What We’ve Learned Brewing Extra Brut IPA

We like to think of Drake’s as a hop-forward brewery, so when the “Extra Brut IPA” style popped up at Social Kitchen & Brewery in San Francisco, we were curious. Brewing a hoppy beer with minimal body, and an extremely crisp, dry finish, was incredibly appealing. So we set out to brew our own. We’ve made four different batches and several collaboration beers. Here’s what we’ve learned in the process.

When we reached out to Kim Sturdavant at Social Kitchen for tips on brewing an Extra Brut IPA, he was very helpful, to such an extent we felt ready to brew. For our first release, Trocken Extra Brut IPA (Trocken is German for dry), we focused on producing a very dry, white wine-esque beer, using German Hallertauer Blanc hops for their grapeskin aromatics.

Per Kim’s advice, we added amylase enzymes to the fermenter. It’s the key ingredient during Extra Brut IPA production, which reduced all the malt sugar to yeast food. We were rewarded with an absolutely arid beer, that fermented down into negative plato numbers (by density, since alcohol is lighter than water, you can achieve negative sugar concentrations). We considered the beer a creative success, and immediately went about brewing another.

During our second brew, batch #2, we used citrusy hops, then added blood orange juice to create a Mimosa Extra Brut IPA. We again added amylase enzymes to the fermenter, and again, we achieved a super crisp/dry body, and almost a negative mouthfeel. That beer was fun, and we just brewed another one, MOM-osa IPA, which will be a special Mother’s Day release (because every brunch needs a mimosa).

For batch #3, Poppin’ Extra Brut IPA, we took a slightly different approach with the enzymes. We added them in the mash tun instead of the fermentor. We did this because, when added to the fermenter, they stay alive, which wigged us out a little bit. It’s like having an infection in your cellars. We don’t want every beer to be extra dry!

When added in the mash tun, the enzymes can still enhance the creation of simple sugars, increase fermentability, and most importantly, are killed in the boil. What’s the difference? We didn’t get the ridiculously low plato finish achieved when adding enzymes to the fermenter. That being said, Poppin’ was still one of the driest beers we’ve ever made.

So we repeated the process for No Stoppin’ Extra Brut IPA, batch #4. For this beer we extended our mash time a bit to see if we could further enhance enzymatic reduction, but didn’t see a real change in terminal gravity. It was low, but not negative. Now our goal is to reach terminal gravity at exactly zero, but we still have some work to do.

We now have four different Extra Brut IPAs under our belt: Trocken, Poppin’, No Stoppin’, and Mimosa. A second mimosa brut is the tank, and another straight Extra Brut IPA is in our brew queue. We’re still happily tweaking away, looking for the right hop balance and malt flavor.

Many questions remain unanswered before we put this new beer style in a bottle. How much bitterness can such a light bodied beer support? What direction should we go in for hop flavor? How much does malt matter in a beer that is so aggressively fermented down? Whatever we decide, as hop-heads we’re stoked. The Extra Brut IPA style lets the hops shine in a wholly unique way, and it’s an excellent counterpoint to the juicy New England style IPAs we’ve been making.

Since we made our First Extra Brut IPA, other brewers have reached out for advice and we’ve taken our show on the road. We recently collaborated with Flatland Brewing Company in Elk Grove, CA. After putting our heads together, we decided to brew a kettle-soured (lactic pre-fermentation) Extra Brut IPA with white grape must (Riesling and Muscat) to explore the wine potential this new style offers. Then, in a couple of weeks, we’ll be down in Long Beach brewing another Extra Brut IPA for LA Beer Week with our friends at Beachwood Brewing.

There’s more to come!  This ride feels like it’s just starting.