Dry Irish Stout

I’ve really been craving a nice, easy-drinking stout.  Stouts can range from wildly complex to barebones and simple – for this one, I was looking for something on the lighter side; something you can have 4 or 5 of and not be falling out of your chair (..wait, isn’t that the point?).  Still with a satisfying amount of flavor, though.  So, here’s a pretty basic recipe for a dry Irish stout.

  • 3 lb light dried malt extract
  • 1 lb dark dried malt extract
  • 1 lb roasted barley
  • 4 oz chocolate malt
  • 0.5 lb american 2-row
  • 1 lb flaked barley
  • 1 oz Willamette hops (5% alpha acids)
  • White Labs Irish ale yeast
Let’s start with the grains. The roasted barley and chocolate malt are really what give stouts their character – that roasty, coffee-like, subtle chocolaty deliciousness.  American 2-row will add some extra body to the beer as well as light caramel flavor.  The flaked barley adds a creamier texture to the beer as well as giving it a long lasting head, but really doesn’t do much in terms of flavor.  Of course, there are tons of other specialty stout ingredients you can throw in, but we’re just sticking to the core for now.Hops are generally what gives beer its bitterness. When boiling your wort (see below), adding hops imparts bitterness by infusing the natural oils of the hops into the water. Hops have a measure called percent alpha acid rating, which (to me) is basically a measure of how bitter the hops are when boiled.  Typically this ranges from low bitterness hops (4-5%) usually used for ales, to higher more potent stuff (up to around %15) used in bitter beers like pale ales or IPAs. Also, the longer time you boil the hops will impart more bitterness too.  For this beer, I only went with 1 oz of hops at a fairly low %aa, simply to offset the maltyness and sweetness of the DME. Think of a Guinness or a traditional irish stout: pretty malty and no hoppy-ness at all really. We’re looking for a smooth, balanced roasty stout. You can also throw in hops towards the end of the boil (usually called “finishing hops”) to give the beer a “nose” to it; meaning, when you smell the finished beer, you’ll smell the hops, but there’s little to no taste / bitterness in the beer from it.  I omitted finishing hops altogether – again, sticking to just a plain old stout.

OK! Enough talk. The first thing to do is make our wort. Wort is the term for the mixture of all the ingredients combined after steeping our grains, adding malt, and boiling hops: essentially unfermented beer.  Start by bringing 1.75 gal of water to 150 degrees in a fairly large pot. Put your grains in cheese cloth or steeping bags and then dunk them in hot water for 60 minutes, stirring / sloshing them around occasionally to get all the flavors out.  I’m not totally sure, but I think this is where the “dryness” of the name comes from.  When you steep grains for that long, they give off a dry finishing flavor in the beer which comes from extracting “tannins” from the husk of the barley.  At any rate, right now you’re essentially making a tea, extracting flavors from the grains and phew, does it smell good!  Remove the grains from the water, stir in all the DME until it’s dissolved.  Bring everything to a boil. Add the hops and stir until they’re completely dissolved.  Let this continue at a slow, rolling boil for 60 minutes.

After that’s done, you’ll need to quickly cool the wort down to around 70 degrees before pitching the yeast. This can be tough, seeing as the wort, at this point, is over 200 degrees.  A lot of people on the internet suggest creating an ice-bath in the sink, and resting your pot in there til it cools. I did this for my first few batches and it takes FOR. EVER. Think about it, such a small surface area of the liquid is getting indirectly cooled by the surrounding ice, through the pot.  To save time, what I do is take my fermenting bucket and fill it up with about 1.5 gal of ice, then just dump my steaming hot wort right into it.  It’ll chill it down to around 90 degrees, and you can add as much cold water / ice as you want to bring it down the rest of the way. Be sure to take a few thermometer readings here and there as you’re adding more water to make sure you’re on point for the right temp. Make sure your yeast has warmed up to room temperature, then shake and pitch into the wort. Stir well, seal the primary and add the airlock with a little sterilized water in it. I let this sit for 5 days in the primary fermentor at 65 degress F, and then siphoned the beer into a secondary class carboy and let sit for another 5 days. Racking to a secondary does a lot of positive things for your beer, but I’ll get to that in a later post.  After 5 days in the secondary it’s time to keg, carbonate, chill, and serve.

This beer came out pretty much as I expected.  Appearance-wise, it’s dark – not pitch black – but a dark dark brown, which is a ruby red when you hold it up to the light. The head on this beer is a tannish light brown, but didn’t really hold up that much after you pour (which is what I always assume the flaked barley is for, but maybe I’m still unclear on the uses of it).  You get a great roasty smell off of this beer. The first taste you get a pleasant but not overpowering mouthful of coffee and chocolatey flavor, with a dry malty finish.  A few sips in you sort of lose the roasty flavor and start to take in more of the malt flavor.  This is an extremely simple beer, and best of all, it takes hardly no time at all to make (around 2 weeks total!). So if you need a quick stout for any occasion, in a pinch you can throw this one together no problem.  You can definitely put back a few of these beers (~%4.5 ABV..I’ll explain how that’s calculated later), but I think it could use just a hair more flavor. Cheers!

Dry Irish Stout

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Filed under Extract, Stout / Porter

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