In the following article, I will delve into the world of a style of beer that has become extremely popular around the world, especially in seasons where low temperatures invite us to drink darker beers with high levels of alcohol and a lot of body.
We are talking, of course, about the Stout beer!
Let’s take a quick look at what Stout beer actually is, and then I will list the best grains, hops, adjuncts, and yeast, you should use to successfully brew a good stout, and I will also cover a lot more useful information.
So, without any further ado, let’s get started!
What is a Stout beer?
The Stout beer emerged in London at the beginning of the 18th century as an offshoot of the Porter family of beers. It quickly became a very popular style thanks to the fact that it was a cheap, dark beer, made with easily available malt and that it also benefited from the hard water profile that prevailed in the area.
If we focus on the technical characteristics of the style, we find that the Stout in general has a coffee aroma with secondary notes of chocolate, with hops being an almost absent ingredient.
In appearance, it has a dark brown and opaque color, with a cinnamon-colored foam (almost coffee-like) that is thick and creamy. It has a moderate roasted grain flavor, a high bitterness profile, and is also considered to be a dry beer (lack of sweetness).
Best Grains for Stout Beer
According to the BJCP style guide, the stout family is roughly divided into two styles: On the one hand, we have the Irish stout, which is a dark beer with a pronounced roasted flavor, often similar to coffee.
The bitterness balance can range from fairly even to quite bitter, with the more balanced versions having a bit of malty sweetness, and the bitter versions being quite dry. The best-known commercial style of this type of stout is Guinness.
Then we have the Irish extra stout, which is characterized by having higher roasted aroma attributes, a full body, and a higher alcohol percentage.
On the other hand, we find the British stout that usually has sweeter notes thanks to the use of lactose and other sugars such as maltodextrin and which is not such a bitter beer when compared to the ones previously mentioned. It’s also common to see the use of adjuncts such as oats in this style (oatmeal stout).
As for the grains used, we always have Pale Ale malt as a base, an addition of dark caramel to give sweetness and complexity of flavors, and not least the use of roasted barley or chocolate malts which will give us the characteristic color and roasted notes.
Below is a list of the most commonly used grains and their percentages:
- Pale ale malt: 55-75%.
- Roasted grains: 10%.
- Caramel malts: 2-10%
- Chocolate malts: 2-10%
- Adjuncts: 3-6% (oats, wheat, lactose, maltodextrin)
- Oats: being low in starch and high in fat and protein, Oats add creaminess and smoothness to the beer.
- Malted wheat: provides grain flavor, stability, and foam retention
- Flaked corn: increases fermentable sugar content without adding flavor or color.
- Barley flakes: provides foam retention.
What gives Stout beer its characteristic color?
The characteristic dark color of the stout styles and many others is given to it by the roasted malts, which once malted go through a baking process in which they are exposed for 20-40 minutes to temperatures between 120 and 200 degrees Celsius.
This process eliminates the fermentable sugars from the grain but preserves the enzymes so that we can only use them to extract their color, chocolate and roasted flavor.
Most used hops in Stout Beers
Stout Beers don’t generally have hops as their main protagonist, contrary to something like IPA beers. Hops are mostly used to add bitterness to stouts, but that’s about it since you don’t want to impart any hoppy flavor or aromas to it.
|Name||Taste and Aroma||Utility||% Alpha||% Beta||Substitutes||Beer Style|
|Bullion||Herbal, spicy||Bitterness||6.5-9||5.5-6.5||Galena chinook||Irish stout, porters,esb|
|calypso||Earthy, fruity||Aroma and bitterness||12-14||5-6||cascade||Stout, barley wine|
|challenger||Herbal, floral||Aroma and bitterness||6.5-8.5||4.4-5||PerleNorth brew||Porter, stout, esb|
|chinook||Citrus, resin||Aroma and bitterness||10-14||3.5||Nugget, columbus||Ipa, stout, porter|
|columbus||Herbal, spicy||Aroma and bitterness||11-16||5.5||Ctz, tomahawk||Ipa, pale ale, stout|
|galena||Herbal, fruity||Bitterness||10-14||7-9||Comet, summit||Porter, stout, esb|
|magnum||Citrus, herbal||Bitterness||13-15||4.5-5.5||Galena, horizon||Lagers, pilsen, stout|
|summit||citrico||Bitterness||17-19||3.5-4.5||simcoe||Ipa, stout, pale ale|
|warrior||Herbal, citrus||Aroma and bitterness||15-17||4.3-6||Columbus, nugget||Pale ale, stout|
|willamette||Earthy, floral||Flavour and aroma||3.5-6||3-4||Fuggle, kent golding||Pale ale, esb, stout|
Best Hops to Generate Bitterness in a Stout Beer
Best Hops to Generate Aroma in a Stout Beer
When to add Hops
There are different hopping techniques used throughout the brewing process, each with its own rationale, pros, and cons.
Below is a detailed list with the most commonly used ones going from the beginning to the end of the process.
- Mash hop: one of the oldest techniques where fresh hops were used to add flavor and aroma. Nowadays it is not really used anymore because it wastes most of the hops’ properties.
