How To Brew Foreign Extra Stout

by Steve Thanos | Updated: December 8, 2020

Foreign Extra Stout is a beer style that makes me think of the Stealers Wheel song, “Stuck in the Middle with you.” In terms of gravity readings, Foreign Extra Stout falls somewhere between Irish Dry Stout and a Russian Imperial Stout.

Homebrewer, writer, and podcaster, Drew Beechum, articulated this conundrum of Foreign Extra Stout being somewhere in the middle in our beery minds with his article, “Hiding in the Middle: The Tradition of Fireign Export Stout.”  

Now the only question is…which are the clowns and which are the jokers?

British brewers brewed a beer, a porter. This porter was considered a stout porter (remembering of course that stout is being used as a descriptor here). Over time, the term porter was eventually dropped and the stout was here to stay.

As Ron Pattison tells us at his blog, Shut Up About Barcley Perkins, there were many changes to the gravity of stouts due to concerns with factory safety, tax changes, and wars. 

A True Export Beer

The Foreign Export Stout was largely brewed for places such as Jamaica and Nigeria, just as the tropical stout continued to do so as well. The Guinness Brewery was responsible for many variants of its popular stouts.

Many affiliate breweries in and around Africa and Asian have been responsible for brewing these Foreign Export Stouts. However, it was not just Africa and Asia where these beers were brewed and enjoyed. Of all places, Belgium, also became interested in this beer.

The Need for a High Alcohol Content Beer

After World War II, Guinness created a beer which was called Anterpen Stout. This beer was filled with intense roasted malt, smoked wood, and dark chocolate character. It was exported from Ireland to Belgium through the port of Antwerp.

Arthur Guinness II learned that stronger beers were popular in Belgium at the time due to confiscation and rationing after World War II. The Belgians were following the prohibition of spirits at this time and this was a way for Guinness to enter the picture with their strong stouts.   

Style Profile for Foreign Extra Stouts 

Appearance

The color should be very deep brown to black. Clarity should be good. Beer should have good head retention, as with most stouts. The head is large and pillowy with a tan to light brown color. 

Aroma

A sweet aroma medium to high in intensity is common for the style. Roasted notes with coffee or chocolate will be moderate to high and slightly burnt notes. Little hop aroma is present, if at all. Medium to high fruity aroma, along with molasses, dried fruit, and/or licorice.  Diacetyl should be low to none at all.  

Mouthfeel

A smooth and creamy moderately-full to full body is common for the style. Medium to somewhat high carbonation. Slight warming character due to presence of higher alcohol, but should not be hot. 

Flavor

Moderate to high roasted grain and malt character with coffee, chocolate, and slightly burnt grain character with a sharp bit. Low esters and medium to high bitterness. Moderate to no hop aroma. Diacetyl is medium-low to none. 

Food Pairing

Meats such as venison, lamb, beer; cooked with a savory and fruity sauce pairs really well with a tropical stout. Seared scallops or steamed oysters also make a great accompaniment. Spicy Indian, Asian, Mexican dishes also pair nicely. Curries made with coconut milk are a homerun with this beer style. 

Tips for Brewing your own Foreign Extra Stouts 

Grain

Since the style is a traditional English style, British pale malt would be appropriate. Maris Otter is a solid choice. As specialty malts go, start off with some British Crystal 45. This will give the beer a pretty decent toffee and toasty background even before adding the roasted, dark malts.

As for the roasted, dark malts, consider the following: roasted barley, pale chocolate, and black patent malt. These malts will give the beer the nice dark color you are looking for along with enough roasted qualities to carry through with a stout.

A touch of flaked barley will give you some nice added graininess to the beer and help with the roundness of the beer. To dry out the beer some and give it some extra gravity numbers, consider adding sugar or even  molasses to the boil. Since this beer has a history in Belgium, maybe some dark candi syrup is necessary. 

Hops

English hops such as Fuggle, Challenger, and East Kent Goldings, should be considered when brewing an Foreign Extra stout. The hops will be used for bittering and then also a later addition should be added for aroma. 

Yeast

White Labs WLP004 Irish Ale or British Ale WLP005, Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale or Whitebread Ale 1099, and Fementis SafLager W-34/70 would be good choices. Follow the temperature recommendations with any yeast that you pick. 

