Irish Stout Recipe

Learn how to brew the classic, creamy Irish stout. This recipe gives you everything you need for a base with instructions on how to experiment.

| May 2019

stout-glass
Getty Images/Silberkorn

In terms of technique nothing here will look unfamiliar, especially if you’ve already brewed some of the English styles: a single-infusion mash, simple hopping regime, standard ale fermentation. The key points to note involve ingredients. Mosley advises: “The roast barley/roast malt balance is important. Roast malt lends a high degree of astringency to the beer so should be controlled, though a little is good for that point. Beware when you go above a ratio of 3:1 barley to malt, though.”

You may have read something about the peculiarities of water and their effect on Dublin’s stouts, and Mosley verifies this point, though perhaps not in the manner you expect: “Liquor quality is vital to stouts to emphasize the malt character; generally soft water should be used with low chloride and sulphate levels.” (Water is a funny and misleading topic in beer. The idea that cities have uniform water profiles is not entirely accurate. Dig a 100-meter well there, and you’re liable to get much harder water than a shallow well a mile or two over here. And in any case, modern breweries almost always treat their water.) So follow Mosley’s advice here, not whatever you may have read elsewhere about hard, alkaline water being ideal for stout.

Malt Bill

  • 6.75 pounds pale malt (75%)
  • 8 ounces roasted barley (6%)
  • 1.5 ounces black malt (1%)
  • 21 ounces flaked barley (14%)
  • 5 ounces crystal malt (4%)

Single-Infusion Mash

  • 151 to 153 degrees Fahrenheit (66–67 degrees Celsius) for 90 minutes

60-Minute Boil

  • 0.75 ounce Galena, 60 minutes (13% AA, contribution of 35 IBU)
  • 1 ounce East Kent Goldings at very end of boil (5% AA, contribution of 1 IBU)

Fermentation and Conditioning

Ferment with a fairly neutral ale strain, such as Wyeast 1728 or White Labs WLP028. Mosley observes, “We use a flocculent ale yeast strain; we do not look for a tremendous ester profile, as it distracts from the malt character. Many English ale yeasts should suffice.” Ferment cool, around 65 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit (18–19 degrees Celsius), to inhibit ester production.



Package

Bottle or keg, or if you’re feeling adventuresome, keg on nitrogen. It requires a separate draft system, and if you buy one over the Internet, you’ll have to find a place to fill it where you live (federal law prohibits shipping full canisters). Like so many things in homebrewing, the initial investment isn’t cheap. If you regularly brew beers that work well on nitro, though, it can be a worthwhile expense.

Expected OG: 11° P/1.044

Expected TG: 2.5° P/1.010

Expected ABV: 4.5%

Expected bitterness: 35 IBU

Notes: “High temperature reduces the fermentability and increases mouthfeel; also extracts beta-glucan from the barley, again increasing mouthfeel.” Galena hops are not required to bitter. I noticed that a lot of Porterhouse beers use this variety (now quite rare in the United States), and I asked about it. Mosley replied that “our choice of Galena is purely random actually. It has a high bittering potential. No other reason!” So follow your bliss on hops, but shoot for a bittering charge that delivers around 35 IBU.

Next Steps

Mosley’s recipe is offered as a starting place, but he encourages tinkering. “The obvious area to vary is the roast barley to roast malt ratio.” It’s worth stopping for a moment to acknowledge the differences in these grains. Roast or black malt has a sharp, acrid flavor that comes across like char. Brewers use it sparingly (Mosley’s recipe only calls for 1 percent black malt) to add a layer of burnt flavor and deepen a beer’s color.

Roasted barley, by contrast, is more complex and will add more to your beer. Black malt will produce a mocha head, while roasted barley will keep it lighter — important for the visual presentation of an Irish stout. It also gives the stout that characteristic ruby color Mosley describes. In terms of flavor, roast barley gives a more roast-coffee flavor than pure char. Think French roast. Whereas black malt is very dry and astringent, roast barley is sweeter, with nutty, malty notes.

