Barebones Irish Stout (all-grain)

photo1My goal with this recipe is to brew a definitive and sessionable Irish style  stout similar to a Guinness. Low gravity, medium bodied beer with a pleasant amount of roasted flavor and a slightly dry finish. Enough said. Anticipated OG 1.044, 33 IBU, 25 SRM

  • 5.5 lb UK Pale malt (62%)
  • 2 lb Flaked Barley (22%)
  • 0.87 lb Roasted Barley (10%)
  • 0.5 lb Crystal 40 (6%)
  • 1.2 oz UK East Kent Goldings (7.2% aa), 60 mins

// Mash-in 2 qt/lb at 150F for 60min, 170F for 10 minutes. Collect 6.5 gal 1.026 wort. Steep the roasted barley on the side in 2 qt 150F for 30 minutes, rinse w/ 2 more quarts 160F water to get around 1 gal of extract. Boil 60 minutes, add roasted barley extract at 10 minutes left, wait til boil returns then continue timer. Collect 5.5 gallons 1.037 wort. Pitch a 1L starter (not-decanted) //

I wound up with way too much volume in the end – my roasted barley side-pot gave me a little more than i anticipated, so my 5 gallon batch became 6. Should wind up at 3.5% ABV instead of 4. I think the flaked barley might have killed my efficiency by soaking up so much of the mash liquid, but I could be wrong.

UPDATE (3/1/14): Fermented at 68 for 2 days, then ramped up the 72 for 1 day. Gravity after 3 days in the primary was 1.016 and bubbling had near stopped. Lots of body, a dark brown color, with a very malty and slightly roasted flavor. It’s a very mild beer – not super “stout” like – almost more of a dark brown ale.  If you’re comparing it to something like Guinness, the level of roasted flavor is appropriate, but I sorta want a little more. Nice level of bitterness to leave a slightly dry finish.  Crash cooled the primary down to 33F for 36 hours before racking to the keg.

THE VERDICT

This was a decent beer. Faint bread and roasted aroma which resembles more a toasted brown ale than a stout. The color is a very dark brown and the beer had a really hard time clarifying throughout its life cycle (might recommend some Irish moss next time) – even a month after kegging it was fairly cloudy. The flavor is of lightly toasted english malts, with a very milk-chocolate-y feel from the roasted barley and slight ester profile of the yeast. The roasted barley flavor really only coming through just a bit in the finish. Mouthfeel-wise, it has an amazingly round body for being such a low alcohol beer. Overall, it’s a fairly uninteresting session beer, which there’s certainly a time and place for.  Another interesting note was that it had virtually no head even when fully carbonated, which really puzzles me.  Even when splashing it into the glass at full pressure it retained only a thin, wispy head that dissipated in a minute or so (the picture above is just right after pouring).  The only major variant of the batch was that my keg was VERY fully after racking from the primary – filling up to within about 1/2 inch of the brim of the opening, when normally it’s 6-7 inches. That decrease in headspace for the CO2 to force carbonate should mean that it would take longer to carbonate fully, but I’m not sure how that correlates to zero foam/head. Hmph.

Now for a philosophical aside. Occasionally I’ll create recipes like this, and I routinely kick myself for it. I didn’t mention it so much in the intro, but my goal was to make a beer very similar to Guinness – a “clone” if you will. But, I became so wrapped up in the details of how to exactly replicate it that I really lost sight of the real goal: just brew an excellent beer. It’d be damn near impossible for me to perfectly clone a Guinness even if I spent years trying, but somehow I get stuck tweaking the recipe to fit the mold. I researched exact percentages of grain types, scoured over messageboards where people are discussing how they think it’s made… all for what? To come out with an average beer?  What I should have done, was not even think for a minute about Guinness; just make beer how I know it will turn out delicious in the end. After all, that is what homebrewing is all about – learning from your experiences in order to make the best beer possible.  Let me caveat this by saying that clone-recipes aren’t necessarily a bad thing – they’re definitely useful for homebrewers looking for guidance in the right direction for a particular beer style. But, when guiding turns into idealizing and over-thinking, that’s when things can go sour. The next time I make this recipe, it will be a little different. At the moment, here’s my projected bill:

  • 7 lb English Pale / Marris Otter
  • 1 lb Flaked Barley
  • 1 lb Roasted Barley
  • 0.5 lb Chocolate malt
  • 0.5 lb UK Dark crystal

Fairly similar, but with more roast and dark malt flavor, and a hint of nuttiness and toffee to really round out the chocolatey flavors.

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Filed under All-grain, Stout / Porter

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