How To Brew Brown IPA | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: February 28, 2021

Brown IPA was originally known as Texas Brown Ale. The origin of this beer was actually California and not Texas. The style seemingly intertwines two styles into one; an American IPA and an American Brown Ale.

A good representation of this beer will have a high hop flavor and bitterness with a rich malt flavor.

Such a marriage of beer styles could only be made up by homebrewers. Scott Birdman’s story received attention; so much that it appears in the 2011 Bay Area Mashers slide show and  2012 Stone Brewing write up on their collaborative brew TBA.

Originally it was published in the 2009 La Petite Brasserie blog post. Scott Birdman goes on to say;

“The history of Texas Brown Ale goes back to the early 80’s when I was attending a convention in San Rafael, California. I was visiting Jay Conner & Byron Burch, owners of a homebrew shop, Great Fermentations. They had a flyer for a Purple Passion Dark Ale recipe with John Bull Dark Malt Extract, crystal & chocolate malts, and a ton of hops.

This was a popular recipe with their customers and did well in local and regional homebrew competitions, but got slammed in the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) & HWBTA Nationals for not meeting the style guidelines for “Brown Ales” (assumed to be British brown ales).”

Scott Birdwell then ran with the idea back home in Texas. Scott took the idea and presented it to his homebrew club, The Foam Rangers. The homebrew club made the category to fit the style in their annual homebrew competition, The Dixie Cup.

They named the new category “California Dark,” which was a nice tip of the hate to the origin of this beer. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) then recognized the category and the name was changed to “Texas Brown Ale.”

Style Profile for Brown IPA

Appearance

Brown IPA will range from a ruby-highlighted brown to a rich darker brown. Clarity should be clear, unless the beer is dry hopped, then haze will appear. Head color is creamy white to light mocha and should be medium in size with lasting retention. 

Aroma

The aroma of an Brown IPA will consist of low to medium malt presence that can be sweet, rather nutty, dark caramel, toasty bread, toffee and hints of dark fruit. The malt aroma should be complementary to the hop aromas.

Hop aroma ranges from medium to strong. Notes of berry, melon, spice, pine, resinous, fruit, citrus, tropical and/or stone fruit are possibilities. A bit of alcohol heat can become noticeable with stronger versions. 

Flavor

Clean, but sweet malt at the front of the palate with noticeable cocoa, milk chocolate, nut, biscuit, dark caramel, toffee, toasted bread, and/or dark fruit. Should not have roasted, burnt, or harsh bitterness. Hop flavors can range from moderate to high.

Usually American or New World hops, with flavors of berry, stone fruit, pine, floral, melon, spicy, citrus, tropical fruit being common. The beer should finish dry to medium with some residual sweetness. Some hop flavor and bitterness may be present in the aftertaste. 

Mouthfeel

The body of this beer is moderately to medium. Mouthfeel is smooth. High carbonation. Stronger versions of this beer will give off a warming from the alcohol and some smoothness. 

Food Pairing

A good Brown IPA can cut through the fat and pair well with stronger flavors of food very easily. Venison, beef, spicy sausage, brisket all pair nicely. As for cheese pairings go, Gruyere, Smoked Gouda, Manchego, Feta and blue cheese all make for good pairings.

Carrot cake and pecan pie, or maple-walnut cheesecake make for a good pairings. 

Tips for Brewing your own Brown IPA

Grain

Domestic 2-Row or pale ale malt are usually the base malts for Brown Ales. A pound of Crystal 65L adds some really nice nutty, toffee notes to the beer, Chocolate malt or Carafa Special II can add some color that is needed for a Brown IPA.

Some Biscuit malt will add that biscuit flavor that is needed for the style. 

Hops

American hops really should be showcased in this beer. A traditional bittering charge at 60 minutes is a nice place to start with your hop schedule. Something like Chinook or Simcoe will give the beer a nice bitterness.

After bittering hops, the sky’s the limit with how much or little hops you want to add. Cascade, Citra, Columbus, Centennial, Amarillo is always a good way to start when thinking about the hop schedule. If adding rye to the grain bill, Mosaic makes for a decent choice. 

Hopping with New World hops like Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin or any of your favorite hops from New Zealand or Australia will work here too. Dry hopping is very common with the style and encouraged to extract more hop aroma and flavor in your beer. 

Yeast

A clean fermenting American yeast is encouraged for American IPAs. Wyeast American Ale 1056 or White Labs California Ale WLP001 are two popular strains.

Imperial Yeast also offers A15 Independence, A07 Flagship, and A18 Joystick. Safale US-05 is also the dry yeast strain to be considered.

