Nick Carr on March 20, 2020 0 Comments Hoppy brown beers got their start in America back in the ’80s, thanks to adventurous homebrewers who, in the words of John Palmer, “decided that most brown ales were just too wimpy.” Eventually, this type of beer, later known as Texas Brown Ale, would split, taking two separate paths to spawn both the American Brown Ale and the Brown IPA. Brown IPAs should retain the hoppiness of an American IPA, but have the added malt character of a dry Brown Ale. If this hybrid IPA sounds just too delicious to pass up and you want to try your hand at brewing it, here are a few tips to help you along the way. Grain Bill Like most of these specialty IPA sub-styles, there are two ways to approach recipe formulation. You can take a drier American Brown ale recipe and increase the hops or you can add darker specialty malts to your favorite American IPA recipe; of course, you can also just design a recipe from the ground up too. Base Malts: If you want to go with a version with only American ingredients (the modern style is rooted in American homebrewing), then go with American two-row malt. If, on the other hand, you want to explore further afield, you could use a British pale malt, something like Maris Otter or Golden Promise, as your base malt. You could even split the difference; play both sides of the pond, using half two-row and half Maris Otter. The base malt can make up anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of your grain bill depending on flavor characteristics of the malt and what specialty malts you plan to include. Specialty Malts: You want specialty malts that bring flavors of light chocolate, toast, cocoa, caramel, toffee, biscuit, nuts, and dark fruit. But, avoid too much roasted flavors like coffee. A light touch of these roaster flavors is okay, but you especially don’t want them strong enough that it adds bitterness. In general, think more along the lines of toasty, not roasty. Specialty malts often used in this sub-style include crystal/caramel, chocolate, biscuit, aroma, Munich, victory, and brown. Crystal/caramel malts are almost always used in a Brown IPA. They bring a subtle sweetness and those notes of caramel expected in the style. Remember you have a color range extending from 10oL all the way up to somewhere around 200oL when it comes to these malts. The most often used range for this style is medium (40L to 60L). Going any darker can bring bitter-sweet flavors, which can work, they just need to be closely controlled. Use up to 10% crystal malts. Malts like Victory, Munich, and Brown could make up as much as 15% of your grain bill. Consider the flavor of your base malt when looking at specialty malts and quantities. If you’re using a more malt-forward base malt you’ll need less on the specialty side. Other specialty malts such as chocolate, biscuit, aroma, special B, and others can be included. The sum total of these will likely make up less than about 8% of the grain bill. A form of Chocolate malt (dark or pale) probably sees the most use here, usually below 5 percent. You can use around 10% Dextrin malt and/or a portion of wheat to help head retention. An adjunct sugar is often included to help lighten body and increase attenuation. Brown sugar is the most popular option, but don’t discount more flavorful sugar sources such as molasses or a dark honey. Usage is usually around 10 percent. There are a lot of options listed here. It’s important to remember that usually, the better beers do not come from overly complicated recipes. Pick 2 or 3 specialty grains and brew. Then brew another, slowly focusing in on your ideal recipe. If you don’t feel like building your own all-grain recipe at this point, there are all-grain kits available. Extract Brewing For the extract brewer, find a high-quality pale malt extract for the bulk of your bill. If going full extract you’d add a quantity of darker malt extract and brew as usual. But, you’re likely to get a much shallower flavor profile using all-extract then if you picked 2 or 3 specialty grains and steeped them… or included them in a mini-mash with a pound of Maris Otter or Munich. If this is your first try at brewing an extract Brown IPA you may want to start with an Extract Brown IPA kit. Hops This sub-style has the exact same IBU range 40-70 of American IPA, but the overall bitterness should not fight with the slightly stronger malt profile. Hop flavors and maltiness can combine and do some magical things, but there’s also the possibility of the two clashing. It’ll likely take some experimenting to get hops and malt in sync. A good place to start with hop selection are those you’d normally use when making American Brown ale. Here are a few suggestions: VARIETIES TO CONSIDER Chinook Liberty Willamette Centennial Cascade Nugget Simcoe Bravo This list just scratches the surface of the American and New World hops available today, especially when you start considering the newer hop varieties with truly bold fruit flavors (think Mosaic, Azacca, etc.) If this is your first try at combining malty flavors with bitterness I’d suggest you shoot for the lower end of the IBU range. Also, this beer is going to be drier than most American Browns, which will make the bitterness more prominent. Like any IPA you want your beer to have lots of hop aroma and flavor. This is where matching malt profile and hop profile can be tricky, but additions on-par with an American IPA are usually used. Several additions as the boil is completed, as well as multiple dry-hopping additions, are common. The Mash Mash as you would an IPA. A single infusion mash works just fine. No reason to get complicated here. Aim for a saccharification temperature between 150 and 154oF — this will make a beer with a medium to somewhat light body and enough fermentability to create a crisper mouthfeel. Mash until conversion is complete. In most cases it’ll be around 60 minutes, but you can check for conversion completion with an iodine test. Mash out at 168 to 170oF. Sparge and Boil Sparge to your boil volume. Bring your kettle to a boil. Once you have your rolling boil begin timing the 60 minutes and deal with your bittering addition. Follow your planned hopping schedule. You would also add any adjunct sugar during the boil. The closer you add them to the end of the boil the more flavor will be retained (if this is a concern). Also, higher sugar concentration in the wort will negatively affect hop utilization. Taking these two facts into consideration, adding your adjuncts 15 minutes before flameout is a good rule of thumb. Also, when adding your adjunct it is good practice to turn your burner off so you don’t cause a boil-over or any sugar burning. When your adjunct is fully stirred in, reapply the heat. Yeast Any yeast you use for an American IPA will work just fine. Some light fruity esters from yeast are acceptable in the style, but so is a cleaner yeast character. Clean American yeasts are the most commonly used, but you can use higher ester producing yeasts, such as British ale yeast, and just ferment cool to reduce the formation of those fruity esters. A few to consider are listed below: WHITE LABS WYEAST DRY ORGANIC Dry English Ale (WLP005) American Ale (1056) Safale-American Ale (US-05) Imperial Yeast- House (A01) California Ale (WLP001) Denny’s Favorite 50 Ale (1450) Mangrove Jack (M44) Imperial Yeast-Joystick (A18) Fermentation and Bottling Cool your wort down to between 64 and 68OF. Once cool, aerate vigorously and pitch your yeast. If you are adding a charge of hops to the fermenter, now’s the time. Ferment in this same temperature range for the duration. Once fermentation is complete either bottle or, if you want even more hop flavor, add a second dry-hopping charge. You may want to rack into a secondary before dry-hopping to get the beer off the old hops and yeast cake. Allow it to sit for an additional 5 days to a week. Bottle or Keg your beer at 2 to 2.5 volumes. Happy Brewing!