Brewing an Irish Stout Beer Recipe

by Brad Smith on March 14, 2008 · 24 comments

Stout Lineup

With St Patrick’s day upon us, it seemed appropriate to discuss the beer that Ireland is most famous for: Irish Stout. We’ll review the history of Irish Stout, the design of Irish Stout recipes and finish with a selection of great Irish Stout recipes for home brewing.

The History of Stout

Irish Stout traces its heritage back to Porter. As described previously in our article on the Porter Beer style, Porters were first commercially sold in the early 1730s in London and became popular in both Great Britain and Ireland.

The word Stout was first associated with beer in a 1677 manuscript, with a “stout” beer being synonymous with “strong” beer (Ref: Wikipedia). In the 1700′s the term “Stout Porter” was widely used to refer to a strong version of Porter. The famous Guinness brewery in Ireland started brewing “Stout Porter” in 1820, though they previously brewed both ales and Porters. Around 1820, Stout also began to emerge as a distinctive style, using more dark brown malt and additional hops over popular porters of the time. At around the same time, black malt was invented and put to good use in Porters and Stout Porters. (Ref: Daniels)

Throughout the 1800′s Stout continued to refer to “Strong” – therefore one could have “Stout Ales” as well as “Stout Porters”. However, by the end of the 19th century, “stout” became more closely associated only with dark Porter, eventually becoming a name for very dark beers.

Traditional stouts of the 1800′s and early 1900′s differ considerably from their modern counterparts. The characteristic Roast Barley that gives Irish stout its dry roasted taste was not widely used until the early to mid 1900′s. Some Stouts had very high gravities – 1.070 to 1.090 for many recipes from 1858 cited by Ray Daniels. They also had very high hop rates, in some cases approaching 90 IBUs.

As Pale ales and later European lagers became more popular in the 1800′s, sales of both Porter and Stout Porter declined, remaining popular in Ireland and a few other localities in the UK.

The definitive modern Irish Stout is Guinness Extra Stout. Other popular commercial stouts include Beamish Irish Stout and Murphy’s Irish Stout. Founded in 1759, Guinness brewery at St James gate in Dublin Ireland has operated continuously for over 250 years under family ownership. Guinness is a classic Irish or Dry Stout style, with a distinctive dry, almost coffee like flavor derived from Roasted Barley. Guinness is brewed in two main forms, the domestic draft version having much lower alcohol content (3.9%) than the export bottled version (6%). (Ref: Daniels)

A number of other stout styles are popular including (Russian) Imperial Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Milk Stout, Chocolate Stout. However for today, we will stick with the classic Irish Stout style.

Designing and Brewing an Irish Stout

IIrish Stoutrish Stout has an original gravity in the 1.035-1.050 range, with domestic versions being at the low end and export versions at the high end of that range. Bitterness is moderate, but must balance the strong flavor of the dark grains used. It should be hopped at a moderate rate of 1 IBU per point of OG (so a beer with 1.040 OG should have 40 IBUs). Color is an extremely dark brown that looks black in the glass – from 35-200 SRM. Traditionally Irish Stout is served at very low carbonation (1.6-2.0 volumes) and often served warm.

The key ingredient in a classic Irish Stout is Roasted Barley. Roast Barley gives Irish Stout its classic dry coffee-like flavor, deep dark color, and white foamy head. Unlike other dark malts, Roast Barley is made from unmalted barley grain that is roasted at high temperature while being lightly sprayed with water to prevent it from burning. Roast Barley is intensely dark, around 500-550 L, but amazingly the unmalted barley produces a white head on the beer as opposed to the darker head made by other malts.

In many commercial dry stouts, Roast Barley is the only specialty grain used. For a Dry Irish Stout, Roast Barley makes up around 10% of the grain bill. Those that don’t use Roast Barley will almost always used Black malt as a substitute.

Irish Stout is famously full bodied, so the second most popular ingredient is a specialty grain to enhance the body of the beer. Guinness uses Flaked Barley at a proportion of around 10% of the grain bill. Flaked Barley adds significant body and mouthfeel to the beer, but it must be mashed. If you are a malt extract brewer, crystal malt or Carapils would be a good substitute for Flaked Barley.