Brown IPA the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 11 – 19 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.056 – 1.070 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.016 FG
  • IBU Range: 40 – 70
  • ABV Range: 5.5 – 7.5%

Martin Keen’s Brown IPA Recipe

Grain

81 %           11 lbs         2-Row     

  8 %             1 lbs         Caramel/Crystal Malt 20L

  8 %             1 lb           Carapils

  3 %             .5 lb           Chocolate Malt

Hops

0.50 oz         Bravo – Boil 60 min

1.00 oz         Falconer’s Flight – Boil – 15 min

1.00 oz         Bravo – Boil 15 min

1.00 oz         Falconer’s Flight – Boil   0 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg   American Ale Wyeast #1056

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

More IPA Style Home Brewing Recipes:

    Transcript: Here on the Homebrew Challenge I’ve been brewing my way through various different IPA’s. But I think if there was just one IPA style that really everybody associates with Indian pale ale, it would be Brown IPA. Right?

    My name is Martin Keen. And thank you for joining me on the Homebrew challenge where I’m brewing 99 beers in 99 weeks. And today’s Brown IPA is going to be fermented right here in this corny keg, which is something I’ve done before. But then I am going to cold crash and carbonate the beer in this corny keg. Which is also something I’ve done before. Then I’m going to use this very same vessel to serve the beer as well, which well that’s something new.

    If you’re anything like me, you might not be all that familiar with the style of American Brown IPA. Barkeep, I like a pint of only your finest Brown IPA, please.

    The it’s actually quite a new style in name. It was only added in 2015 to the BJCP guidelines as Brown IPA. Prior to that, it was known as Texas Brown ale. But what this beer is supposed to be is a combination of American IPA and the hoppiness that you get from that, with all of that malty richness that you’d get from an American Brown ale.

    So I have heated up my strike water here. I’m going to be brewing this at 152 Fahrenheit. So let’s get the grain into the basket. And I’m brewing here a 2.5 gallon batch, which is what I’ve been doing mainly, uh, with most of my styles, but they’ll have been sneaking a few five gallon beer styles for those that I know that I really, really like, but look, I have so many beers. So this one’s two and a half gallons, oh, I need the need, the whisk.

    I’m going to be mashing in here for about an hour, just keeping an eye on the original gravity. But, um, this should be a fairly straightforward mash. I think I’ve got a few dark grains in here, which certainly helps balance out the pH.

    Okay, let’s get us rolling.

    The grain bill is where we get to address the malty-side of this beer. So in my grain bill, while I’m building yeah, original gravity of 10 66, so around a 6.7% beer and my primary base malt at 82% is going to be pale two row malt. Now to that, I am adding caramel 20 and Carapils both add 7% and that should get me the bready and sweet characteristics that we want from this beer.

    Now, we also want to get some darker flavors as well, not, not roasted, but things like toffee or nutty, uh, to that end, I’m using chocolate malt at three 50 SRM. I’m adding that in at 4% and that will also help address the color of this beer as well which this being Brown ale, we would quite like to be Brown. Check out the color on this thing. It’s looking great.

    So I am a bit of a fan of fermenting in corny kegs. In fact, I know brew is that just ferment everything in a keg, and there are a lot of advantages. The first one being, well, you probably have a few of these lying around. So as the availability advantage, um, also they’re nice and compact.

    So this will easily fit into like a chest freezer. If you just have a little bit of room, so you can handle temperature control really easily. Um, also you can pressure ferment in here because obviously these kegs can hold pressure and you can also do completely closed transfers.

    So once the fermentation is done, you can transfer into a serving keg completely closed. So you’re not going to expose any of the beer to oxygen. You don’t need to lift the top up here. You can just put some pressure in and send the beer into the other keg.

    Now that’s how I have done fermentation in kegs up until now, but I’m going to skip that step of transferring to a serving keg, and I’m going to make the, my fermentation keg also my serving keg.

    Now to do that, I need a way to avoid all of the trub that’s going to be at the bottom of this keg at the end of fermentation. I don’t really want to be sucking all of that up and the way that I’m going to do that is, well, I’m going to be a little bit inspired from another fermentor that I use, which is a Fermzilla.

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    So here is one of those. Now the firmzilla here has a floating dip tube. And what that does is, um, well, let me show you.

    So as I’m adding in water in here, the little ball on the end of my floating dip tube is floating on the top of the water. And what that means is that this floating dip tube is going to take any liquid that’s on the top of my fermentor, not the stuff at the bottom.

    Going to shut, shut the water off.

    So what that means is that when I start to pull up liquid through this tubing, I’m getting the beer that’s on the top, the highest level beer in this fermenter not the stuff that’s on the bottom. And considering the bottom is going to be where the trub is. I want the clear beer from the top.

    So what I’m going to do is I’m going to install a floating dip tube in my corny keg, open this one up. You can see there’s a dip tube that runs all the way to the bottom.

    Actually, this one doesn’t run quite all the way to the bottom because I clipped it so that when I’m transferring from my fermentation keg into my serving keg gets not going to pull the worst of the trub that’s at the modern of a keg. But even so, I don’t know if clipping this is going to be sufficient to ensure that I’m really getting the clearest beer when I’m serving out of a keg that is full of trub.

