeast unless doing another Brut.
Carb at 2.5 to 2.8 vols of CO2.
Editor's Note: With high hopes for the result of their brewday, Michael and Sandra found that the beer was enjoyable flat and finished out as expected, but something happened somewhere along the line and the finished beer picked up what they thought to be an infection. The taste changed drastically for the worse in a short period of time and they decided to dump the batch and try it all again as soon as they can. We will update this blog with those results when the time comes because they are eager to get the style right and felt that the recipe described here was a good start.
Cicerone Certified Beer Server, Homebrewer, and Tireless Recipe Researcher
Brewing Brut for the Listeners
After Sandra's submission above and a few discussions on our podcast Come and Brew It Radio, I felt that we needed to get an example brewed ASAP to discuss on-air and to at least begin further experimentation with this emerging style. We'd tried a few examples when we went to HomebrewCon 2018 in Portland and opinions varied. Stubby, Brandon, and Nigel weren't fans of any of the versions we had as they all seemed to have a bit of a harsh bitterness due to the dry body. Personally, I felt that we didn't have any examples that really seemed to vary much from a NEIPA or standard West Coast IPA example. Though I did agree that several of them had more harshness than expected. But, it definitely piqued our interest and made us question what the best approach might be to making a shop recipe kit.
So, knowing what we know about the Brut (much of which Sandra described above), we have a new type of IPA that's really only a little over a year old as of this writing. It was meant to be as dry as a champagne can be, but to carry the flavors of the hops like any good example of West Coast or NEIPA. Just with a limit on the bitterness due to the lack of body and sweetness from the complete fermentation of all sugars. Apparently, Sturdavant at Social Kitchen had been using Glucoamylase to help push the fermentation on imperial stouts. Helping push them down to a lower finishing gravity then they would have finished at without the breakdown of dextrins into glucose. All while knowing that yeast have an alcohol tolerance and will only go so far. This is the same use of the enzyme that many craft and macro brewers take advantage of to get more out of both high ABV beers and lighter bodied low ABVs that can be blended for a final product.
Taking this knowledge and the "original" recipe I found through several older articles, I chose to brew an example that would most closely match that first version. We may as well know what started the hype. I also went with the most commonly used enzyme addition approach and added it late in primary fermentation. The recipe is geared toward being highly fermentable using pale malt and adjuncts, along with the proper low temp mashing schedule, all to produce the appropriate light body. It also used Mosaic, but after reading a recent BYO article, Sturdavant has also added El Dorado. Which I feel would make a nice addition for the candy like "life saver" flavors that hop can provide. Anyway, here's the recipe:
With all the Mosaic in this, I chose to use the Omega DIPA thinking that it typically works quite well with a tropical type of hop flavor like Mosaic offers. It also can help with the mouthfeel. And here, I think I definitely hit the target. However, the silkiness of the yeast character may have offset some of the crisp dryness because it came across a bit more like a NEIPA's silky character, despite the fact that it finished under 1.000 after the enzyme was added. The original finish was 1.008-1.010 prior to adding the enzyme.
I added the enzyme as I transferred to a CO2 evacuated secondary with all the massive 7.5 oz dry hop addition already waiting. In hindsight, I would suggest adding the enzyme prior to dry hopping because you could end up with a pile of dry enzyme sitting atop the massive cap of dry hops that you have to swirl in. Therefore possible introducing oxygen where you don't want it.
Surprisingly, the enzyme went right to work and I had noticeable airlock activity within hours and visible CO2 and yeast movement in the beer by the next day. I think that it very likely did the job and completely broke down the remaining sugar in less than 3 days. Luckily, this was an area where I didn't encounter any issues, as I've read that there's a chance of producing diacetyl from the restart in fermentation. It can depend on your choice of yeast.
Finally, it came time to bring it on the podcast and discuss our opinions. I liked what I had, but there was something about it that still just wasn't catching my interest. Luckily, we had Austin Heisch, the Barrelmaster at Rahr and Sons, come in with the Brut that they'd brewed for their anniversary party. They'd been discussing the style with other brewers in the area (where only a few have made the attempt) and decided to see how their version would pan out. I think in the end, we had two completely different beers with the common thread of a light, dry, and effervescent body. My version listed here came out much more like the character of a light NEIPA, while theirs was closer to a West Coast example. I felt that the silkiness of the Conan-based DIPA strain might have dampened that crispness that the American ale yeast that Rahr used gave their version.
I definitely feel that there is a place for the version I brewed above and it seemed to be well received amidst our podcast hosts and our guests. If anything, I may have had higher efficiency that then drove up the alcohol and gave an edge to the beer that didn't sit right with me. Not so much the dryness, but the dryness mixed with a little too high of an ABV at almost 8%. I also felt that I'd like to use more of a blend of hops versus all Mosaic. I like the flavor, but it felt overpowering and a little too one dimensional. So, I think I'd like to try the style again, but using a blend of hops (possibly even some piney hops to fit the West Coast side of it), I'd use a cleaner yeast like American Ale (or possibly an Omega Kveik for a different ester profile), and I'd definitely watch out for the efficiency to reduce the ABV to the 6-7% range.
Semi-Media Director/Special Event Coordinator TBI, Producer, Writer, Host, and Host Wrangler Come and Brew It Radio, Homebrew Consultant, Lover of Experiments