Irish Stout – Recipe & Review

Drinking Guinness at St. James's Gate

An early sighting of this Pour Reporter at St. James’s Gate way back in 2003.

Update 4/2/2017 – This beer placed 3rd in the first round of the National Homebrew Competition and will be moving on to the final round at Homebrew Con in Minneapolis.

Back in the day, I remember feeling a certain bravado and sense  of sophistication when ordering a pint of Guinness.

It’s dark! It’s so thick! Look at the head and those bubbles!

Today I consider Guinness the bunny hill of craft beer slopes. But back then, it was GUINNESS. It was different, so much older than the American macro lager I was accustomed to. Something with flavor. Something exotic. Something authentic. In spite of the feelings I have today, Guinness will always invoke a sense of nostalgia and serve as a delicious reminder of when I first started exploring the world of beer.

Somewhat ironically, I had always thought of Guinness a filling beer, something thick. Only with age and beery wisdom, have I come to see it as something quite the opposite. A session beer that happens to have tons of flavor without imposing heavy caloric tariffs on my waste line or alcoholic ones on my liver. So in honor of St. Patrick’s day, an homage to one of my earliest beers of choice. This version has a bit more roast character, but I think it is on par in sessionability and deliciousness to the original Irish Stout.

Irish Stout

Don’t let the snifter fool you, this is a beer built for sessionability.

Irish Stout Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 72%
Attenuation: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.047
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 32.8 SRM
Alcohol: 4.2% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 37.3 IBU

Malt Bill:
4.25 lbs. (69.4%) Crisp Maris Otter
1.0 lb. (16.3%) Briess Flaked Barley
6 oz. (6.1%) Muntons Roasted Barley
4 oz. (4.1%) Thomas Fawcett Chocolate Malt
4 oz. (4.1%) Briess Midnight Wheat

Mash Profile:
150°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2 g. Gypsum (to mash)
5 g. Chalk (to mash)

1 oz. East Kent Goldings (5.1% AA) – 60m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea. Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5 tsp. Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 15B Irish Stout

Aroma (8/12):
Moderately high aroma of roasted malts, with some complexity including notes of dry baker’s chocolate, coffee, and a touch (perhaps too much) of ashy and smoky roast. The roast is somewhat aggressive and pushes the upper end of the style limit. Beyond the roast is a very nice bready, slightly sweet malt component that is quite inviting, like baking bread. No crystal sweetness, hop character, or fermentation esters.

Appearance (3/3):
Quite black, although if you hold the edge of the glass to the light you see some very dark ruby notes. Large, soapy bubbles build a nice persistent tan head.

Flavor (17/20):
The roasted flavor is a bit less than the nose would have hinted at, but has a nice round baker’s chocolate character. The roast is quite drying on the tongue. There are some pleasant toasty malt flavors, but the beer is devoid of any sweet caramel or toffee character. There is a firm medium-plus bitterness that leaves the palate quite dry, especially when combined with the roast.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
Medium body with a nice fullness that avoids being too filling. The mouthfeel is pretty exceptional considering the low starting gravity of this beer. There is a slightly acidic tang that brightens the palate and gives the beer a bit more personality.

Overall Impression (7/10):
The is a great iteration of Irish Stout; though it pushes the upper limit of roast that I would expect in this style, especially when compared to a macro commercial example like Guinness. The roast has a slight acrid note that I’d prefer didn’t exist in the beer and probably could be eliminated by choosing a different maltster, other than Muntons for the roasted barley.

Excellent (40/50)

Dry Irish Stout Homebrew Recipe & Review

_DSC2168Update: This beer was awarded 1st place in combined categories 14&15 at Homebrew Alley X.

One of the great session beers in the world, Irish Stout is often maligned as being thick, heavy, chewy, sweet, and high in alcohol. This is a really interesting phenomenon as I see the style as being quite the opposite. For me, it is a low-alcohol session beer that has quite a bit of interesting roast character and enough flaked barley to keep the mouthfeel from being too thin.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit and am convinced that that the root of the problem has to do with the fact that it is typically the adventurous choice made by the typical non-craft drinker. In comparison to a beer like Bud Light, I would certainly agree that it is the heavier option. More so, I think a lot of the misconception in regard to Irish Stout has to do with the fact that the beer is nearly black–something that many people psychologically associate with something being heavy.

The basis of this recipe is the heavily cited clone recipe for Guinness Stout. The main change I implemented was in the overall composition of the roasted malts. I’ve used English ale strains for this beer in the past, but have found that American Ale yeast works even better, providing a clean fermentation character while being more attenuative.

