How We Brew: Brightside Extra Brut IPA

September 28, 2018
By John Gillooly, Drake's Brewmaster

Brightside Extra Brut IPA

A NEW SERIES

I get asked a lot for brewing tips, specifically on how to re-create our beers at home,  and I’m always happy to share recipe concepts. Rather than doing so on an ad hoc basis, I’m going to fire up a new series of How We Brew blog posts to accompany major releases, one-offs, and cover some of our core beers. Since I’ve gotten so many requests already, I’m starting with Brut IPA, followed by War Pigeon Double IPA. Hopefully this will be a helpful for homebrewers and professionals seeking more information.

THE LEARNING PROCESS

Ever since the Extra Brut IPA style hit (thanks Kim!), we’ve been playing with the best way to execute a style of beer that we quickly grew to love. Brut IPAs are interesting because the process is key to the beer in such a core way, beyond just developing a recipe. Finding the best way to do it on our system was definitely a learning experience.

When we brewed our first Brut IPA, we were lucky to receive a number of tips from Kim Sturdavant, the originator of the style. Kim’s major points were to keep it as pale as possible; he recommended a malt bill of pilsner and flaked corn, and of course to make it DRY. The origin of this style comes from Kim’s efforts to make triple IPAs that weren’t super-sweet and didn’t use dextrose. He added enzymes that reduced unfermentable starches/sugars to a fermentable state, thereby getting a higher abv and consequently drier, lighter body (an admirable goal in 3xIPA).  

Kim eventually got around to trying this technique on a regular IPA, with the goal of constructing a dry champagne-like beer, with minimal body and mouthfeel, and using it as a platform for some fun hop experimentation. One of our team members tried it at Social Kitchen & Brewery (Kim’s brewery) and immediately came in telling us that we needed to take a crack at one. We’re always on the lookout for new avenues to play with hops, so this was right in our wheelhouse.

We started our first Brut by embracing most of what Kim had told us, using pilsner malt and corn, with a bit of wheat thrown in. For hops, we used a few eastern European varieties (Hallertauer Blanc and Bavaria Mandarina) and we named it Trocken (“dry” in German). The question for us was where to add the enzymes.

The enzyme we use, a full-spectrum amylase, can be used either in the mash tun or in the fermenter. In the mash tun, the enzyme only works for a limited period of time. It’s deactivated at high temperatures, so if the sparge doesn’t kill it, the boil certainly will. In the fermenter, the enzyme is never deactivated. Since we weren’t sure if there was enough contact time in the mash, we went and added it to fermentation, which reduced the final (apparent) gravity to negative numbers, basicly making it carbohydrate free.

Technically that’s pretty neat, but a bit of a challenge, flavor-wise. This is an IPA, after all, so there are quite a few hops present. We also like to carbonate on the high end, like a lager (also think champagne). We found it rather difficult to balance extreme dryness with bitterness, and CO2 bite, to present a beer that wasn’t overly astringent. That was a learning experience for us.

Warrior Hops for Brightside Extra Brut IPA

We had a couple of options to dial the flavor in. We could cut back on the hops, particularly the bitterness (not so much the flavor), but it’s an IPA, so we couldn’t do much more than drop the IBUs from the mid-fifties to the mid forties. We could have chosen to carbonate less, but that seemed antithetical to a style shouting out Extra Brut Champagne. We already carb less than actual champagne, but we want it fizzy enough that it stands out next to our regular ales.  

So we decided to look at the enzymes and try using them in the mash tun. That seemed to be the trick. Enzymes added to the mash tun could take us to an apparent attenuation of zero, by far making it the driest beer we make, but still leaving a few longer-chain dextrins that left just enough mouthfeel to balance the hop and the carbonation.

We had to play around a bit to still get the best method; extend the mash rest, add little bits of the enzyme at a time, stir the shit out of the mash, and vorlauf longer than usual. We ran a few more tests until we got the beer we wanted, which we then scaled up to our production brewhaus and released last month as Brightside Extra Brut IPA.

Drake's Brewing - Brewhouse Two

MAKE YOUR OWN BRUT IPA

We mashed in a grist of 87% 2-row and 13% pilsner malt. This delivered a pale enough body, and we felt the adjunct (we tried corn and rice) wasn’t particularly necessary.  We mash on the low end temp-wise (144℉) and hold longer than our usual mash to get good use out of the enzymes. We also sparge at lower temps so as not to deactivate the enzymes. There are a lot of different enzymes out there that work, and they denature at different temperatures, so check your particular one for its temperature sensitivity.

Target original gravity is 13.1. We bitter at 50 IBUs with a combination of Warrior in the boil and a blend of Centennial and Bavaria Mandarina in the whirlpool (1/3 lb per barrel of each). We ferment the beer on CA ale yeast, and it usually gets down to around .3-.5 Plato, at which point we dry-hop with a combination of Hallertauer Blanc (our nod to “Extra Brut”), Simcoe and Centennial, at a rate of 3 pounds/bbl and a ratio of 2:1:1.  The sugars in the hops tend to push the gravity up .2-.3 Plato.

After they ferment out we crash cool the beer to 32 degrees, and a few days later run it through our centrifuge (which tends to reduce the density of the beer by a nudge, getting us down to, or close to, our target of 0 Plato. I’d note that you can get the same or at least similar effect from finings and time. We then carbonate to 2.75 vol.  

I hope that helps!  We’re happy to bring you this new style of beer

Cases of Brightside Extra Brut IPA