“We find ourselves introducing those who don’t like strong and bitter IPAs to a different corner of the style: soft and elegant ones,” says Matt Katase of Brew Gentlemen in Braddock, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. He’s sharing what many New England–style IPA brewers experience in their tasting rooms. These softer, more delicate IPAs are surprising beer drinkers who dislike the bitterness, dankness, and boldness often associated with the IPA style.
The idea of a fruit-forward, juicy IPA with subtle haze and low bitterness isn’t exactly new to the beer market (think The Alchemist Heady Topper and Trillium Brewing Company Sleeper Street IPA), but the term “New England–Style IPA” is novel—and so hot right now.
Brew Gentlemen Founders Katase and his business partner Asa Foster, along with their Head Brewer Zach Gordon, were early adopters and brewers of this softer, juicier IPA.
“Our IPAs are elegant,” he says. “We’re shooting for creaminess and softness, beers that are highly drinkable and repeatable. Mouthfeel is a big part of that.”
Most of Brew Gentlemen’s IPAs are brewed with oats to help create pillowy, creamy mouthfeel. Other than the addition of oats or maybe some Caramalt, Gordon says they like to keep their grain bills extremely simple with 2-row barley to create a light, clean platform for the hops to stand on.
“We keep it very simple on the hops, too,” says Gordon. “My general rule is never use more than three hops in a beer. That doesn’t count bittering hops, for which we’ll usually do a first addition of Magnum, Columbus, or whatever we have a lot of. From there, only three additional hops are used in whirlpool and dry hopping.”
Many Brew Gentlemen beers have Mosaic additions, one of their favorite hops because of its intense blueberry/strawberry character layered over pine. These include Overgrowth, a spring seasonal pale wheat ale; Mammoth, a winter DIPA; and Momo, a single-hopped Mosaic pale ale and a Brew Gentlemen taproom favorite. Gordon also likes Nelson Sauvin hops (also in Overgrowth), but beyond personal preferences, he chooses hops for their tropical and fruit-forward flavors.
Brew Gentlemen ferments their IPA with a mutation of an English ale strain. Gordon notes that it ferments fast, flocculates hard, leaves behind balanced esters, and adds to the pleasant mouthfeel.
The key to fermentation of Brew Gentlemen’s soft, refreshing IPAs is time. “Even though it is a quick turnaround ale yeast, there’s still time needed for it to finish fermenting,” Gordon says, explaining that time ensures that the haze created by dry hopping isn’t muddy. “We give our beers the proper time, usually around 17 to 21 days in the tanks.”
Brew Gentlemen’s flagship IPA, General Braddock’s, is an aromatic 6.8 percent ABV beer with fresh notes of grapefruit zest on the nose, a velvety mouthfeel, and a vibrant, resonating finish. Gordon regularly uses this recipe as a base beer for experimentation, which yields an array of one-off, tasting room-exclusive beers.
“Right now, one of the philosophies we live by is kaizen, a manufacturing term for continuous improvement. We come out with new IPAs, but that all plays into a larger story. All these other beers represent adjustments, hops substitutions, and other subtle tweaks in effort to make General Braddock’s even better.”
From patience to process, the Brew Gentlemen founders are committed to brewing beers “like gentlemen would.” The college roommates and life-long friends were in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity together at Carnegie Mellon University. About halfway through college, they decided they wanted to start a craft brewery, so they changed their majors and wrote the business plan for their 3.5-barrel brewhouse. They named their new brewpub with a nod to their collegiate brotherhood, whose creed is entitled “The True Gentleman.”
In addition to General Braddock’s IPA and Brew Gentlemen’s frequent one-off releases, a series of occasional IPA/APA specialties rotate through the taproom: Legendary Weapons (IPA), Certified Public Accountant (pale ale), Recertified (DIPA), Momo (pale ale), Foshomo (DIPA), and Lou (DIPA). They’ve also developed a following for their seasonal double IPAs: Albatross in the spring (with Galaxy hops), Akamai in the summer (with Citra/Simcoe/Chinook hops), Kabuto in the fall (with Ekuanot hops), and Mammoth in the winter (with Citra/Mosaic hops).
“Four huge beasts—a giant bird, an octopus, a rhinoceros beetle, and a prehistoric mammal,” says Katase. “On one hand, it’s all part of this fictional legend that exists in our heads, four behemoths battling it out, but in reality, it’s a great way to build a brand family, keep things fresh and fun, and make the hops contract game a bit more manageable.”
Beyond their dedication to hops-forward styles, the Brew Gentlemen team has invested heavily in their production of oak-aged farmhouse beers, known as their Mise en Rose collection, and the introduction of lagers isn’t too far off. It’s not all hops down in Braddock.
Photo courtesty of The Brew Gentlemen