    So that is one thing that you could do is just snip this an inch off, which is what I’ve done here, serve through here. Maybe the first point, my two’s going to be a bit cloudy then after that, maybe it’s going to be okay.

    But I do like this idea of using a floating dip tube instead. Now the dip tube that I have here, well, how am I going to install this in place?

    Well, first of all, this doesn’t reach to the bottom. It’s not long enough. And secondly, I need a way to connect to the liquid outpost. There’s a good hack for that. And that is to steal a gas post from another keg. What I’m going to do is just use this part of the gas post and I’m going to connect it to my Silicon tubing.

    And then that way I can assert this in that hole there into the keg. So the only other thing I need to do is to cut a piece of Silicon tubing that is actually long enough for this ball to really touch the bottom of the keg. So I’ve got a new piece of Silicon tubing here. This is one quarter inch ID. Let’s give that a try.

    See how this looks. Yeah, that looks much better. The only tricky bit I think is going to be getting this into here, uh, through, through this. So, hmmm. Let’s see

    Got it. Got it. Okay. Now I have a floating dip tube in here.

    The hops for this beer, I’m using two hops kind of interchangeably. So I’m going to start off with Bravo, which is my bittering hop. Now you don’t need very much of this. This is going to be 14 or 15. So you don’t need very much. I’m putting in a five gallon batch. You’d put in half an ounce.

    And with 15 minutes to go for aroama, I am combining Brava again with falconers flight. Flight is a hop that I’ve used before with Pale Ales. It is tropical fruity. And I thought it’d be kind of interesting to put into this American, um, Brown IPA.

    And then add flameout. I’m going to take the rest of my focus flight. And I’m going to add that in as my aroma hop. Well, it looks like the boil is already running, so let’s get the bittering hop in first of all.

    I have it chilled at the beer about as much as I can with my groundwater now. And then I added some starsan into this keg and then just took the output of the, uh, the plate chiller here, the water that was passing through it and use that to sanitize this thing. I also just added a little bit of pressure to it.

    So I want to test that this floating dip tube is going to work. So let me just see if I can get some starsan out of this thing. See if anything comes out. Hey, all right. So that’s working. So now what I’m going to do is take the star san and get it out and fill it with beer.

    Okay. That’s done.

    I’m going to throw a Tilt wireless hydrometer into here as well. And yes, these tilts, they use Bluetooth and they asked to label to communicate, even when they’re in a keg of beer.

    And then put the lid on.

    For the blow off part of this assembly, I’m going to use a growler filled with some of this star san, and then I’ve just got a bit of tubing will be a gas post on it. And then this will just go in and then to here. And then the bubbles will, uh, go through here as an airlocks. There is only one thing, missing the yeast.

    Here. It is for this one I’m using wyeast at 1056 American ale. This is a, just a great all round yeast. So I think it works very well in Brown ales and also in IPAs. So seemed like a good candidate.

    This beer is currently a little bit warm, so I’m just going to dump this in my chest freezer, chill it down to about 68 Fahrenheit or 20 Celsius. And I’ll be adding the yeast and letting it ferment in the keg. And I will come back when that’s done. And we’ll take a look at serving out of one of these things.

    It’s been about four weeks, the beer has been fermenting, cold crashed, ready now for me to try. So I’ve just added 10 PSI of pressure to this thing. And, uh, now let’s see how clear the beer is that comes out. Okay. Okay.

    You can use this little picnic tap here. All right, here we go. It’s fizzy. Well, I think what happens here is really a problem with the, uh, burst carbing that I gave this rather than the floating dip tube. Um, I wasn’t really sure what to do about carbonation with this it being in the keg this whole time. So, um, I just cold crashed into the keg then I’ve released, but if a pressure built up then, um, and then force carbonated at 30 PSI for a few days after that. But I suspect when I was cold crashing, I was building up quite a lot of pressure then and carbonating the beer at that point. And then I carbonated it a second time, which has resulted in this.

    But the part that’s beer, it looks pretty good. You’re looking quite good. Now. It’s really quite crazy to think that I’m about to drink something that is just sat in the fermentor the whole time.

    As for aroma getting a little bit of the chocolate malt and a little bit of the, the hops. I think it’s, that’s what we go with a taste. Oh, well the taste it’s definitely more hops than it is malt. Certainly tasting that pretty distinctive character falconers flight in this. This is good. Hmm. But, but there definitely is a bit of the sort of the Brown malt tastes that you’d expect in a, in a regular Brown ale, just with some hops added to which honestly makes it an improvement over a regular Brown ale. If you asked me, this is absolutely delicious.

    Now I didn’t have my usual taster Lauren with me today, but don’t worry because in next week’s special video, you’re going to be seeing quite a bit more of her. See you then.

    I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.