Many award winning all grain stout recipies also use oatmeal (6% of grain bill range) or wheat (6% range) either in place of flaked barley or as an addition to further enhance the body of the finished beer. Other popular specialty grains include black and chocolate malts, though these are used in small proportions primarily to add complexity to the flavor. (Ref: Daniels)

English pale malt (or Pale Malt Extract) makes up the bulk (60-70%) of the grain bill. For all-grain brewers, a medium to full bodied mash profile is desirable. A single step infusion mash is sufficient for well modified English malts. Conversion mash temperatures in the 153-156 F range are appropriate.

The most popular Irish Stout hops by far is East Kent Goldings, though other English hops such as Fuggle, Challenger, Northdown and Target. American varieties such as Cascade are sometimes used by American microbreweries. Traditionally a single hop addition is made at the beginning of the boil for bitterness. Hop aroma is not a significant factor, so aroma hops are rarely added to Irish Stout.

Irish Ale yeast is traditionally used in Irish Stout. An ideal yeast would yield an attenuation around 76% for dryness, but many Irish ale yeasts yield a lower attenuation. Some brewers select neutral yeasts with a higher attenuation to achieve a drier flavor profile. London and Whitbread yeasts are also popular choices.

Some Irish Stout recipes, including Guinness use a small amount of soured beer to add a little extra bite and flavor. To make soured beer, pull a small amount from the unfermented wort and let it naturally sour over several days by leaving it exposed to air. Boil the sour beer sterilize it thoroughly and then cool it and add it to your fermenter well before bottling.

Finally, few stout fans will forget the smooth creamy head that a draft pint of Guinness has on it. The secret is that Guinness on tap is not served under CO2 alone, but has a mix of CO2 and nitrogen. The nitrogen gives it the extra creamy long lasting head. You can serve kegged beer with nitrogen and CO2 at home, but it requires a separate tank of nitrogen in addition to a tank of CO2 and also a special “stout tap” to mix the gas when serving.

Irish Stout Recipes

Here are some sample recipes of Irish Stouts, as well as a few other Stout styles thrown in for variety:

All Grain Irish Stout Recipes:

Extract Irish Stout Recipes:

Happy St Patrick’s Day! Hopefully you have enjoyed this article on the classic Irish Stout. Please keep your ideas and comments coming and don’t hesitate to subscribe to our blog using the subscription links on the left sidebar.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Mitch171 September 25, 2009 at 12:31 pm

The stout faucet does not mix the gas, you get a tank of gas that is blended ~25%CO2 and ~75% Nitrogen. The stout faucet allows for a high pressure dispensing that creates the cascade and micro foam head.

rrochon April 15, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Making 5 gal Irish Stout from a canned malt, will adding 10% rolled barley make the beer more creamy tasting? And is it possible to add amalyse to the mix to convert complex carbohydrates to sugar for more complete fermentation to produce a low carb stout?

admin April 18, 2010 at 9:51 am

Yes – I suppose adding amalyse will increase the conversion. However you might want to consider that the draft Guinness has a low starting gravity of around 1.036, so it (surprisingly) is not a high calorie beverage. One could probably cut the percentage of flaked barley down and create a fairly low gravity stout with taste similar to Guinness.

rrochon May 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Hi,

I have read about adding quick rolled oats to stout mash to increase smoothness and creamyness. Also that adding rolled barley to the mash gives stability to the head.

Does the barley also give the creamyness to the stout, so I would not need to add both?

Also, I notice that it is recommended to cook the oats before adding, and that the quick oats have been gelatinized for better fermenting. Since the barley is not “quick”, so not gelatinized, would it need to be cooked to add it’s qualities?

And finally, would it be better to blend the grains into flour?

Thanks for any help. You may want to post this to the on your site for the benefit of your readers, but can you also email me directly?

Thanks again.

Richard

admin May 29, 2010 at 8:33 am

Richard – Yes you can use oats to add smoothness and creaminess, but in an Irish Stout they are typically used sparingly. They are more commonly used in oatmeal stouts or big imperial stouts. The flaked barley does add a large amount of protein and body to the beer in my recipe – which gives you something close to that original Irish Stout mouthfeel.