Dry Irish Stout Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 60%
Attenuation: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.046
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 37.31 SRM
Alcohol: 4.53% ABV
Bitterness: 41.7 IBU

Malt Bill:
5 lb (69.0%) Crisp Maris Otter
1.25 lb (17.2%) Barley Flaked
8 oz (6.9%) Crisp Roasted Barley
4 oz (3.4%) Crisp Chocolate
4 oz (3.4%) Briess Midnight Wheat

Mash Profile:
152°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
Added to mash:
2g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
5g Chalk (Calcium Carbonate)

36g East Kent Goldings (5.7% AA) – 60m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10m

Wyeast 1056 American Ale – 1L Starter on Stir Plate

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 13A. Dry Stout

Aroma (10/12):
Medium-low roast character that is dry and toasty while being reminiscent of coffee with a hint of bitter chocolate. Behind the roast are some nice bready and slightly toasty notes. No diacetyl, DMS, alcohol, or other off-aromas.

Appearance (2/3):
Just a shade lighter than black with some reddish ruby highlights. Clear. Great frothy foam with a beige head (white is typical to style).

Flavor (15/20):
Medium level of roast with lots of coffee notes and just a touch of acrid and burnt character. Very low levels of chocolate flavor. Malt is nice and toasty. Hop bitterness is medium-low with a very smooth character. No hop flavor. The finish is quite dry. Slightly acidic / tart twang on the finish.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Low body with a full creamy mouthfeel. Dry. Just a touch of roasty astringency on the finish.

Overall Impression (7/10):
This is a really nice Irish stout. There is a touch of acidity from the roast which balances out the smooth mouthfeel provided by the flaked barley. Very sessionable and dry, but also intriguing with its nuanced roast character.

Excellent (38/50)


Parabola Clone Review

Over a year ago, I took a shot at brewing a clone of Firestone Walker’s Parabola. According to Firestone Walker, Parabola is characterized by:

Bold bourbon, tobacco and espresso aromas and a hint of American oak greet the nose. Rich, chewy roasted malts, charred oak and bourbon-like vanilla fill the palate and create a seamless finish.

The recipe was derived from a combination of information compiled from Firestone Walker’s website, and my own tasting notes. Unfortunately, my beer missed the spec pretty badly in terms of fermentability. That said, it is still a pretty nice beer.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 22C. Wood Aged Beer.

Half of the batch was aged with Larceny (wheated bourbon) soaked oak. Half of the batch was aged with Rittenhouse Rye soaked oak.

Half of the batch was aged with Larceny (wheated bourbon) soaked oak with the rest aged on Rittenhouse Rye soaked oak. The overall differences between the two batches were extremely subtle with the Larceny exhibiting slightly more caramelly notes, and the Rye version showcasing a subtle background spicy note.

Aroma (8/12):
Initially there is a impression of sweet vanilla oakiness. Additionally there is a mellow roasty character with notes of bittersweet cocoa  and a slight hint of coffee. Roasty impression increases as the beer warms in the glass. Under the roast is a caramelly toffee malt character. A slight hint of oxidized malt (dried cherry, fig) gives a hint to the beer’s age. Below the vanilla oakiness is an aroma of raw sawdust that hints at the oak cubes which were used. Some warm alcohol is apparent.

Appearance (3/3):
Jet black with a low tan head consisting of tight bubbles that persist. Beer pours with a readily apparent viscosity.

Flavor (10/20):
Flavors are round and fill the mouth with intensity. Heavy amounts of roasted coffee are apparent as is a substantial amount of chocolatey roast malt. Creamy and smooth with only a hint of hot alcohol. Bitterness is high but balanced against a high level of residual sweetness. There are some pleasant burnt sugar toffee flavors on the finish. A bit too sweet and filling to be drinkable in any quantity more than 8-10 ounces.

Mouthfeel (2/5):
This is a huge beer with a luscious mouth-coating viscosity. Carbonation is medium. Roast character is slightly astringent.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This is a massive beer that falls short in terms of balance compared to its inspiration, Parabola. The bourbon and oak character in Parabola is much more integrated and rich, whereas the oak in this beer comes off a bit artificial tasting. This beer is like a  big, rich chocolate milkshake – luscious, but only consumable in restrained quantities. Additional attenuation would be a welcome addition to this beer.

(28/50) – Good


Firestone Walker Parabola Clone Attempt

My Parabola clone fermenting side-by-side my King Henry clone.

My Parabola clone explosively fermenting away.

One of the greatest things about homebrewing is that it enables you to dissect commercial beers and make your own attempts at brewing beers of a similar nature. Precise replication is rare, even when you’re working from a proven recipe, but the exercise in itself is enjoyable, and the beers typically turn out quite tasty.

Back in 2011, I was inspired to take a shot at cloning Firestone Walker’s Parabola, and posted a quickly cobbled together recipe on HomebrewTalk. Now, a couple years later I’ve finally gotten around to taking a shot at it.

The recipe below was put together while carefully tasting the commercial beer and reading through the information published on both bottles of Parabola and on Firestone Walker’s website. The information that is out there indicates a very complex malt bill; something that makes determining the precise percentages of each malt somewhat of a shot in the dark. That being said, I’ve based the recipe on typical uses of those grains and what I’ve been able to taste in the commercial beer. The actual brewday was quite uneventful, and the beer is happily fermenting away. My plan is to transfer it onto oak in secondary and to let it rest until next April, which happens to coincide with the annual commercial release of Parabola. Stay tuned for future posts reviewing the beer and indicating how close this recipe replicates the commercial beer.


