The Celtic Elk Stout 1.1

Nearly five years ago, I made an Irish stout that tasted great and did well in competition. I gave another go this year, seeking a dark beer with lots of flavor but not a lot of booziness. It was a success!

The recipe is basically the same as last time, just with some minor ingredient adjustments.

The Celtic Elk Stout 1.1

  • 6 lb. Maris Otter malt (Crisp)
  • 1.5 lb. flaked barley
  • 13.6 oz. crystal 75 malt (Great Western)
  • 12 oz. roasted barley (Briess)
  • 10 oz. chocolate malt (Briess)
  • 4 oz. crystal 10 malt (Briess)
  • 3 oz. Blackprinz malt (Briess)
  • 3 oz. Carafa Special III malt (Weyermann)
  • 3 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.65 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Irish Ale Yeast (WLP004)

Target Parameters

  • 1.045 o.g., 1.014 f.g., 4.1% abv, 35 IBU, 39 SRM
  • Infusion mash, 156° for 60 minutes, batch sparge
  • Claremont tap water


  • The night before brewing, I made a 0.75 L starter, and let it run on the stir plate.
  • I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 168°, to hit a mash temperature of 156°.
  • After 60 minutes of mashing, I added 1.5 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Next, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.045, for 87% efficiency! This was way too high, so I removed 0.5 gallons of runnings and added 0.5 gallons of tap water, to hit 1.041. This was much better. I saved 2 cups of this to use in bread (and it made tasty bread!).
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and finings per the schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort.
  • Once the wort was down to around 75°, I transferred to the fermenter and chilled the rest of the way down to 66°. Finally, I pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 18 April 2020. Starting gravity was 1.050.
  • I fermented the beer at 66°, and kegged the beer on 25 April 2020. To save some CO2 and try keg conditioning, I primed the keg with 2.1 oz. of corn sugar in boiling water.
  • Final gravity was 1.019, for 4.1% abv.


  • Appearance
    • Dark! Black in the glass, and a deep, dark brown if you get a thin sliver of beer. Thin but persistent brown head.
  • Aroma
    • Rich aroma of chocolate with a touch of roasted coffee. There are hints of dried cherry behind that; I don’t think it’s esters (because the flavor of the beer is pretty clean in terms of yeast character), but a synergistic effect of the dark malts. I like it!
  • Flavor
    • Roasted coffee character at the outset, with a touch of dark chocolate behind that. There is a really nice coffee-type bitterness from the malt than creeps in alongside the hop bitterness. Hop bitterness is clean. The flavor is malt forward, with hops secondary, until the finish. There is an extended, slightly bitter (but not unpleasant) finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Dry, medium-light body, moderate carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a great recipe, and a fine interpretation of the style. I think my modifications were okay overall, although I’ll replace the Carafa III with all debittered black malt next time, and use pale chocolate instead of regular chocolate malt, because the malt was just a little too much chocolate and not enough roast. As the beer matures, it has really come into its prime. I rushed it just a touch to get it on-tap, and so it had a hint of sweetness at first from the corn sugar used for priming (at least I think that’s what I was experiencing). That’s gone away now. This recipe produces a really quaffable beer, and the low alcohol level (4.1% abv) isn’t really a flavor/mouthfeel detriment thanks to the malt character.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

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.