Stout Hearted Brewing
I remember when stout was synonymous with Guinness. When we talk stout now, it’s described by brand, ingredients or sub-style. Few taprooms are without at least one on offer.
Irish dry, foreign extra, English, American, sweet and imperial are the familiar basic styles, but the variety based on those is as wide as in any family of beer. The common thread is the inclusion of roasted barley or malt.
Stout is the homebrewer’s dream beer: relatively easy to craft, amenable to innumerable permutations and additives and always eagerly embraced. It has something for everybody.
People brew “to style” for various reasons, maybe for the challenge or for competition, but mostly because they like a particular type of beer. Following are some stout types and the characteristics that define each style.
Irish Dry Stout: Characterized by low gravity (4-4.5%), very dry palate and intense roast relative to strength. The minimalist Guinness recipe includes roasted barley, flaked barley and pale ale malt only. Others have some adjunct and/or specialty grains. All-grain recipes should be about 20 percent flaked and 10 percent roast. Caramel and chocolate malt are also appropriate. Extract brewers can substitute carapils or wheat extract for flaked grain. Concentrate on bittering hops and ferment with Irish ale yeast.
English Stout: Heftier than Irish dry, English stout is sweeter, stronger and more mellow. Back off on roasted barley and incorporate medium to dark crystal, black or chocolate malt. Gravity should be in the 5-6% range. English stout can be made very well from extract, since there are sufficient specialty grains to build body and depth. Hop at 30 to 35 IBU with English hops and ferment with London ale yeast.
American Stout: Hops, naturally. American hops and complex grain bills of crystal, black, chocolate, aromatic and Munich malt. These stouts were initially crafted not to emulate the Irish dry versions, but rather to include plenty of American hops, from first wort to knockout. The vast array of American hops now makes for perfect personalization of house stout. Ferment with neutral or unassuming yeast and use a base of American two-row or light malt extract.
Foreign Extra Stout: Strong stouts first brewed for tropical markets in the 18th and 19th centuries. They follow the Irish dry template, being a Guinness creation, but have more residual sweetness and complexity, and perhaps a bit of sourness or Brett character. They might also contain some sugar or adjunct grains. Typical strength is 7%.
Sweet and Milk Stout: Typified by a moderate or sweet character. Adjunct grains are used for the former, usually flaked oats in oatmeal stout, with of crystal malts to accompany the fuller, silky mouthfeel. The more pronounced is milk stout, sweetened with nonfermentable lactose. When making one, carefully consider the rest of your specialty grains, since crystal malts will also add sweetness. Start with 6 to 12 ounces of lactose per 5 gallons.
Imperial Stout: Originally stout porter brewed for the imperial court of czarist Russia. It has come to mean strong stout of 8% to 11% or higher, with quite complex grain bills, intense burnt flavors and warming alcohol. Pale, crystal, chocolate, black, roasted barley, adjunct and sugars all can figure into the recipe, as well as high hop rates. Imperial stout is an open door for brewers and can be crafted to American, English or any tastes.
One of the great things about stouts is their willing acceptance of all types of conventional brewing and unusual culinary ingredients. I have written in detail on all of these things that follow in previous columns.
Sugars: Try tropical sugars like jaggery, panela, turbinado or demerara in foreign extra stout to get rummy flavors. Those complement dark malts wonderfully. Honey is a good choice, though lighter ones might get lost in the milieu. Buckwheat would stand up nicely. Orange blossom and wildflower are flavorful enough to withstand the robust flavors of stout. Molasses, used sparingly, complements dark malts nicely, and maple syrup, though expensive, is another great choice.
Coffee: The kinships between the bean and barley are many, and no beer loves coffee more than stout. Any medium to dark roast suffices for brewing, so pick your favorite. The preferred method is cold-pressed coffee added to the secondary, keg or bottling bucket, a strategy that ducks the detrimental rigors of boiling. Try 4 to 6 ounces of fresh-ground cold-pressed in a quart of water per 5 gallons of stout. Coffee parties well with spices, cocoa or chocolate and sugars, and chocolate, caramel and Munich malts love to cavort with Joe.
