How To Brew American Stout

by Steve Thanos | Updated: February 3, 2021

American Stout is a very noticeable beer style based on its appearance, aroma, and flavor. The appearance of an American stout is remarkably dark due to the generous amounts of dark malts added to the grain bill.

The heavy handed hop additions offers the drinker a amalgamation of hoppiness satisfying both the aroma and flavor of this beer.

In addition to the hop additions, the roasted grain contributes to the aroma and flavor of this exquisite beer style. 

Like many American beer styles, the American stout’s origins are no different than many other beer styles. Deeply rooted in the European beer scene, the American stout is the United State’s answer to this rich, deeply satisfying beverage.

Sharing many of its roots with the American porter.

As previously mentioned with past writings, there really was no difference between porters and stouts just some 200 years ago. It was not until the invention of the drum kiln in 1817 did we actually have a separation between the two beers. 

The overall balance of the beer leans more on the bitter end. there is a low to medium malt sweetness to balance out the beer. The sweetness also helps to curb the bitterness from the roasted grains as well. The American stout tends to lean more on the drier side, with some roasted grain astringency. With a rather full body, it does not leave the drinker with a heavy or cloyingly sweet taste.

Like most American styles, the stout is clean fermented with some light fruity esters. 

Style Profile for American Stout

Appearance

The color of an American stout is black or dark brown. A long-lasting large head with light tan or mocha color.  

Aroma

The aroma is perceived as roasted coffee or dark chocolate, with a minimal, if any, burnt character. Fruity esters are acceptable. Hops can remain low in aroma, with citrus and/or resiny being the main descriptors. A light alcohol warming can be present. No diacetyl is present.  

Flavor

Moderate to very high roasted malt characteristics. Coffee, bittersweet chocolate, and dark chocolate is present. A caramel or chocolate sweetness will be present and will range from low to medium. No diacetyl is present.  Medium to high bitterness with hop flavors being low to high. Esters can be low as well. The beer’s finish is medium to dry with some burnt characteristics. 

Mouthfeel

Creamy medium to full body. Small amounts of oats or wheat can contribute to this creaminess. Mid-high to high carbonation with a light to strong alcohol warmth, without being “hot.” The beer should be smooth. Some astringency can be present due to the roasted grains, but never overpowering. 

Food Pairing

When it comes to pairing an American stout with food, roasted foods, smoked foods, barbecued/grilled foods are all a great start. Salty foods, oysters, rich stews, braised dishes all work well too. Chocolate desserts are always a good pairing when it comes to stouts. 

Tips for Brewing your own American Stout

Grain

The grist for an American porter is usually some sort of American pale malt; usually domestic 2-Row. The base malt should make up about 70% of the grain bill. When considering the specialty malts, the first to consider will be roasted malts, usually in the form of roasted barley. Chocolate or black malt can also be considered.

Some midnight wheat or coffee malt can be some intriguing additions to an American stout. Keep all of the aforementioned speciality malts at around 10-20% of the grain bill. Using 5-10% of caramel malts can add the sweetness that an American stout possesses.

Just remember the lighter the color of a caramel malt the sweeter they are. Adding rye, oats, flaked barley or wheat can increase head retention and add complexity and mouthfeel to the finished beer. 

Hops

The hop flavor and aroma of an American stout can be wide open. Oftentimes, American brewers and homebrewers like to have the citrus and piney notes of American hops. Such notable hops include: Cascade, Centennial, or Chinook.

Dry hopping is an option for the style as well. Some hop aromas might clash with the roasted grains. Hop aroma should be low but still detectable. 

Yeast

An American yeast strain that is clean, neutral, and well attenuating is probably best for an American porter ale. White Labs California Ale V WLP051 and Wyeast American Ale 105 or Denny’s Favorite 1450 all work well. Also, dry yeasts could work well here too, such as Safale US-05. 

American Stout the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 30 – 40 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.050 – 1.075 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.022 FG
  • IBU Range: 35 – 75
  • ABV Range: 5.0 – 7.0%

Martin Keen’s American Stout Recipe

Grain

70 %            9 lbs        Pale Malt (2-Row)     

  8 %           1 lb           Munich Malt  

  8 %           1 lb           Caramel 60

  8 %           1 lb           Chocolate Malt

  3 %           8 oz          Roasted Barley

  3 %            8 oz         Flaked Barley

Hops

1.00 oz         Magnum – Boil 60 min

1.00 oz         Cascade – Boil   10 min

1.00 oz         Cascade – Boil 0 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg   American Ale Wyeast 1056

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: Irish stout, milk stout, oatmeal stout, tropical stout. I’ve brewed them all, but you know which stout I haven’t brewed? American stout. That is the challenge for today. Plus, I’m going to show you what this thing is for.

