Recipe Formulation – American Stout

All of the beers that we’ve brewed in the past have been on the lighter side (color wise) – Special Bitter, American IPA, Belgian Pale Ale, India Brown Ale, and currently Blonde Ale.  The only one to use roasted grains of any type was our Hop Feast IBA, and that was with a very delicate hand.  I love stouts, so it’s kind of odd that we haven’t brewed anything close to one yet.  It is now time to remedy that situation.

My favorite example of the style would have to be Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout.  The beer is pitch black with a beautiful light brown head.  I personally don’t get any of the brewer’s licorice that they add, but what I do get is a rich, chocolate and coffee flavor/aroma with plenty of American hop character to back it up.  Although it’s not included in the list of examples in the BJCP style guidelines, it hits all of the characteristics that a good American Stout should have.  As a final note before we get into the recipe, I like to think of this style as a ‘mini Russian Imperial Stout.’  Much like a RIS, the malt bill is almost entirely balanced with hop bitterness, with a bitterness to gravity ratio of about 1 (also called BU:GU, it is the ratio of the IBUs in a beer to the original gravity points of a beer).In my opinion, one of the key differences between this style and a Russian Imperial Stout is hop flavor and aroma, in addition to a large disparity in original gravity/IBUs.  While an RIS has a high amount of bitterness, most examples that I’ve come across haven’t had nearly the same level of American hop characteristics.  Additionally, Russian Imperial Stouts can have a lot of dark fruit flavors which may come from the use of darker crystal malts, but are not typically present in an American Stout.  Overall this beer should have a rather intense dark chocolate, coffee, roasted character balanced by a sweetness contributed by the use of medium crystal malts and finished off with a bitter, aromatic punch of American hops.

When I design a recipe, I like to first lay out my desired parameters for the beer, such as original gravity, bitterness, and a rough final gravity.  For this beer I decided to split the difference in OG for the style and shoot for 1.070, with about 70 IBUs to keep the BU:GU right where I want it.  To make this beer in the style, it needs a pretty big proportion of roasted grain – for our beer around 12%.  Splitting the roasted grain into 9% roasted barley and 3% chocolate would add the coffee and dark chocolate flavors that are so characteristic of the style.  To give the beer a bit of sweetness, we use two types of Crystal malt – 40L and 80L.  I had never used Pacific Gem hops before, but they were described as having blackberry and oak flavors which I thought would work awesomely with the beer.  In addition to the Pacific Gem, we are going to use some Cascade to keep it a bit traditional.  Fermenting it with WLP001 Cal. Ale should get it down to about 1.017, which would result in an ABV of ~7%…perfect.  The recipe:

  • 82% Briess Light LME
  • 9% Roasted Barley
  • 3% Chocolate Malt
  • 3% Crystal 40
  • 3% Crystal 80
  • 1/4 oz Cascade at 60, 15, and 0 minutes
  • 1/4 oz Pacific Gem at 60, 15, and 0 minutes
  • OG – 1.070 Estimated FG – 1.017
  • IBU 73.5
  • Est. ABV – 7.0%

We will report back after brewday and with a recipe review when it is finished.


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