Chocolate: Stout with chocolate or cocoa is also a marriage made in brewhouse heaven. The easiest delivery method is chocolate syrup, used at a rate of 8 to 12 ounces per 5 gallons, added to secondary. Bar chocolate or cocoa is a prime kettle addition. Cocoa nibs, raw or roasted, are a great alternative. The earthy, natural flavor is sort of a coffee/cocoa hybridization. Try 3 to 4 ounces of fresh-ground nibs in the primary or secondary. Nibs can also be added to the mash, milled with the grain. Powdered cocoa is used in the same manner as nibs.
Grains: Oatmeal stout is without a doubt the most popular adjunct craft beer. The silky-smooth, luxurious mouthfeel and heading qualities of flaked oats are sublime in stout. The protein responsible for that aspect is also found in flaked rye and wheat. The flavor may get lost in an assertively roasty stout, so use them at 20 percent of the grist unless being used for heading qualities only. Malted versions of each will offer the same, and a slightly different flavor. Flaked grains are best, having been gelatinized, but if you want to try raw grains and cook them yourself, then others, such as buckwheat, quinoa and millet, can be used. Extract brewers can substitute rye or wheat extract to gain the same advantages as whole grains.
Smoked and Historical Malts: Roasted barley has a “charred” flavor, but one different from the intentionally induced smoky flavors of rauchmalz or other smoked malts. Smoked malts can add much to stouts, either traditional Bamberg-style rauchmalz or those from America’s own Briess Malting, which make cherry wood and mesquite varieties. Keep the measure at 20 percent or less to keep the influence somewhat in check.
Historical brown (65º L) and amber (27º L) malts are produced by English maltsters to help brewers duplicate 18th- and 19th-century beers. They are powerfully flavored, with biscuity, toasted and subtle roasted notes. Neither has diastatic power. Once upon a time, porters and stouts were made entirely with similar malts.
A historical porter or stout can be made with pale, amber, brown and small amount of black malt. Add copious Kent Goldings hops, English ale yeast and perhaps a dose of Brettanomyces for aging, and you’ll be serving reasonable historical stout porter (8%).
Spices/Flavorings: This is a very broad category of stout. Spiced holiday beers are good templates for spiced stout. The usual suspects of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and orange all work well in stout, as do some “hotter” spices like ginger and cayenne. Cayenne can be included in a “Mesoamerican” style stout, along with vanilla and cocoa. Otherwise, the array of potential concoctions are wide open.
Wild Yeast: Brettanomyces-influenced beers are a hot item these days with no shortage of cultures (bugs) available for homebrewers. Souring bugs or, for the really adventurous, a portion of sour mash, can also add an interesting edge to stout. Guinness is famously rumored to use some soured beer in its recipe, adding a nice tang to the dry, quenching finish. To keep the influence in check, add the organisms at bottling or aging time.
Fruit: There are quite a few commercial stouts that use cherry and especially raspberry. Both go well with the chocolate flavors and aromas found in stout. Raspberry seems to be the favorite for “fruiting” stout. Cherry also adds some sour notes. Others in the running are blueberry, peach, apricot and strawberry. As with any fruit additions, they are best added to the secondary or late primary to preserve aromatics. Start with 2 pounds per 5 gallons. Seasonal fresh fruit is very cool, but canned purees are excellent and convenient, come pasteurized and are ready to use.
Basic Stout Recipe
OG 1.060, 35-40 IBU, All Grain:
This recipe will provide a great base to experiment with, and is very nice on its own.
Mash 1 pound roasted barley, 6 ounces chocolate malt, 8 ounces medium crystal malt, 2 pounds flaked barley and 9 pounds English/Scottish pale ale or American pale malt
Extract: Steep the roast, chocolate and medium crystal for 20 minutes,
and add to the steeping liquid 3 pounds wheat malt extract
and either 7.5 pounds light LME or 6 pounds light DME
Hop Schedule: 9 AAU Northern Brewer hops, 60 minutes,
1 ounce Cascade hops, 20 minutes,
1 ounce East Kent Goldings, 5 minutes
Ferment with your favorite English, Irish or American ale yeast
Use the advice in the text to make a specialty stout, or combine something such as cocoa or coffee and lactose. Add or subtract base malt or extract to make up for the added fermentables if desired.
K. Florian Klemp
K. Florian Klemp is an award-winning homebrewer who thinks there is no more sublime marriage than that of art and science.