Mosley’s recipe has a ratio of 5.6:1 roast barley to black malt, and he says the ratio should never go above 3:1 in terms of the amount of black malt you’re using. He also notes that “crystal malt is not essential.” If you like a drier stout, you can reduce or eliminate it.

The recipe Mosley provided will make a classic Irish stout — a 4.5% session ale. American homebrewers will no doubt begin to wonder how to scale up that recipe to make a stouter stout. Indeed, you may even be thinking of whipping up a sturdy 7.5% export stout. All well and good, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Mosley: “As strength increases, it is important to remember that the adjuncts should stay the same. Do not vary them all pro rata or you will end up with a beer that is very roasted!” That is to say, if you’re using a fairly roasty recipe for a 4% stout, don’t keep the percentages the same as you scale up.



I spoke with the founding brewer, Darron Welch, at Oregon’s Pelican Brewery about how he does this to make Tsunami Stout — possibly the most-lauded strong Irish stout made in the United States. (It’s won six Great American Beer Festival medals, including two golds.) He agrees that you need to keep the roast down when you’re scaling up the recipe. Tsunami uses dark chocolate, black patent, and roasted barley in roughly equal parts. He doesn’t use crystal malt in Tsunami Stout.

“[Mixing the barley] gives the beer both the dry roasty edge of a dry stout but balances it with coffee notes and dark chocolate character. Shoot for 10 to 11% of total extract coming from the three roasted grains.”

— Darron Welch, Pelican Brewery

Otherwise, the recipe can stay much the same as outlined by Mosley. “Standard clean-fermenting ale yeast at moderate temperatures works best, letting the malts and grains be the star. Bittering hops should be something like Magnum or Northern Brewer, varieties that give a clean, neutral bitterness without harshness or other distracting flavors. I would not recommend C-type hops for this style of beer. If you do use C-hops, you’ll end up with more of an American-style stout — a lovely thing in its own right, but not really a classic export stout.”

One important difference is mash temperature. Extra body is good for low-ABV stouts, but stronger ones should be dry. “These beers are so much more balanced and drinkable if they are well attenuated,” Welch says. “We start at 17 Plato and finish at 3.5 Plato. To achieve this, we mash at a fairly low conversion temperature, about 140°F [60°C].”

Finally, although some stronger Irish stouts are noted for their acidity, Welch discourages it. “I do not spend any time worrying about souring Tsunami Stout, despite what old homebrew books have to say. Here at Pelican we have produced some one-off stouts using acidulated malt and I was never very happy with the results. I would avoid all mash souring, wort souring, acidulated malts, etc. Keep it straight ahead — this is a straight-ahead style.”


Oyster Stout

In London, porters evolved into stouts, and stouts evolved into a category in which just about everything was considered fair game — milk and cream, oatmeal, even meat — until at some point some brewer somewhere decided to brew with oysters. The idea strikes one as objectionable on its face, but breweries such as Porterhouse started reviving the tradition a decade or two ago. Oyster stouts are, against all expectations, fairly tasty. They aren’t fishy (bivalvey?) but rather slightly briny; a stout with an ineffable mineral edge. (Mosley: “The flavor is subtle and tends to be described as ‘marine’ or ‘iodine.’ ”) Most people can’t put their finger on the oyster’s contribution but find these stouts richer and more interesting than a regular plain. Indeed, Porterhouse’s Oyster Stout may soon become the brewery’s best-selling stout.

They’re pretty easy to make (if expensive). “We add the oysters, out of their shells, at the very end of the boiling process along with hops and copper finings.” You want fresh, raw oysters, and a dozen ought to do. At Upright Brewing the oysters come packed in brine, which the brewery also throws in (like Porterhouse, they add the oysters at the end of boil). Some breweries have “dry-hopped” their oyster stouts with the shells, but this seems like an act of poetry, not science.


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Excerpted from The Secrets of Master Brewers © 2017 by Jeff Alworth. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.





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