I’m Martin Keen taking the Homebrew challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And if you’ve seen some of my other videos in this series, well, two things, one you’ve probably seen me brew a stout. I’ve done quite a few and two, you might be familiar with my woes with this extractor fan. It is always dripping down during the boil.

Well, today I am testing something from spike brewing. It’s a steam condenser lid, which should mean I don’t need to use this thing at all. We’re going to put this to the test with today’s beer, American stout.

But before we get to all of that, let’s talk about what we are making today. This American stout. Now saying that you’re brewing an American stout.

It’s a bit like saying I’m making a German lager. Well, which one? This is a really broad category. Over the last 10, 20 years, craft brewers have done all sorts of cool and interesting things with American stouts. Now ingredients like chocolate and coffee have been quite common, but also some other pretty far out things as well. I’ve seen them with licorice, fruits, molasses, all sorts of things.

So the first decision is really narrowing down what ingredients to use, what are you going for with this beer? And what I’m going for? Well, nothing too crazy, no crazy ingredients in this one. I brewed Irish stout a little while ago and just really enjoyed the simplicity of that one. And I’d like to use that as a base for this recipe, but just sort of amp up the strength of the beer a bit and also increase the bitterness and the aroma on this. Just a touch as well to bring it more in line with American stout.

So what I’m looking to do here is to build a beer with an original gravity of around 1.062. And in the grist, I’m going to have 70% of pale 2 row malt. And then I will have 8% each of caramel 60, Munich malt, and chocolate malt. Then I’m going to add in 3%, each roasted barley and flaked barley.

Hops, I’m going for an IBU here about 47 and 41 of those IBU’s are going to come with a bittering hop. I’m using Magnum; putting that in at the start of the boil. That’s a nice, clean, bittering hop for this style. Then I’m using cascade as my flavor and aroma hop. So I’m going to put in one ounce of cascade in with 10 minutes left and then another rounds in at flame out.

Spike brewing steam condenser lid

These are all of the parts of the spike brewing steam condenser lid. This is the lid itself has three ports. And this is the 10 gallon version of this lid. So you need to buy the lid that’s going to fit your brewing system. And if you go onto the swipe for in website, they list the dimensions. So you can see whether or not your kettle is going to fit this lid. Now, the basic idea of this is that as steam rises in the boil, we are going to use cold water to condense that steam and get rid of it.

So let me start to build this thing up. So we’ve got some piping here, which is really the main connection to the lid. So I’m going to connect this up with a clamp and a gasket. Okay, there we go. And then I’ve got two of the ports here.

One of these is used just to sort of add stuff in during the boil. So if you’re making hop additions, for example, I think you can put them through here. And then here, we basically have a window into what’s going on in the kettle. And again, I’ve got a gasket and then just this clear piece of plastic, which I’m going to clamp on here.

So that’s all of the ports filled on the kettle lid and now can see that as the steam is going to rise here during the boil, we are going to send cold water down here and it’s going to exit out the other end of this pipe. To that end, we have this hose, which is going to send the water in, and the hose has a little mister at the bottom of it here. So this is going to spray out cold water down into this pipe.

And then the last thing to add is this drain hose services where the water is going to go. Once it’s done it’s business of cooling and also the steam that we’ve condensed, but we’ll come out here as well. So that’s it pretty easy to put together just in case of screwing in a few clamps.

Now we need to send water in here and to do that, there is a supply little pump. This pump has got suction cups on the bottom, so they can stick in place into a bucket. And we’re going to use this to pump water through the system.

So what’s happening here now is the water is coming in through here, running back out through here. Once this comes to the mister and any steam that comes up should be converted back to liquid and flow out there as well. Right? So I need to have my first hop addition and that is my Magnum hop edition.

And I could do it through that port, but because I’ve just put this top on, I’m just gonna lift it up and poor this in. And now the other thing of note is the boil off rate is going to be a bit less here. We’re not going to evaporate quite as much steam as we will with the top off. So that’s something you might want to take into consideration when you’re coming in with your recipe. Um, I actually haven’t done that, but I believe it’s around sort of like 6% less boil off than you would expect.

