Homebrew Recipe: Ras Neckbeard Tropical Stout

Key points for key pints

Sugar choice. These unrefined sugars retain a higher degree of molasses from the raw cane and will give more flavor and character to the finished beer. Look for these in the baking section of grocery stores, or in Asian or Mexican markets.

Sweetness. We want some residual sugar in there, and we’ll get it with a combo of low-attenuating yeast and high-ish mash rest temperature.

Complex dark, roasty character. This is the centerpiece of any stout. For this beer we’re going to be looking for roasty but not acrid (think mocha versus French roast served black), with some supporting notes of dark fruit and rum-like molasses. We’ll get it by layering a good dose of black malt (instead of the usual unmalted roast barley), double-roasted crystal malt, and a molasses-rich sugar as kettle adjunct.

Yeast choice. Not exactly British, but I’m opting for a steam-type lager yeast, because it can be fermented warm and won’t attenuate the heck out of the wort, leaving us with a boozy yet sappy and fat-bodied pint. It will also do its job and drop bright quickly, letting us enjoy the finished product while we still have some summer. If you want to go all-ale, Wyeast 1332 Northwest or even good old 1084 Irish would be excellent options.

Substitutes? High alpha and high cohumulone is what we want from the hops—Brewers Gold, Cluster, CTZ, or Chinook would be good, too. Simpsons Double-Roasted Crystal is brilliant at reinforcing dark sugar flavors, but if it’s unavailable use an extra-dark English crystal (90–100L).

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.

Prep

1. Make a yeast starter prior to brew day.

2. On brew day, collect strike water (I use 1.3 quarts per pound, YMMV) and heat to approximately 167°F.

3. Mill the grains, or have it done for you at the shop

Mash & sparge

1. Add all grains to strike water and mix to achieve a uniform temperature of 153–155°F. Rest the mash at this temperature for 60–90 minutes.

2. While the mash rests, collect and heat sparge water.

3. When the mash rest is complete, heat it to 170°F for mashout.

4. Sparge and collect the wort in the boil kettle.

Boil

1. Bring the wort to a boil and hum some Congos. Add 0.75 ounce Pacific Gem hops (or your choice) when the wort begins to boil, and boil for 60 minutes.

2. Add the muscovado/panela sugar at the end of the boil and stir to dissolve.

3. Cool it!

Fermentation and beyond

1. Transfer the cooled wort to a sanitized fermenter, aerate well, and pitch yeast.

2. Aim for a fermentation temp in the mid 60s°F. Watch for fermentation to slow, and incorporate a diacetyl rest (increase temp to 70°F for a day or two) if needed. Depending on yeast and temp, this step should be completed in 7–10 days.

3. Rack to a secondary fermenter and allow to condition for a 2–4 weeks, then package and carbonate.

4. Although strong enough to lay down to bring some warmth to the coming winter, this tropical stout can be enjoyed as soon as it’s carbonated, while both its sweet rum-laced mocha charms and the warm weather last.

Until next time: Drink it like you brewed it.

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