Foreign Extra Stout the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 30 – 40 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.056 – 1.075 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.018 FG
  • IBU Range: 50 – 50
  • ABV Range: 6.3 – 8.0%

Martin Keen’s Foreign Extra Stout Recipe

Grain

72%          10 lbs       Maris Otter

  7%            1 lb         Flaked Barley

  7%            1 lb         Crystal 45L        

  4 %           8 oz        Caramel/Crystal 120L       

  4%            8 oz        Pale Chocolate 

  4 %           8 oz        Roasted Barley

  2%            4 oz        Black Patent Malt

 Hops

   1 oz          Target – Boil 60 min

  .5 oz           Willamette – Boil 60 min

  .5 oz           Willamette – Boil 10 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg   Thames Valley Ale Wyeast Labs 1275

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

Today. I conclude my series of stouts with the strongest style of all of them, that is foreign extra stout. And I’m not only going to serve this beer in a keg, but I’m going to ferment in this as well.

Hi Martin Keen here taking the Homebrew challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And last week I brewed a tropical stout, which really emphasized that the sweet and fruity flavors of that beer style. This weeks stout is quite different from that in that it’s based much more, any typical Irish stout, just stronger.

So we’re really looking to emphasize the dry and roasty characteristics of this beer.

Now, this is a relatively strong beer as I’ve alluded to. So we’re looking for an original gravity here, 1.068, which should give us a beer around 7.2%. So we’re not quite in the range of some American Imperial stouts, but we’re certainly getting up there.

So to build this beer, we’re going to use the base malt of Maris otter at 72% of the grist. In addition to that, we’re going to add 7% of crystal 45 and 7% of flaked barley, which will give us that creamy mouth feel that’s so important to this style. Then we need to address the roasty aspects of this beer. So the way we’ll get that is with 4% roasted barley, 4% crystal 120 and 4% pale chocolate malt. And then we’re going to add an additional 2% of black patent malt.

Now I’m mashing my usual temperature, 67 Celsius or 152 Fahrenheit as for how long to mash these days. I typically don’t mash more than about 40 minutes and that’s normally enough time for conversion, but I have found that with these higher gravity beers, a bit more time in the mash is sometimes required. So I think it’s worth checking your preboil gravity before proceeding, um, past the mash.

So I’m going to check my preboil gravity, which for my system is going to be 1.054. When I reach that, that I’ll know it’s time to move on to the boil.

Fermenting in a keg?

Fermenting in a keg is one of the things I’ve really been looking forward to trying. The basic idea is you just take a regular old corny keg. You probably have some lying around already, and you use it as your fermentation vessels that you put the wort in here, and then you ferment.

Then you can either actually serve directly from this keg as well. Or you can transfer into a serving keg, which is what I’m going to do. Now, the way that I’m going to do this is I’m going to use a shortened dip tube. So if you think about how this is going to work, there’s going to be trub at the bottom of this keg when fermentation is done. And I don’t want that troop to transfer into my serving keg. And the way I’m going to get around that is to shorten this dip tube.

So actually I’ve got to a second dip tube here, which I used for some other purposes and actually I’ve already shortened it. I took a dremmel to it and just cut off the last inch or a couple of centimeters from it. So now when this is inserted into the keg, it’s just going to be raised up a little bit higher and it hopefully won’t pull in any beer from that troob layer.

Now there is one obvious disadvantage to fermenting in a keg and that relates to volume. So this is a five gallon corny keg, but you can’t ferment five gallon batches in a five gallon keg. If you think about it, you’ve got the trub on the bottom. You need a bit of head space as well. So probably the most amount of beer you can ferment in a five gallon corny keg is about four and a half gallons. Now that’s not an issue to me because I’m typically brewing two and a half gallon batches anyway.

But there are a ton of advantages to using a corny keg to ferment. And I’m hoping to demonstrate three of them today. So I’m going to try and experiment with no-chill brewing pressure fermentation and fully closed transfers. So let’s put this keg to the test.

A big beer, needs a good hop backbone to support it. So we’re going to look at building a IBU of 52 for this beer, For the bittering hops, I’m using a combination of target and Willamette. So I’m throwing in one bag of target for a five gallon batch that is going to contribute about 39 IBU. And the Willamette I’m going to put in half a bag of that, and that will contribute about another 10 IBU. And then I’m going to use the other half of the Willamette bag as my flavor hop, which I’m to add in with 10 minutes to go in the boil.

Now making sure everything is clean and sanitized is more important than ever when you’re fermenting in a keg. So it’s worth really taking the keg apart and then soaking everything in PBW and also sanitizing everything in the keg with starsan. And you might even use some keg lube to make sure that everything is properly sealed and will hold pressure.

Well, it sure was nice to skip the cooling step. Although perhaps deferred the cooling step is more appropriate because I have some hot wort, sat in this keg right here, just cooling down. I’m just going to leave it right there. While I clean my brewing equipment, then I’m going to put it in my chest freezer, which is set to just a few degrees above freezing to let it chill.

