Ithaca Brute Clone and first Open fermentation

I’ve been trying to make a trade for Ithaca Brute for quiet some time now with a guy on Beer Advocate.  It’s literally been 4 months and I haven’t had contact with him in over a month now.  I decided that I might as well brew some myself!   I was initially intrigued by this beer mainly from the name “Brute” but also because of the rave reviews.   Brute traditionally represents a dry Champagne so I was under the assumption that this would be a very dry beer which typically is a result of the addition of sugar and/or long term aging in barrels on various Yeast and Bacteria.   

Then recently The Mad Fermentationist did a post about how to brew a sour beer using the Ithaca Brute style.  This is part of a series he had mentioned in an even earlier post about the differing methods US brewers take for making their sour beer.  His research and subsequent blog post really inspired me to go for it on this one. 

The final gravity of my Saison’s, Saison Bretts, and Flanders beers always are in the 1.000- 1.006 range which I’d consider dry and worthy of the Brute name.  The weird thing is…Ithaca Brute’s final gravity is 1.016.  It seems more like one of my favorite wines which is a little sweeter then Champagne…Prosecco!  I guess they call it brute because it’s light in color and finished with Champagne yeast for bottle conditioning? 

From my research, here’s my understanding of how to brew a clone of Ithaca Brute. 
1.      Grain Bill – Pilsner, White Wheat, Acidulated Malt(13%), Red Wheat, Raw Wheat, and Corn(12%).
2.      Lots of Acidulated Malt and Corn- Sour with a huge of portion of Acidulated malt (13%)
3.      Mash - Mash high in the 160-162 degree range. This, in combination with a low mash ph from the acidulated malt should produce a wort that is rather turbid and hard for regular brewers yeast to ferment.
4.      Hops – Use Aged Hops like a Lambic, preferably locally grown Willamette, Hallertau, and Cascade like they do for Brute.
5.      Primary Fermentation- Primary fermentation is done at high temperatures with an English ale strain.  Crash once it hits 50% attenuation or 1.035- 1.030.
6.      Secondary Fermentation- Pitch Brett Drie into secondary with Light American Oak Spirals and age for 6-12 months.  FG of Ithaca Brute is 1.016 (which is why I question the name Brute but I suppose the acidity enhances the dryness of the beer)
7.      Bottle Condition - Finish with three types of Champagne yeast.

There are a lot of interesting techniques in creating this beer.  They use tons of Acid malt to sour it instead of Lactobaccilus and Pedioccus.  High Mash, aged hops, Cold Crash the Sacc. yeast, secondary with Brett Drie which is impossible to get a hold of, and then finish with three different types of champagne yeast.  There must be reasoning behind using three types of champagne yeast?  Phew…that’s a lot going on.

Here’s my recipe as brewed on Saturday 2.4.12 –

malt & fermentables

Malt or Fermentable
Rahr Pilsner
Acidulated Malt
Rahr Red Wheat Malt
White Wheat Malt
Flaked Corn (Maize)


Batch size: 5.5 gallons
Original Gravity
1.066 measured
Final Gravity
1.016 estimated
5° SRM
Mash Efficiency
70% measured


first wort
60+ mins
Aged Palisades
30 mins
Aged Vanguard
1 min
Aged Homegrown Cascade
20.7 IBU


Wyeast NB NeoBritannia - 1945
medium to high flocculation and 75% attenuation
Brettanomyces Drie
6.7% ABV
217 per 12 oz.

On top of all of that….I also decided to do an Open fermentation because I didn’t have an extra air lock hanging around.  It made sense to me for many reasons and kinda happened organically.   I wanted to use a top cropping English Ale strain.  I also wanted to ferment hot in order to have increased esters for the brett to play with in the long secondary.  I decided to simply set the top on lightly for the first 6 hours until I saw active fermentation.  Once I saw active fermentation I took the lid of completely and every few hours skimmed the yeast, hop residue and other volatile substances hanging around in the huge kruesen.  This should have done a few things.  First it should have allowed more oxygen to enter the wort to help the English yeast’s cell wall formation and help it multiply.  It also results in less pressure which allows the yeast to be healthier, work harder, and produce additional esters. 

18 hours at 75 degrees and there was a very noticeable Tropical Fruit aroma coming from the fermentor and the gravity was down to 1.035. (pictures to come)
I top cropped the yeast into a sanitized jar for later use, put the lid on the Ale Pale and brought it to my basement for cold conditioning.  

I’m sourcing Brett Drie from a homebrew blogger friend out in San Diego who has been kind enough to send me a vial of Brett Drie in the mail.   I told him, once I receive the Brett, I’ll officially label him as a bona fide yeast wrangler.  

Once that arrives, I’ll create a huge starter. Transfer to secondary and pitch with the Brett Drie and add some light toast American oak spirals or cubes to be aged for 6 months to a year! 

I doubt I’ll bottle condition with three types of champagne yeast, but who knows, 6 months from now, I just may get that crazy!

Hope you enjoy, and I hope this inspires others to expand your brewing horizons and try something new every once in a while!  

3.14.12 - Sampled and took a ph reading.  Extremely bright and refreshing.  Super clear blonde beer with fruity aroma's from the high Fermentation and the Brett Drie coming through a bit already!  A tad bit of a lactic tartness that is pleasant but not abrasive in any way.  Really nice.  I think it'll sit for a while though to let the brett character come about longer.  Should've taken a gravity reading but didn't.  PH 3.9/4.0 measured.

5.18.12 - Added 1/2 ounce Medium Toast French Cubes.


  1. The former head brewer at Ithaca, Jeff O'Neill, mentioned on the Brewing Network that Brute uses 13-14% acidulated malt. I tried my hand at something like this, but added local cranberries (my Vaccinium beer on my blog). I found that 13% did not provide enough souring, even with the cranberries. Not sure if the the malt I got was less sour than the malt used by Ithaca or if water chemistry comes into play or if my recollection of Brute was off. I'll be curious to see how your 23% works out. Good luck!

  2. Whoa...13%...that's interesting. I had an extra lb of acid malt at my house that I throw in at the last minute. Hopefully it gets me to where I want to be!

    I have 4 lbs of cranberries that I'd planned on putting into my Lambic eventually, but, I guess if 23% doesn't get it where I want I can always add those. I'd say that's a better option then adding Lactic Acid straight into the beer.

  3. Here's a link to the podcast with Ithaca - http://thebrewingnetwork.com/shows/669

  4. Very interesting with the 13% and the 12% corn. I'm wondering how mine will turn out now with 23% acid malt. We'll find out in 6 months to a year!


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