Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Brown IPA with CTZ, Galaxy, & Simcoe, fermented with London Ale III

About a year and a half ago, I brewed my first Brown IPA. This was right around the time that the draft of the 2015 BJCP Guidelines had come out, where it was being suggested that Brown IPA become a new category, or more accurately I guess, a sub-category of "Specialty IPA". I won't bore you with the details on how a Brown IPA differs from an American Brown Ale... you can check out the BJCP Guidelines or click on the link for my first brew. In my original beer, I went with a five-malt grist, hopped fairly aggressively with Citra, CTZ and Nugget. I liked it: with a toffee/caramel sweetness, it had a prominent nose of earthy, spicy hops (Nugget made up the majority of the additions), and finished fairly dry with a moderate-high bitterness.

But this is kind of a tough style to brew, simply because I don't think I've had many Brown IPAs. And really, I don't know if I want to. That sounds bad, but there's something about this style that I just can't get excited about. God knows I love hoppy beers, and I'll happily brew and drink any variety of American IPAs, Session IPAs, APAs, etc. I really enjoy a well-crafted Red IPA or Black IPA... so why is it that I can't get excited about a Brown IPA? Is it because I haven't had many, or because it's one of those styles that seems like it was created as an afterthought? Maybe the whole 114 categories of IPA and counting is starting to wear a bit thin? I don't know, and maybe even suggesting such things is blasphemous. But I know how to really test this out... brew another one!

Sure, why the hell not? I was looking to mix things up anyway, so I decided to revisit this recipe. Here's where I made a mistake: because I made the decision to go this route a bit too-close to brew day, I simply used the same grist as with the first beer (but with a little Acid malt added for the mash pH). I should have re-read my post, because that grist gave a beer that was too dark. The style SRM range is 11-19, and the grist I selected brings it in to 23.That's slightly below Black IPA territory, but that's really not a big deal... I'm certainly not using a lot of dark, roasted malts in this beer. It's mostly 2-row, a couple of caramel-type malts, and some Victory and Chocolate malt as well. I also added some Gypsum and calcium chloride as usual, and aimed for a mash temp of 151 F, trying to keep the body medium-light, with a mostly-dry finish.

I wanted to approach the hops differently for this beer. While the first Brown IPA did have some CTZ and Citra - so, you're getting some fruit character - Nugget, as mentioned, made up the majority. I initially went that route because I thought the combination would work well in this style, and it did. But this time around I wanted to go more in the direction of an APA or American IPA; read: fruity, citrusy. I chose three varieties: CTZ again, because I feel it really does work well in this style of beer, and Galaxy and Simcoe, to hopefully really boost the tropical fruit, and maybe add some pine as well. I followed my general schedule: a bit of Polaris at 60 to ~17 IBUs, then an ounce each of CTZ and Simcoe at 10, followed by some Galaxy and Simcoe for a hop steep, CTZ and Simcoe after starting the chiller, and an ounce each of all three in the dry hop (plus a little more Galaxy to use up the rest of that package).

As I've done many times over the last few months, I fermented this beer with London Ale III. The first beer was fermented with US-05, but I've been using LAIII a lot lately, with good results, and honestly, I really wanted to brew a Brown IPA and ferment it with this strain, if only to see how many people would get angry when I posted a pic of the resultant beer, all cloudy and brown. If some people get upset about a beer that looks like orange juice, imagine their reaction if it literally looks like shit!

Ok, I'm kidding. And actually, while I'm on the side of those who get excited when they see an IPA that looks like pulpy juice, there IS something different about seeing a darker beer with the same haze/cloudiness. Juice is one thing. Mud is another. But it wouldn't bother me to the point of not drinking it, that's for sure, especially if it was delicious!

Where was I? Oh, the beer. So, yeah, that's the recipe. When I brewed it I was under my target gravity by 4 points (my efficiency has definitely been lower lately; maybe an issue with my grain mill?), but as usual, I wasn't too bothered. The FG was also higher than expected, at 1.017, so overall the beer did come in at quite a lower ABV than expected. I dry-hopped the beer in primary for 5 days, then kegged it.

While, again, I don't feel like I have a lot of beers to compare this to, I'm pretty happy with how it came out, and I think I like it a little better than my first Brown IPA. Sure, the grist is the same, but I think the hops selected here do work better - there's a nice piney and slightly dank overtone to it, but it's a little more fruity than the first beer. I definitely don't think the Galaxy comes through like it would in a paler beer, but it works. Still too dark, naturally (actually, being such a dark brown prevents it from looking muddy!), but the high breadiness and very light chocolate comes through in the aroma and flavor as I was hoping. The bitterness comes across as in the medium range, with a fairly dry finish. Overall, though, the beer is quite smooth and creamy.

In the end, though, I don't think I'm a big fan of Brown IPAs. While I've definitely embraced Black, Red, White, and Belgian takes on the IPA style, Brown is definitely at the bottom of the list for me. Could be because I haven't had a really great example of one, could be because it's just not for me. I'll continue to try commercial (and other homebrew) versions as they're available to me, but I won't be rushing out to brew one again any time soon.

And no, it's not because it's a cloudy, brown beer!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.066, FG ~1.013, IBU ~58, SRM 23, ABV ~6.9%

5.1 kg (82.7%) Canadian 2-row
325 g (5.3%) Caramunich II (45 SRM)
265 g (4.3%) Chocolate malt
235 g (3.8%) Victory malt
165 g (2.7%) Crystal 60 L
75 g (1.2%) Acid malt

Polaris - 7 g (19.8% AA) @ 60 min

CTZ - 28 g (13.4% AA) @ 10 min
Simcoe - 28 g (12% AA) @ 10 min

Galaxy - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Simcoe - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

CTZ - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Simcoe - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

CTZ - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Galaxy - 37 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Simcoe - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (with a starter, ~250 billion cells)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 7 g Gypsum and 7 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on January 26th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp a bit low at 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.75 L of boiling water to 165 F. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity low at 1.050 (target 1.054). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG low at 1.062. Chilled to 62 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 64 F.

- Fermentation was off and pacing by the next morning, going strong over the first few days with the temps staying comfortably in the 67-68 F range. The krausen, as usual for LAIII, was thick and milkshake-like for many days after fermentation signs stopped in the airlock.

- 18/2/16 - Added dry hops into primary, FG 1.017.

- 22/2/16 - Racked into CO2-purged keg, set in keezer to bring temp down and began force carbing the next day.

Appearance - Poured with a medium-sized head that fades after a few minutes to a thin film on top of the beer. Body is a very dark brown colour, and seems virtually opaque when held to the light.

Aroma - Quite balanced, with the toffee-like, chocolatey malt character melding well with the piney, dank, slightly fruity overtones from the hops. Otherwise clean, no flaws.

Taste - Very nice flavour blending here: light chocolate, dark bread, toffee, with similar hop character noted in the aroma. Finishes slightly dry, but balanced well with the sweetness, medium bitterness. Smooth.

Mouthfeel - Medium-bodied, medium carbonation, creamy.

Overall - I enjoy this beer, even if it's far from my favorite IPA style. If I brewed it again, I'd try to drop the color by at least several SRM points, and maybe dial the bitterness back by 5-10 IBUs. I wouldn't mind also switching up the hops again, maybe even dropping the CTZ in favor of another fruity variety, such as Azacca or something similar.


  1. Nice. Have you had Smuttynose Durty or Sweetwater Hop hash brown?? Good examples of the style you are after. Even DogFish India Brown is good.

    1. I've had the Durty and Indian Brown, and have enjoyed both. I think I wanted more hops from both beers, if I recall correctly, but otherwise they were both quite good.