When adding oats, yes, I believe you should consider cooking them, allthough I think you can use instant oatmeal without cooking. I don’t recall the exact details here (its been a while since I used oats) but I’m sure someone else can chime in here.

bmarchand January 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm

While I enjoyed your article on Irish Stouts, I believe you may be mistaken on a few points:

1. The “Extra Stout” version of Guinness is strictly an overseas export product that is generally not sold in Ireland. There, and elsewhere in the area, the main version is Guinness “Draught”. “Extra Stout” was developed because the folks at Guinness discovered that the Draught version does not travel well. So to say that Guinness “Extra Stout” is the definitive Irish stout doesn’t seem all that accurate considering they don’t really sell it in Ireland.

2. While I can’t speak with certainty for how stouts were served traditionally, to say that Guinness should be served “warm” is misleading at best. Guinness recommends that their stout be serves at around 6-degrees Celsius, or about 42-degrees Fahrenheit. This may be warmer than most Americans serve their beer, but it’s a far cry from “warm.”

3. Throughout the tour I recently took of the factory at St. James Gate, not once did I hear a mention of Guinness using sour beer in their batches. They do use a yeast starter from a previous batch, but that’s not the same. If you have evidence that Guinness does add soured beer, please be so kind as to let me know what it is. I would find it most interesting to know one way or another.

Aside from those points, it was a fine article. Thank you for all your hard work.

Blessings,

Brian

cary January 30, 2012 at 11:05 am

A lesson learned. Don’t mash your roasted barley. Instead, steep your barley in a grain bag before your boil. Mashing roasted barley gives a highly astringent flavor to your beer. Assuming you just want the color, steeping for about 20 minutes @ 140F should give great stout coloration without sacrificing flavor.

Denis April 19, 2012 at 10:58 am

I’m thinking of brewing an irish stout as my next batch. I have a large amount of pilsner malt and very little pale ale malt. What would be the greatest difference in the overall beer if I used the pilsner instead of the pale ale?

Thanks.

PS: I always read this articles about recipe design when designing my beers. They help a lot! =)

Brad Smith April 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm

It may not have a huge impact on flavor as the roast malt will dominate, but it may have a bit less body than a typical pale malt based stout.

Brian July 19, 2012 at 10:20 pm

I just did a half-batch Irish Dry Stout based on the first recipe linked in this article. For $10 and an afternoon in the kitchen (vs. in the garage with my “full” batch setup) it was easy and enjoyable. I wish I’d read the comments first, especially cary’s, as I just mashed everything at 154F instead of steeping the roasted barley. I’m no expert in dark beers anyway, I’ve only brewed APAs and IPAs until today. I hit all my numbers just right, I’m looking forward to finding out how it finishes so I can decide how to tweak it for a full batch down the road. Thanks for a great article!

Roland September 7, 2012 at 11:04 am

I’ve had lots of trouble with recipes almost exactly like this. The problem is stuck runoff. I’ve used rice hulls in the past, but nobody seems to carry them anymore. Believe me, I’ve looked. Since rice hulls are bulky and weigh almost nothing, this is understandable. Rice hulls are available in bulk for other uses (backyard pool supplies), but I don’t think they are “food grade”, i.e. they may be treated in various ways. I understand that Guiness uses mashing equipment equipped with rubber bladders and a lid to force the runoff. Has anyone dealt with this? Any design ideas for a 5gal. bucket mash tun that can be slightly pressurized? Any other ideas to deal with a stuck runoff? Pouring the mash into another bucket, mixing, and pouring back, then trying again, only works briefly. Total PITA.

Brad Smith September 12, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I’ve not had a lot of problems with this style, but certainly it has high body and could get stuck. If you do a search here on the BeerSmith blog you will find an article I wrote specifically on handling a stuck mash.

infection February 23, 2013 at 4:06 am

I do consider all of the ideas you have presented to your post.

They’re very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for beginners. May you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

William R August 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Hey Brad, I heard that to maximize extraction from roasted barley one should finely grind it into a powder using a coffee grinder or similar device. Does this only apply to roasted barley or can other grains be treated in this manner?

William R August 19, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Hey Brad, with the roasted barley I’ve heard it is beneficial to finely grind it into a powder before adding to the mash. Is this only for roasted barley or can other “steeping” grains be treated in this manner? Thanks.

Ios Greece March 9, 2014 at 5:37 pm

how can you get a chocolate flavour from the stout?

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