Brut IPA (I: Description, Grist, and Mash)

Not a brut IPA

Many brewers are excited about a new type of beer that originated last year (2017) in California — brut IPA. Brut IPA is a dry, fizzy beer with plenty of hop aromatics, but not as much bitterness as a typical American IPA. The first commercial example is attributed to Kim Sturdavant of San Francisco’s Social Kitchen and Brewery. The name “brut” is taken from the terminology used to rank sweetness in Champagne and other sparkling wines — brut is the driest category in that ranking (although it is sometimes subdivided into brut and extra brut).

Now, I’m sure some brewers are wondering if this beer is just a fad or if it is going to become an official beer style, and if so what will the style guidelines say about this beer? In addition, some will likely question if it should really be called an IPA given its comparatively low bitterness. I’m sure someone out in beer writing land would love to pontificate loudly on these questions, so I will leave that to them. Instead, I will address the much more practical question — how could a homebrewer brew a brut IPA at home?

First off, I will admit that I’ve never brewed a beer like this. I do, however, like dry beers and have brewed dry and very dry beers in the past, the latter with the help of exogenous enzymes (as this beer is brewed). I’ve also brewed German wheat beers, Belgian triples, and other highly carbonated beers. And, of course I’ve brewed pale ales, IPAs, and other hoppy beers that are brewed to have lots of hop aroma. So, I think I have all the bases covered.

Today and tomorrow, I will explain the basic approach I would take to brew this beer. Then sometime next week, I’ll post a couple suggested recipes.

The Grist

The grist described by California brewers is either entirely pale malt or pale malt with only the slightest amount of specialty malts. Do not include crystal malts (or dextrine malts) in your formulation as these add body and sweetness to the beer, the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. Either US 2-row pale malt, English 2-row pale malt, or a European Pilsner malt could be used as the base malt. Small amounts of either Munich or Vienna malt could enhance the malt character without adding body or sweetness. The complex carbohydrates (“dextrins”) in all the malts will be greatly, or entirely, converted to simple sugars, but the malt flavors from the husks of the kilned base malts will persist.

Higher gravity beers are going to be harder to dry out. And, even if you accomplish that, they are more likely to seem like “rocket fuel” than beer. I would suggest shooting for an OG in the high pale ale range (SG 1.045–1.060) to low IPA range (SG 1.056–1.070). However, there are no rules here, so feel free to experiment.

The Mash 

There are several ways to produce highly fermentable wort that will yield a dry beer. A single infusion mash at the low end of saccharification range (148–162 °F/64–72 °C), say 148–150 °F (64–66 °C), will produce a dry beer. Stirring the mash well a few times and extending the mash time to 90 minutes may help a bit. A step mash with a lengthy rest — 15 minutes to 2 hours — around 140 °F (60 °C) will produce an even drier beer.

Tomorrow, I’ll describe how to use the enzyme amyloglucosidase to make a bone dry beer.

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  1. “First off, I will admit that I’ve never brewed a beer like this.”
    I find this deeply troubling.
    If you’ve never actually brewed this beer, any recommendations you give are speculative. However deep your research and past experience with similar beers might be (and I know it is from other articles on this site), the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I’ve had plenty of well-researched and profoundly pondered batches that tasted terrible.
    In short: prove it.

  2. Chris Colby says

    I wrote about my lack of experience in brewing this exact beer in order to be transparent. I have brewed dry beers before. I have brewed fizzy beers before. I have brewed hoppy beers before. If you don’t believe I have anything worthwhile to say about dry, fizzy, hoppy beers, then don’t read the article. It’s not going to hurt my feelings.

    • Glad to have found this article Chris. My first attempt at a brut ipa is fermenting and hopefully it doesn’t taste like piss or explode the bottles when packaged. I’ve never tasted a brut ipa but I guess it’ll be better than bud lite and the nelson sauvin hops will carry me through. Lets hope my experiment with amylase enzyme is a success.

  3. Jürgen Defurne says

    Two words: Malheur and Deus.

    • Chris Colby says

      Yes, those beers are similar in concept. They differ in having a Belgian style base beer and level of hopping.

  4. Hi Chris,

    I’m working on a recipe for my third Brut IPA attempt, so I’m looking at lot’s of jabber online to get ideas and traces of knowledge. Happy to find this article.
    I’m brewing in New Zealand, so the Nelson Sauvin hops are easy for me find – on the cheap!
    I made the first Brut as part of a experiment and under contract with NZ Hops Ltd., using an unreleased hop variety and the yeast they specified. Long and short of it is that I felt the yeast was not the best choice for the style. It was a first experiment for me and for them. The beer finished below 1.000 and 7.4 %. Tasted more like a Belgian style. Not bad but not very popular among the customers. Next beer…
    Second Brut is in the fermentor now, showing great promise too. It’s dry and crisp with a clean drinking profile I attribute to the WLP 066 yeast I used.
    Dry hopping starts today, same trial hop as before. Chilled beer to 8 degrees C and put on 10 PSI pressure in FV.
    I have never been back to the states since Brut style came along. I hope to try the genuine article next summer. Till then, practice makes perfect.
    Jim Matranga

  5. mark mathis says

    I am interested to find out if this approach (exogenous enzymes) can be adapted to produce low-carb beer like the commercial ones (Mich Ultra, etc.). Does anyone have an actual recipe that accomplishes this? I want to experiment on single-malt pilsner lager to see if I can get the carbs down below 3 or 4 for a pint.


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