Advice On Brewing A Winter Stout

Question:

It’s getting to that time of year where I’ll need to do a stout now for it to be ready in time for Winter. Though this is not a particularly difficult style to brew I thought I’d ask if you have any tips, advice, recommendations, methods, recipes or preferences?

I’ve done some very dark ales before, and I’ve used dark roasted grains before, and I’ve even done one brew that probably qualified as some kind of stout, but I’m no expert and I’m all ears to any and every suggestion.

Because of my limited current equipment I was going to do a partial mash (though I can easily adapt any all-grain recipe ideas.) Black Rock do a good unhopped dark liquid malt extract, and for the mini-mash I was going to just use about 3.3 pounds of whatever rich flavoured grain I can find (possibly with a small addition of peated malt, about 4 ounces.) Now, for the mash I usually do half an hour at 104 Fahrenheit, half and hour at 140, and half an hour at 158 – is this an appropriate mashing schedule for a stout?

I was also thinking of adding some flaked oats (about half a pound), would I mash these or just steep them? I would also be curious to know how much hops and how much black roasted grain people usually use for stouts.

My final question is this. If I wanted to boost the alcohol content considerably, without making the stout too thick and syrup like, would it be better to add dextrose or some light malt extract?

Answer:

Using dark extract might be a bit of a crapshoot.

None of the (admittedly few) dark extracts I’ve seen lists which grains and what amounts were used to make that particular extract. Even though black patent malt and roasted barley can have nearly the same color rating, they taste night and day different. Either grain (or both) could be in the dark extract.

I would personally use a light extract and add all my flavor from the grains in the mini mash, since you’re going to be doing a partial mash anyway.

Recipe advice? Keep it simple. My very favorite stout recipe was just pale malt and 1/2 lb of 350 L roasted barley. It was mashed at a relatively low temp so even though it had a good bit of roasted character, it was pretty drinkable. You can easily do a partial mash with a pound of pale malt and 1/2 lb of roasted barley.