Beer Tasting: Session Stout

stoutI’ve had this beer on tap for about a month; it has been really enjoyable!

Session Stout

  • The Basics
    • 1.042 s.g., 1.012 f.g., 3.9% abv, 31 IBU, 42 SRM
  •  Appearance
    • Clear, black beer, with a fine tan head that is moderately persistent. It looks awesome!
  • Aroma
    • The aroma has a prominent roasted character, with a tiny hint of chocolate behind that.
  • Flavor
    • The beer has a forward roasted/slightly burnt character with a dark coffee tone, as expected from the roast barley. The hop bitterness is smooth, in the background behind the malt.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The beer is fairly light bodied with moderate carbonation. The finish is dry, but smooth.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I think so! It’s a very drinkable beer, both in terms of its flavor/mouthfeel as well as the low alcohol. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. If I were to make any minor changes, I would probably up the body just a little (it can tend to slightly thin after awhile). I might also experiment with a version that has more chocolate malt, to richen the  profile and make it a bit more complex than just roast barley.
  • Overall
    • 8/10

Session Stout

The past few months have been exceedingly packed for a variety of reasons, and so I’ve had little time to brew and even less time to blog! Here is a quick report on an Irish-like stout I brewed up around a month ago.

The intention for this recipe was to create an Irish-like stout; note that I say “Irish-like” because I didn’t go completely authentic with all ingredients. I also wanted something that was fairly low in alcohol and quite drinkable. Thus, I aimed for something <4.5% abv and fairly dry.

The recipe is modified (slightly) from a recipe in Jennifer Talley’s Session Beers book.

Session Stout

  • 6.46 lb. 2-row malt (Rahr)
  • 1 lb. flaked barley
  • 0.75 oz. roasted barley (Bairds)
  • 4.2 oz. black malt (Bairds)
  • 3 oz. chocolate malt (Briess)
  • 1 oz. pale chocolate malt (Crisp)
  • 4 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.5 oz. Warrior hops (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Irish ale yeast, prepared in 0.75L starter

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 152°. Batch sparge.
  • Claremont tap water.
  • 1.043 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.2% abv, 31 IBU, 42 SRM, 5 gallons into fermenter


  • I mashed in with 2.83 gallons of water at 162°, to hit a target temperature of 151°.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 1.65 gallons of water at 185° for the first batch sparge, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected first runnings. Then, I added 3.5 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.5 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.037. To this, I added 0.25 gallons of RO water to bring the volume up to 6.75 gallons.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding hops and other ingredients at the times indicated in the recipes.
  • After flame-out and chilling, I aerated while transferring into the primary fermenter.
  • Starting gravity was 1.042, and I fermented at 67°. The beer was brewed on 9 October 2017.
  • I kegged this beer on 2 November 2017. The yeast had settled into a nice dense cake at the bottom of the fermenter.
  • Final gravity was 1.012, for 3.9% abv. This was pretty close to my target, so I’m happy. I force carbonated at high pressure with a little bit of shaking, and was drinking the beer within a day after kegging.
  • In my initial tasting, this beer pretty much hits all the notes I wanted. It’s a highly drinkable Irish-type stout with a good bit of flavor. I think this will be a good beer to kick off fall!

Beer Tasting: Red Star Imperial Stout

More than two months after brewing and about 5 weeks after kegging, I wanted to do a taste-test of my imperial stout. This tasting was done prior to our club competition, so as to not bias my opinion on it one way or another. In the competition itself, it was at the top for the homebrewed entries, although just barely! A two year old entry from another club member was just behind mine in the overall scoring.

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.098; final gravity = 1.031; abv = 9.1%; estimated IBU = 66.5.
  • Aroma
    • Aroma is rich and moderately roasty, with a faint earthy note and a very slight alcohol tinge in the background. As the beer warms up, the booziness comes a little more to the forefront, but is not overwhelming. The aroma is rich enough that it blows out the smell receptors pretty quickly. I don’t pick up any level of fruitiness.
  • Appearance
    • This beer is black, or a rich chocolate brown when viewed at an angle. The head is low, thin, and brown, which rapidly subsides to a ring around the edge of the glass. This bit of head is pretty persistent, though.
  • Flavor
    • Flavor-wise, this beer has a prominent malt character that is distinctly roasty (coffee-like) and a tad burnt on the finish. As the beer warms up, I get some chocolate notes, too. There is a tinge of alcohol heat, but that is definitely in the background. This is balanced against a hefty dose of bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This beer has really great body, and a slightly creamy feel on the tongue. The finish is medium-dry, with a lingering roasty finish. It has maybe a touch more bitterness on the extended finish than I care for, but this is fairly minor in the overall beer. Carbonation is moderate and seems appropriate for the style.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This beer turned out pretty well, particularly for a “big” style that I haven’t attempted previously. For what it is (imperial stout), it’s a pretty good beer. I’m missing out on a bit of the malt complexity in the flavor (I think), but that also could be my unrefined palate. Attenuation seems spot on–I was worried this might have underattenuated or ended up a bit cloying, but that is definitely not the case. So would I brew this again? Sure, I think it’s a pretty good recipe, although not so exceptional that I wouldn’t try others, too. I’ll be curious to see how that assessment changes as the beer ages. I also should say I don’t see myself making imperial stouts that often–I just don’t care for “big” beers, and it’s a lot of effort for a beer that I’m only moderately interested in (even if I think it tastes pretty decent).
  • Overall score: 7/10