Uh, I’m just winging it right now, but there’s already a lot to be said, by the fact that I don’t have this fan running super loud all the time, I’ve just got the drip of this coming in here and I can hear the, uh, the heating element going on, on, off in my kettle, but that’s it so much more relaxing experience. The only thing I need to keep on top of is just to make sure that there is enough cold water here in this bucket.

Now I mentioned earlier that you need to get the lid that fits your brewing system. And I looked at the specifications on the spike brewing website and my kettle looked like it was very close to the minimum size that would fit this thing. And when I actually got this, I realized that I’ve been measuring it a little optimistically.

And my claw hammer kettle is about like one eighth of an inch, too small for the minimum size that it says that this supports and as a result, this doesn’t quite sit properly all the way into the kettle. So that’s a little bit unfortunate. It’s super, super close, but I did test this earlier just with some boiling water. When I first got the unit and it was able to maintain a vacuum and how I know that is because there’s no steam coming out from around the sides whatsoever. So even though this is technically two larg lid for my cattle, just slightly, it still seems to be doing the job.

And then just lastly about this, the other thing I noticed is that I have my temperature or the percentage that I’m using the heating at as much lower than normal. I’d normally set this to around 55 or 60%. I’m running at 30% here and still able to keep a rolling boil.

Beer is in the fermentor. I took a gravity reading, 10 54. I was looking for 10 62. And yeah, I think that is what happens when you’re winging it. I took no notice of the fact that my boil off rate would be less used the regular profile in beer Smith. And that’s why I’ve missed my gravity.

I did take a gravity reading at the end of the mash. I was where I should be at the end of the mash. So that is something to keep in mind that you’re just not going to condense the beer as much in this sort of system.

So you need to account for that in your beer brewing software.

Anyway, it’s a yeast time now I’m using waste at 10 56. I use this in my American Porter just recently as well. This is a great strain for strong dark beers. I’m going to ferment it 68 Fahrenheit to 20 Celsius. And in a few weeks, I’ll be back.

Here is the stout. Nicely poored Lauren. You’re welcome. I thought about sneakily putting this on nitro. Um, cause I really like my stouts to be served that creamy mouthfeel, but my nitor tap is currently serving cold brew coffee. So, um, even without that, I think this looks like a really nice looking beer.

What do you think? Yeah, it does. Okay. I think this is the darkest beer that you’ve made so far. Cause I can’t see through it. There is no light coming through this as the, unless like you look at the very bottom of your fingers on it. You said last week’s beer was, um, can you say Crimson? No, not Crimson. There’s a little bit of like mahogany, mahogany, mahogany. You said it was mahogany and this one is just like this jet black, black. Yeah. Like I can see the reflections of the, I can see my reflection in this. Like how’s my hair look? It’s kind of okay.

Well it’s very, very dark. Yeah. Okay. How about aroma? Smells like coffee. It does. It smells. It smells roasted. Yeah. No, that’s definitely that smells very roasty. Very much like coffee from what I heard it cause sometimes have subtle hints of dark chocolate, which I like, I don’t smell that well. Let’s see if we can taste any, anything other than roastiness.

Um, it definitely lives up to its smell. Um, it is quite roasty yes. I’m not really picking up on coffee or chocolate. Not actually like drinking it wise. Um, yeah, I didn’t actually taste that much coffee also. The more I drink it. Just picking up a little bit on some hop character. Yeah.

The more I drink it, the more, the more, a little, a little bit of a hop twang I’m getting from it. It’s so liquidy. Where do you just feel like it’s got a high water concentrate. This one. This is, yeah. That’s a lot of water. It’s very wet.

We have all the best descriptors on the Homebrew challenge. Yeah. We need to get a thesourys. I feel like we see the same descriptors for nursing. This is toasty. Toasty, roasty, hoppy, matly, bready? All ready? Yeah. That’s a good one. Yeah, we need, we need some coffee. If you have some good descriptors for us that we could sound smarter, put them in the comments. Cause we’re running out.

If you want to make this beer everything, some of the description, including the link to Atlantic brew supplies recipe kit.

We have another stout on the menu next week. It’s a different type of stout and it will be maybe a little stronger. So until then. Cheers!

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.