Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Brew Day: Irish Stout

As much as I enjoy drinking a well made Irish Stout - a rare thing these days - I no longer brew them with any regularity. I would like to say the reason for doing so is that they are 'too boring' or that I would rather be drinking a dark mild or some other session beer, but that is not the case at all. Rather, I have always found Irish stouts to be one of those styles that are easy enough to brew, but frustratingly impossible to get 'just' right. Brewers often say is the simple things that can be the most difficult to brew well (ahem, session beers) and I would argue that Irish dry stouts are a shining example of that. Getting that perfect mix of dry roast, coffee, chocolate, and esters in such a little beer can be a very difficult thing, especially when we are dealing with relatively few ingredients. A common issue I've had with most Irish stouts, including most of my own, is that they almost always seem to have the same flavor profile... an initial hit of roast flavor, with bits of chocolate, coffee, and what not... and then they drop off into a dry and watery nothingness. Basically, a lot like Guinness. Missing is that balance of rich and dry, bitter and sweet, and ester and hop.

A few things I've come to realize when brewing Irish stouts, is that yeast choice and the type/amount of roasted barley used is hugely important. As for yeast, I've found that many of the go-to yeasts for the style (1056, 1335, 1084, S-04, 1098 ect...) ferment out too dry and neutral flavored, making the roast character seem one dimensional. Instead, I'd rather sacrifice some attenuation for a bit more yeast character and body. As for the roasted barley, every maltster makes a very different tasting product. I find Thomas Fawcett RB is much too smokey for dry stouts (even though I have a ton of it), whereas I really enjoy the clean flavor of Simpsons and Muntons' RB. As for grinding the roast into a powder before adding it to the mash, I've done this a few times and can say I prefer a more subtle approach. 

The recipe for this beer is somewhat similar to that of Beamish Stout - maris otter, wheat malt, roasted barley (muntons), and a bit of TF chocolate malt for added complexity. I have never found flaked barley to do anything substantial in my dry stouts, but I do like the contribution the the wheat malts adds. The yeast for this beer will be wy1028, as it produces a clean and well attenuated beer, but still has some of those 'rich' yeast flavors that I like so much in my darker beers. Not sure how the mineral character is going to fare with the roast, but we'll see. Regardless of how this beer turns out, I would like to keep an Irish stout on tap once the weather cools off.

Cramer's Lane: Irish Dry Stout

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.50
Anticipated OG: 1.042
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 30
Anticipated IBU: 25
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

------------                                                                                                                                     76.9% - 5.0 lbs. Maris Otter, Bairds
10.0% - 0.65 lbs. Wheat Malt
7.7%   - 0.50 lbs. Roasted Barley
5.4%   - 0.35 lbs. Chocolate Malt

1.0 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 22 IBU
0.5 oz. EKG @ 5 min for 3 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 1028 London Ale
Brewed on 29 July


  1. Your comments about balance essentially sum up my own view on what makes for a good stout. A couple of years back, I was able to sample a great stout brewed by Big Lamp Brewery, "Summerhill Stout", at the Keelman's Lodge near Newcastle; it was only about 4.5% ABV, but it nevertheless managed to pack in a tremendous amount of flavour, much of which consisted of dark fruit notes in the finish. My (probably somewhat naive) view is that those must have been esters derived from the yeast, possibly complemented by some hop flavours. Thus far, though, I've utterly failed to reproduce anything like it...

    1. I loved the stouts I had in England, full of malt and yeast character and no C-hops!

  2. I'm really interested to see how this turns out. I'm about to do a similar recipe with Pacman, which I've only just gotten hold of for the first time. I'll stick with the simpsons roasted barley which gave me good results last time.

    How do you serve your stouts? I'm just using low carbonation in a regular kegging setup, but it means disconnecting the gas each time after serving to stop the carbonation equalising between all of the kegs.

    1. Pacman is a superb yeast for stouts, dry stouts included. Ferments clean and dry, but still leaves a nice mouthfeel. Let us know how it does for you.

      I serve my stouts on reduced co2 also, though I'll cut off the gas to the keg via a manifold if I don't want it to get to high. Hasn't been much of a problem as most of my beers don't get much above 1.5-2.0 volumes. Never felt the need to get a nitro setup, though maybe some day.


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