Wednesday 26 November 2014

Brewing a Brown IPA

I wrestled with how to title this blog post. I originally had it as "Brewing an American Brown Ale". The beer I'm going to talk about is on the hoppy end of the American Brown spectrum (I know, you're shocked). But with the recent proposed changes to the BJCP guidelines (and there's a lot of them; check out the draft here), it appears that American Brown Ale will now refer to the maltier, sweeter, chocolatey Brown Ales (think Big Sky Moose Drool, or Smuttynose Old Brown Dog, for example); the hoppier versions (such as Russian River Janet's Brown or Dogfish Head Indian Brown) are now going to be referred to as "Brown IPAs".

I guess we can't be surprised, really. With many beer styles gravitating towards more-hoppy versions, the BJCP decided to create a category called "Specialty IPA". Under this heading are several sub-categories of IPAs, including Black, Red, White, Rye, Belgian, and Brown. None of these sub-categories are a surprise to any seasoned homebrewer or beer-drinker; I'd say Brown IPA is the only one that I haven't heard of on a regular basis. For some reason, I've still always referred to that type of beer as a hoppy American Brown Ale. Oh well! I may not agree with all the confusing changes to the BJCP Guidelines, but I think this change is a necessary one.

So, Brown IPAs should still have aromas and flavors that are malty sweet (with "caramel, toffee, and/or dark fruit" in the moderate-low to moderate range, according to the official guidelines), but, of course, you want hop aromas and flavors... in the moderate to high range. So, mostly balanced, but with a slight emphasis on the hops, I guess. They should have a dry to medium finish, so you don't want cloying sweet, here, and a medium-high to high bitterness.

I don't think I've had many Brown IPAs, commercial or otherwise. I know the few I've had, I've mostly enjoyed, but most American Brown Ales I've sampled have been just that... American Brown Ales (by the new definition). I've brewed one in this category, a Moose Drool clone that came out ok; that was years ago. I came upon the idea of brewing a Brown IPA pretty much accidentally; I was flipping through Brewing Classic Styles, looking for ideas, and came across the Janet's Brown recipe, which I had always wanted to try (homebrewers always rave about this recipe). However, I started looking at some hops I had that I wanted to use up, and eventually decided on my own recipe.

For the grist, the majority of it is 2-row, as in lots of IPAs. However, there are four specialty grains added, which of course isn't usual when compared to the IPAs on the paler end of the spectrum. Caramunich II, Chocolate malt, Victory, and Crystal 60 L make up the difference, coming to 16% of the total grist. I went for a mash temperature of 153 F; I didn't want the beer to come out too sweet and/or full-bodied, but I didn't want it too dry, either. On further thought, I think you could go a bit lower, maybe 150-151 F, if you wanted to; I'll base future Brown IPAs on the results of this one with the higher mash temp.

I'm using three hop varieties in this beer, and not necessarily three hops I would think to use together: Nugget, Columbus, and Citra. I actually did brew an American IPA years ago, where I split it into two batches for different dry-hopping: one with Columbus and Nugget, the other with Citra and Simcoe. The Columbus/Nugget combination beer was quite interesting, and I remember thinking that the combo may work well in a darker beer. So, I decided to go with that, PLUS some Citra to add a fruity element (hopefully) to the beer. I hope they don't clash, as some hop varieties do, but I'm thinking it'll work. I hopped this beer quite heavily (almost 12 oz for a 4.5 gallon batch), going with a Nugget/Citra/Columbus ratio of roughly 5:3:2.

All of this gives you a beer on the higher end of the style. The OG is near the "max" (1.070), the IBUs are right at the top (70), and the color of the beer is actually a bit darker than recommended with an SRM of 23.5 (BJCP range is listed as 11-19; I realized too late that it's going to come out too dark). If you're thinking of using this recipe, of course feel free to fiddle with it and bring it into range, if that's your thing.

I'm fermenting the beer, of course, with a neutral American strain (US-05); you could also use basically any American strain, or maybe one of the lighter-character English yeasts out there. The beer is going to be dry-hopped heavily, in the keg, to see if I can boost that hop character even more. I haven't brewed any beers darker than an Amber since my Sweet Stout in May, so I'm glad to be getting something like this on tap.

Recipe Targets: (4.5 gallons, 72% efficiency) OG 1.066, FG ~1.015, IBU ~75, SRM 23.5, ABV ~6.7%

4.4 kg (84%) Canadian 2-row
275 g (5.2%) Caramunich II 45 L
225 g (4.3%) Chocolate malt
200 g (3.8%) Victory
140 g (2.7%) Crystal 60 L

Nugget - 17 g (11.7% AA) @ 60 min

Citra - 28 g (12% AA) @ 10 min
Nugget - 28 g @ 10 min

Citra - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 10 minute hop steep)
Nugget - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 10 minute hop steep)
Columbus - 14 g @ 0 min (with a 10 minute hop steep)

Nugget - 42 g @ 0 min (when wort temp below 180 F)
Columbus - 28 g @ 0 min (when wort temp below 180 F)

Nugget - 54 g dry-hop for 5-7 days (keg-hop)
Citra - 42 g dry-hop for 5-7 days (keg-hop)
Columbus - 28 g dry-hop for 5-7 days (keg-hop)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, 1 package, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 4 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on October 23rd, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 153 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.75 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~2.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.75 gallons.

- SG on target of 1.052. 60-minute boil. Flameout hops had a 10-minute steep before turning on the chiller; second FO hops added shortly after when wort temp dropped below 180 F. Final volume ~4.5 gallons; OG a bit high at 1.067. Chilled to 65 F, then poured/filtered into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast.

- Strong fermentation over the next few days, then it quickly slowed down. I checked the FG about 10-12 days after pitching the yeast, and it was high at 1.018. Maybe the specialty grain amount, combined with the higher mash temp is the cause of this?

- 5/11/14 - Racked beer to dry-hop keg, added dry hops loose, purged with CO2 before and after.

- 11/11/14 - Set keg in keezer to cold crash hops; the next day, transferred via closed system to serving keg and set back in keezer (unfortunately, a good 2-3 L of beer remained in the dry-hop keg... clogged dip tube?).

- 5/12/14 - Tasting notes are up... came out pretty good, but the hop presence is a bit lower than I'd like. Probably partly due to hop age, and partly to the qualities that Nugget gives.


  1. Old thread but I was searching for recipe advice for brown IPAs, and I noticed in your tasting notes "the hop presence is a bit lower than I'd like...partly to the qualities that Nugget gives."

    Which qualities? Could you elaborate?

    1. From what I can remember, I was referring to the fact that Nugget is pretty big on herbal-like qualities in the aroma and flavor. Ideally, if I were to brew a Brown IPA again, I'd probably go a bit heavier on the fruity, citrus qualities. Maybe increase the Citra, or even add another variety altogether. Hope that helps!