Simple Stout

20 birch moon of winter 47

Irish Mike brewed a stout last Monday and commented to me that he keeps his simple. I compared his recipe to what mine has evolved into and thought I would make this stout as simple as possible.

Grain Bill

  • 10 lb pale ale malt (American, 3.4 L)
  • 1 lb roasted barley (British, 500 L)
  • 1 lb flaked barley

Hop Bill

  • 2 oz Goldings (US- 4.4% Alpha)- 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Fuggles (6.7% Alpha)- 60 minutes


I am growing increasingly impressed with my local brew store, (St. Louis Wine & Beer Making). They generally have everything I need. True beer geeks run the place, which helps.

During my last few brews I have enjoyed fiddling with this Beer Calculus. For this beer style, the numbers show that I don’t have enough bitterness with only 2 ounces of Goldings. Christine went out during mashing and brought back an ounce of Fuggles to throw in. With this additional ounce of hops, this beer falls into the BJCP beer style of an American Stout, for whatever that’s worth.

Prep-Friday Night

Broke the yeast smack pack to get it started. In a sanitized growler, poured in a 3 pints of malt extract made from about 1 1/2 cups of dried malt powder (1/2 cup per pint). Gravity just under 1.050, which is target starting gravity.

Cleaned the kettle and poured in 4 gallons of tap water. Prepped 5 gallons of sparge water with 1/2 teaspoon of phosphoric acid.

Cracked grains in mill.

Mash In-Saturday Morning

  • 8 AM- started coffee and put medium heat to the kettle.
  • 9:30- Mashed in. Strike temp 162 F. Mash temp 152 F. Held 2 hours 145-150 F.
  • Mash out 170 F. Held for 10 minutes


  • Sparged with 5 gallons of water over an hour
  • 10 minute foundation
  • 10 minute recirculation


  • Began proper boil of 7 gallons of wort at 1:45 PM
  • 2:00 PM- add all hops; 60 minute boil
  • 2:45 PM- Irish moss and cooling coil
  • 3:00 PM- shut off heat
  • 3:10 PM- cold break

End of Day

  • 4 PM- moved about 6 gallons of beer to primary fermentor (using 7 gallon bucket based on Charlie and Rob’s recommendation)
  • 4:15 PM- pitched yeast
  • Starting Gravity= 1.060
  • After strong bubbles in airlock, moved beer to cellar at 60 F


Rob adding hops to the stout

Rob adding hops to the stout

Lots of help today which was appreciated. Charlie was here early, soon joined by Rob. Bob from work stopped by for a beer. Garth swung by for a while. And Jimmy was here for a bit of the boil. Now that they’ve seen the process, they can be of more help next time, especially Charlie and Rob who are already brewing and were here all day. You guys are always welcome.

Of course, Emma and Christine were invaluable.

Fermentation Bucket

Primary Fermentation Bucket

I have the large white plastic bucket, lid and airlock to use for fermentation. I’ve never used it, preferring the big, glass, 7 gallon carboy instead. But most brewers seem to use the plastic bucket for primary fermentation. It’s what Charlie and Rob use, so I thought I would make that change. It should help in yeast recovery, something I want to explore.

One thing I don’t like about the white plastic bucket is that I didn’t get to vigorously shake the yeast into the wort. Maybe I need to think about a carbon filtered aeration stone.

Good news is that it appears the brew is bubbling vigorously.

Open Fermentation- explosion averted

I checked the beer before going to bed. With the nearly 6 gallons of beer filling up the fermentor and such a quick strong start to the bubbles, I thought there might be head space problems. This would be no different in the glass carboy. Indeed, when I looked, the airlock had spewed yeasty brown foam over the top of the lid. I decided to take advantage of the plastic bucket’s removable top and try my first open fermentation. Last night it looked like this:

Irish ale yeast head

Irish ale yeast head

Sunday morning finds the bucket with a massive, frothy, overflowing head and brown goodness all around the fermentor. Glad it’s sitting in the basement tub.

Irish ale yeast head- gone wild

Irish ale yeast head- gone wild

stiff peaks of yeast

stiff peaks of yeast

I carefully cleaned up this overflowed yeast. By afternoon of day 2, the head had settled back down and I was able to return the lid with the airlock to the top of the fermentor.

Average cellar temp is 59 F.

End of primary

Monday night, two days after pitching the yeast, I cleaned a spoon in iodaphor, rinsed it, pulled the lid on the fermentor and planned to scoop off the sediment. The big thick yeast head had pretty much fell back into the beer. I scooped out some of the sediment still floating on top, but there wasn’t much. If I’m gonna save yeast for the next batch, I’m thinking I need to do so about 24 hours after first pitching the yeast.

The beer smells green and the top doesn’t look too pleasant, almost oily. For some reason I’m already concerned about body in this beer. A stout should have lots of body, and this beer looks…thin to me.

I sealed up the fermentor again. After pressure built back up, the bubbles from the airlock were about once every 10 seconds. A nice layer of CO2 is protecting the green beer again. I won’t pull the lid again until I’m ready to rack the beer.

On Tuesday morning the bubbles had slowed to 1 every 15 seconds.

Gravity @ 1.020

Thursday evening, 5 days since pitching the yeast. Racked the beer into my 7 gallon carboy. Will let this beer age and see if it can’t drop a few more points. 1.020 is at the high end of the scale of where I would like it and it is still slowly bubbling. However, experience shows me that it won’t drop more than .002, if at all.

The sample was good, young, strong, green. There was a feint anise flavor that I wasn’t crazy about, but overall it seemed relatively correct. It is very different than the stout I have been brewing over the last several years. I liked that recipe, and I’m not sure this beer is up to that challenge, but we’ll see.

I wasn’t happy about the color. It is not dark enough. I’m sure in a pint glass it will look ok, but it is too brown, almost amber in the racking wand. Where did all the roasted go?

Kegged- February 4, 2012

Three weeks since brewing I kegged the beer. Gravity dropped to 1.018. Sample is good, a little harsh still. The roasted is very prominent and an almost grainy flavor. I think it will be a good beer, strongly flavored.

I’ll let this beer settle in the keg and carbonate for another week before tapping.

Tapped- February 22, 2012

The beer is good but not as good as the MoMo stout recipe I’ve been using for the last several years. Color is dark enough to call it a stout. The roasted is prominent. The flavors are strong and representative of a stout. It’s a little on the thin side in terms of mouthfeel and it’s simply not as smooth as the MoMo. The MoMo has a creaminess to it that this one lacks. This a fine beer and a decent example of a stout, but I think the higher kilned malts in the MoMo give it the richer mouthfeel and the smoothness I’m looking for. Mike says I’m my own worst critic, so I keep that in mind.

Finished Keg- March 29, 2012

This kegged stout turned out great. It last about the entire Lent. I think the life cycle of the keg is about a month and I was able to finish it in about that time. I would have liked cooler temps in the cellar the last couple of weeks. The stout itself was very good but over all I think the added grains in the MoMo recipe still make it smoother and imo better.

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