- First wort hop: addition of hops in the boiling pot during the grain filtering process. According to several studies, adding hops at this time generates a more pleasant bitterness.
- Addition of bitterness during the boil: The optimum moment to isomerize the largest amount of Alpha-Acids possible is at 60′ of boiling, in this way we are taking advantage of and optimizing the bittering qualities of the hops to the maximum.
- Addition of bitterness, aroma, and flavor: by making the hops addition between 40′ and 25′ before the end of the boil, the aromatic, bitterness, and flavor characteristics of the hops are equally taken advantage of, which is why balanced varieties are generally used.
- Addition of aroma during the boil: this addition is made 10 minutes before the end of the boil since a large part of the essential oils are solubilized and retained in the wort, providing a great aroma.
- Hop stand: once the boil is finished, the temperature of the wort is lowered to approximately 80/90 degrees, and the hops are added while the whirlpool is done. This technique extracts all the qualities of the hops, but especially aroma since the least amount of aromatic compounds are volatilized.
- Hot dry hopping: this addition takes place inside the fermenter in the first 24 hours of the main fermentation starting or during the last moments of fermentation, or when the attenuation is at around 60%. This way, we get the most amount of flavor and aroma out of the hops since all the compounds are retained inside the tank and the aroma compounds are not volatilized. A great advantage of this method is that the yeast is still in action, so it will process any oxygen particles that may have entered during dry hopping.
- Cold dry hopping: it has recently been discovered that this is the way in which the aromatic compounds are best exploited without generating any bitterness. The hops must be added to the fermenter during the cold maturation stage, which makes the beer quite prone to oxidation and contamination, so special care must be taken.
Taking into account each of these addition techniques, it is worth noting that for stout styles we will only need to extract bitterness and not so much flavor and aroma since our purpose is to achieve balance in our beer, and hops should not be the main protagonist.
Quantities to be used
As we’ve seen throughout this article, the vast majority of stout styles only take advantage of hop bitterness.
Having said that, the most advisable thing to do is to calculate the IBU corresponding to each style and for the type of hops that we are going to use.
It should be clarified that the best time to make the addition is at the beginning of the boil because that is when we extract the maximum possible bitterness.
In general, English and Irish styles, such as Irish stout, oatmeal stout, or sweet stout, use British Ale yeasts, while American styles, such as imperial stout or American stout, tend to use American Ale yeast.
These styles of yeast ferment at temperatures of 19-23 degrees and are of the top-fermenting type as they begin their cycle on the surface of the wort and, once their work is done, they settle to the bottom.
What is IBU and what does it represent?
The IBU (International Bitterness Unit) is a value that quantifies the bitterness of beer. It represents the amount of dissolved alpha-acids in the beer, so 1 IBU is equivalent to 1 milligram of alpha-acid per liter of beer.
Something very important to take into account when calculating this is the time of addition of the hops, as the optimum time to extract all the bitterness possible is at 60 minutes of boiling them. However, if what we want is to take advantage of the aromas, the addition should be done 10 minutes before the end of the boil.
In essence, the longer the hops are boiled, the more bitterness they generate, and since bitterness is the main characteristic we want to extract from the hops when brewing a Stout beer, you should aim to boil the hops for at least 60 minutes.
That said, how do you calculate IBU?
This would be very simple to do if you just take into account the Alpha Acid content that a hop variety has and how much of it is added to the beer, and then simply calculate the IBU using the number of liters left after the boil and the number of grams of AA according to the percentage of AA of that specific hop, but this isn’t the most accurate way.
If we want to make a more accurate calculation, we must calculate the amount of AA that is isomerized in the wort, and for this, we must add to the equation the utilization coefficient.
To measure this coefficient, the most commonly used method is the one created by Randy Mosher (See the graph below): It is a graph where different curves show how boiling time affects bitterness, aroma, and flavor, and when those hops additions should be made in order to extract those characteristics.
IBU of the different types of Stout Beer:
- Irish stout: 25-45
- Extra irish stout: 35-50
- Sweet stout: 25-40
- Tropical stout: 30-50
- Oatmeal stout: 25-40
- Imperial stout: 50-70
The stout is a classic beer that was able to penetrate markets around the world thanks to its high drinkability and its characteristic notes of coffee and chocolate.
To achieve a balanced beer, with good color and without unwanted flavors, it is very important to plan in advance the moments of addition of dark malts.
These can be during the recirculation or washing of the grain, or by cold mashing prior to cooking (cold mash).
Frequently Asked Questions
What hops to use in Imperial Stout? According to the style guide, any type of hop can be used. It is best to use one with a high percentage of Alpha Acids to reduce the vegetable matter and to reach the high IBU levels (50-70).
What hops to use in American Stout? For this style, you should use American hops in which citrus and resinous flavors and aromas predominate (citra, mosaic, chinook).
Which hops to use in Oatmeal Stout? In this beer style, hops are only needed for adding bitterness, so we can use any type of hops, but it is recommended to choose one with a high percentage of Alpha-Acids.