Beer Tasting: The Celtic Elk Stout

My Irish stout (“The Celtic Elk Stout”) has been on tap for a few weeks now, and is definitely ready for a tasting.

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.048; final gravity = 1.018; abv = 3.9%; estimated IBU = 36
  • Aroma
    • Strong and ever-so-slightly sweet coffee aroma, with a roasty chocolate note behind it. 
  • Appearance
    • Clear as near as I can tell, but pitch-black in the glass. When you hold it up to the light, you can glimpse a dark brown color with a red tinge to it, but that’s only if you have the thinnest sliver of beer against strong backlight. The head is dark tan and thin, with a fine texture and good retention.
  • Flavor
    • This beer has a very coffee-like quality, in terms of being quite roasty in flavor with a bitter finish (more from the barley than the hops, though, in terms of the bitterness character).
  • Mouthfeel
    • The stout has a moderate-low body, with moderate and fine carbonation. It is a pretty dry (but not puckering) beer, as befits the style. 
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This beer is a darned good Irish stout, and I’d definitely use the recipe again in the future. It hits exactly what I was looking for, in terms of dryness, drinkability, fairly low alcohol content, and intangibles. I like this one!
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10
And a label!
On a whim, I drafted a beer label in honor of the original “Celtic Elk,” Megaloceras. It brings in one of the “Irish elk” skulls along with a Celtic knot. Maybe it will make a good t-shirt someday?

The Celtic Elk Stout

Dark grains set aside to add during vorlauf

As we inch closer to the dark days of winter, I’m in a mood for some good, robust beers. Robust for me usually doesn’t require high alcohol content (although it can)–I think of it more as something with a strong malt backbone, prominent flavors from specialty grains, and perhaps some nice yeast character. Following on the heels of last weekend’s 80 shilling ale, tonight I brewed an Irish stout.

The recipe is based on Gordon Strong’s recipe from Modern Homebrew Recipes, with some modifications for the grains and hops I had on hand. My goal with this batch is to get a robust beer, but one that clocks in lower on the alcohol side of things (in this case, 4.3%). The beer is actually a bit outside the 2015 BJCP guidelines for the Irish Stout style, in terms of original gravity and color. The latter point surprised me–the BJCP lists 40 SRM as the maximum for this style, and to me it seems a little silly to set an arbitrary maximum for a beer explicitly described as “black” in the style guidelines.

The name for the batch stems from the famed Irish Elk, Megaloceras. Because why not?

The Celtic Elk Stout

  • 6.5 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 1.25 lbs. flaked barley
  • 0.25 lbs. Carapils malt
  • 0.75 lbs. 80° crystal malt (added at vorlauf)
  • 0.67 lbs. roasted barley (Simpsons, 550 SRM, added at vorlauf)
  • 0.5 lbs. pale chocolate malt (225 SRM, added at vorlauf)
  • 0.375 lbs de-bittered black malt (Dingemans, added at vorlauf)
  • 1 oz. Newport hops pellets, 40 minute boil (10.7% alpha, 6.4% beta)
  • 1 Whirlfloc pellet (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. Irish Ale Yeast (WLP004), prepared 12 hours in advance in 1 L starter
  • I mashed in with the Maris Otter, flaked barley, and Carapils, using 4.1 gallons of water at 168°. The mash stabilized at 157°, and was down to 153.5° after 40 minutes. [note: I did not use 5.2 pH stabilizer in this batch]
  • I added the dark grains (cystal malt, roasted barley, chocolate malt, and black malt) along with 0.75 gallons of water at 160°, let the mash sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3 gallons of wort.
  • I then added 4 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash temperature to 164°. I let the mash sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the wort.
  • All told, I collected 6.75 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.040. This works out to ~73% efficiency, right where I had been hoping.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the hops and Whirlfloc at the appropriate times (aiming for 40 minute boil and 10 minute boil, respectively). After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort down to 78° using my copper coil chiller.
  • I transferred ~5.5 gallons of wort into the fermenter and pitched the yeast in its starter. I plan to let the temperature slowly equilibrate with the fermentation chamber overnight.
  • The beer had a starting gravity of 1.048, exactly where expected. It was brewed on Saturday, November 21, 2015.