Size: 2.74 gal
Efficiency: 60%
Attenuation: 73.0%

Original Gravity: 1.127 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.034 SG (projected)
Color: 53.12 SRM
Alcohol: 12.42% ABV
Bitterness: 79.6 IBUs

10.5 lb (64.1%) Maris Otter (Crisp)
1.75 lb (10.7%) Munich TYPE II (Weyermann)
14 oz (5.3%) Chocolate (Crisp)
8 oz (3.1%) Roast Barley (Crisp)
8 oz (3.1%) Carafa Special® TYPE III (Weyermann)
12 oz (4.6%) Flaked Oats (Briess)
8 oz (3.1%) Carahell® (Weyermann)
8 oz (3.1%) Crystal 120 (Crisp)
8 oz (3.1%) Crystal 45 (Crisp)

22 g Columbus (15.0% AA) – boiled 60 m
1/2 tablet Whirlfloc – boiled 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – boiled 10 m
1 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker (4.5% AA) – Whirlpool Rest 15m

Fermentis Safale US-05

148 °F – 60m
170.0 °F – 10m

1. Chill to 62°F and keep at 64°F until activity slows
2. Raise temp to 72°F 3 days
3. Crash to 32°F 3 days

Split into 1-gallon vessels with oak soaked in bourbon.

Vessel 1: 0.25 oz. American Heavy Toast + 2oz. Larceny Wheated Bourbon
Vessel 2: 0.25 oz. American Heavy Toast + 2oz. Rittenhouse Rye 101


The beer has unfortunately stopped fermenting at 1.044. The taste is quite nice and is by no means cloying. The high gravity however makes me slightly nervous as my eventual plan is to bottle condition the beer. I pulled a sample and preformed a force ferment test on it. The force ferment test confirms that there is no residual fermentable sugars left in the beer. Next round, I will likely lower the mash temperature and decrease the crystal malts to achieve a more fermentable wort. In the mean time, this beer tastes quite good and is aging on bourbon soaked oak cubes.

Founders Breakfast Stout Review

Founders Breakfast Stout

Breakfast in a Glass

The Pacific Northwest is home to a rich craft brewing tradition, offering a wealth of world-class beers made both locally and available through distribution channels.  While living there, I was spoiled. That being said, a beer geek cannot help but hear about beers available elsewhere and dream about the day he’ll get to try them. For myself, and I’m sure other west coasters, Founders Breakfast Stout is one of these forbidden fruits. As I drove across the country I had the chance to stop at Founders in Grand Rapids, MI and sample many of their fine beers. Alas, there was no Breakfast Stout to be had (at the time), but I knew once I hit NYC, I’d have ready access to this great brew.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 9/6/12 at Key Foods in Park Slope, Brooklyn. $12.99 / 12 oz. 4 pack
Availability: Now through February in NYC (according to Founders’ website)
Bottle Date: 8/2/12
Alcohol: 8.3% ABV

Commercial Description from Website:

The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Sticking your nose into the glass is like walking through a great coffee roasting house. Strong aromas of cold pressed coffee leap from the glass.  The coffee isn’t burnt or acrid, but rather smooth and nutty, with a light fruitiness (almost a tang), and a roast similar to a good dark chocolate. The oats come across toasted, almost like an oatmeal cookie. Cacao nibs meld nicely with the coffee, leaving an impression of chocolate covered espresso beans. Alcohol is present and becomes more so as the beer warms.   11 / 12

Appearance: Jet black with a slightly viscous pour.  The head is composed of tiny bubbles which dissipate fairly quickly into a ring that alludes to the head that was once present.   2 / 3

Flavor: Bittersweet chocolate or cocoa is rounded out by a medium level of sweetness, which keeps it from being harsh. Some malt flavors of rich brown bread crust and toffee sit in the background, reminding you that this is still very much a beer. Coffee is apparent, but not nearly as heavy as the aroma would lead you to expect and is somewhat masked by the roasty chocolate notes.  17 / 20

Mouth Feel: Medium body that is considerably less heavy than many commercial imperial stouts. Oats give an almost oily impression in the mouth. There is a very firm hop bitterness that combines with roast to clean up the finish and give the impression of dryness. Bitterness leaves you wanting a little more body or residual sweetness for balance. 3 / 5

Overall Impression: As a coffee lover, I really enjoyed this beer. The coffee and chocolate components are well-integrated and meld nicely with the malt’s light toffee and toasty flavors. The bitterness could be dialed back a touch to leave the impression of a richer beer. The alcohol is very smooth with a hint of warming that reminds you you’re drinking a big beer. 8 / 10

Score: 41 / 50 (Outstanding)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 21A Spice / Herb / Vegetable Beer (Imperial Stout with Coffee).