Key Points for Key Pints:
The stout: sweet. There are many paths a brewer can take to create a sweet beer—controlling yeast attenuation, adding dextrins through mash temp and/or crystal malt, additives like lactose with limited fermentability—and we’re going to use them all. Although it’s seductively easy to drink, this won’t be a subtle beer.
The roast malt character: smooooove. We could use regular black patent malt or roast barley and turn out a perfectly serviceable sweet stout—but we need to lose the astringency of conventional roast malt to make some next-level Christmas Juice, citizens (nota bene: I’m excluding Pale Chocolate malt from this ban, because its 200–300°L is a good deal paler and its profile a good deal softer). As with the de-husked Carafa malt in last month’s Schwarzbier recipe, seek out alternatives like Patagonia Perla Negra, Briess Blackprinz, or a Belgian debittered black malt.
The bitterness: also smoooove. Although we need a good dose of bitterness for balance, we’re not looking for a roundhouse kick of hops with this beer, and we don’t want to shift the perception of rich roastiness to the harsh side—“bittersweet” is what we want. Look for a higher-alpha hop variety with a low cohumulone level that’s known for smooth bitterness—Nugget or Horizon would be good choices. The recipe below gives a range of weight for the addition—if you have a sweet tooth, go on the lower end, otherwise err on the high side.
The yeast: lots. With a potential ABV of up to about 8% and a lot of unfermentable material to work around, our little guys need to be in peak fighting shape going into the carboy or bucket. Prep a yeast starter a day or two before brew day, add some nutrient to the starter wort, and stir plate ‘em if you got ‘em.
Riffing: absolutely. This recipe would take very well to some aftermarket modifications—coffee beans, vanilla beans, oak, cherries, Brett. brux, cacao nibs … go nuts!
To the homebrewery!
Note: these steps are general guidelines and assume you’re already familiar with the all-grain brewing process – refer to the instructions for your brew system, and adjust as needed based on experience with your own particular equipment.
Make a yeast starter prior to brew day—this is a big beer and will need lots of yeast!
On brew day, collect strike water (I use 1.3 quarts per pound, YMMV) and heat to approx. 165°F.
Mill the grains, or have it done for you at the shop
Mash & Sparge
Add all grains to strike water and mix to achieve a uniform temperature of 154-156°F. Rest the mash at this temperature for 60–90 minutes.
While the mash rests, collect and heat sparge water.
When the mash rest is complete, heat it to 170°F for mashout.
Sparge and collect the wort in the boil kettle.
Bring the wort to a boil and put on a Barry White record. Add 0.75 to 1 oz Nugget hops (see note, above) when the wort begins to boil, and boil for 60 minutes.
Add 1 lb lactose at the end of the boil and stir well to dissolve.
Fermentation and beyond
Transfer the cooled wort to a sanitized fermenter, aerate well, and pitch yeast.
Aim for a maximum fermentation temp in the mid to upper 60s°F. When fermentation activity begins to slow, allow the fermenter to warm up to approx. 70°F for a 2–3 day diacetyl rest. Depending on yeast health and fermentation temp, this step should be completed in about 10–12 days.
Rack to a secondary fermenter and allow to mature for a week or three prior to packaging.
This strong, sweet stout will be ready to drink as soon as carbonated, and will keep for many months in a cool, dark place.
Until next time: drink it like you brewed it.
Like this recipe? You can find it and 63 other witty and detailed homebrew recipes in Michael Dawson’s book, “Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer’s Guide to Making Great Beer at Home.” In each recipe, Dawson includes suggestions on how to modify and customize each beer, along with all-new essays on Malt, Hops, Yeast, and Water, giving readers critical insight into the building blocks of every successful brew. On sale now for $24.95 at mashmakerbook.com.
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