And when it’s cooled down to around 68 Fahrenheit or 20 Celsius, I’m going to come back and add the yeast.

Well, it’s the next morning. Now I did underestimate a little bit, quite the impact of going from boiling down to yeast pitching temperatures in these kegs. Um, the keg was so hot that I could barely touch it for the first few hours. And I initially tried putting it in my chest freezer, but it just was emanating so much heat it was just warming up the chest freezer.

So I just left it in ambient room temperature for the rest of the day. Then overnight, I moved it into my chest freezer set to just a few degrees above freezing. And then this morning I touched it and it wasn’t boiling hot anymore. So I opened it up and dropped a tilt hydrometer in there. And that told me that the temperature in here now is 62 degrees, Fahrenheit or 17 Celsius. That’s a little cooler than I was going for, but it’s within the range of my yeast.

So I’m going to pitch my yeast, which is Wyeast 1275. This is Thames Valley Ale yeast.

Now as beer builds up pressure, we need to relieve that pressure somehow in the keg. I think the easiest way to do that is to sort of build an airlock by using a gas quick disconnect, and then just putting the other end of this in some star san, connecting this to the gas outpost, and then just letting the, uh, the, the CO2 bubble into here.

However, I’m going to try pressure fermentation with this beer now. Nothing crazy, but I’m going to ferment at about 15 PSI and that will have the added benefit of carbonating the beer while it’s fermenting.

So to do that, I’m going to use a spunding valve set to two 15 PSI. Now I’m going to employ a little trick that I learned from Brian from short-circuited brewers to prepare my serving keg. So I’ve got two kegs here. I’ve got the fermenting keg where the beer is right now, serving keg, where eventually I’m going to move the beer to, uh, put together a little jumper cable. This is connecting the quick disconnect here at, for gas out of the fermenting keg to the liquid in of the serving keg.

So as pressure builds during fermentation, it will be sent through this little jumper hose here down into my serving keg that will push out any oxygen that’s already in there, replacing it with CO2. And by adding this spunding valve here on the receiving keg, that will ensure that this whole setup is under 15 PSI of pressure.

It’s been a couple of weeks now, and this has worked out pretty well. The spunding valve kept everything at 15 PSI and fermentation finished a little while ago. So it’s now time to transfer from the fermenting keg into the serving keg. Now I’ve switching around the jumper cables a little bit. I’ve changed this jumper cable to be gas to gas. And then I have a second jumper cable here, which is liquid to liquid. And I’m going to start the transfer by simply reducing the pressure just slightly here in the receiving keg.

The transfers complete and I’ve opened up the fermenting keg. And there’s a nice layer of trub, but the bottom, which I don’t think has really got sucked up because of that clipped dip tube. Now the beer is fizzy and ready to drink right now, but I have put it in my keezer and I’m going to leave it to condition for a little bit longer and then give it a taste!

One more stout Lauren, one more stout for now. We, we’ve been through a lot of stouts. Yeah, we have. Um, so we always look at the appearance and go its really dark. That’s how we look at appearance.

It’s really dark. It’s really dark. Yeah. Okay. So let’s see if we get anything from aroma on this one. Definitely a different aroma from last week’s tropical stout. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t really smell anything. Exactly. I’m getting virtually nothing. Like you could blindfold me. And I wouldn’t know, there’s a beer right beneath my nose. There is really not even any sort of, um, roastyness and malty, roasty, coffee, chocolate, nothing. Okay. So aromaless and dark. Okay. Shall we give it the taste.

It’s quite, it’s quite tart. Like taste-wise, I think it kind of lingers there and I don’t like that lingering, like at the very end, it kind of sits there. It’s like, maybe it’s cause I don’t like coffee and roasty things. Cause coffee always tastes quite tart to me.

Well, yeah. I’m not getting taught at all. Um, but roasty for sure. Yeah. So maybe that’s the word. Yeah. Like this is, I think all the styles we’ve done to me, this is the roasty-est that we’ve done. So it doesn’t smell like it. No, not at all. Not at all. Um, so roasters for me and tartness is for you, maybe that’s, we’re just picking up on the same thing.

It’s quite light feeling too though. Drink wise. It’s like there’s some of the other ones have been kind of like heavier on the mouthfeel when you drink it this way. It actually is like quite liquidy? It’s sort of like mainly water.

You know what I’m saying? Like some of the other Stouts have been like a little bit more of a thicker taste to it.

So you think the math feels a bit thinner? Yeah. Um, yeah. I, I would agree with that as well. I’m mostly not really tasting the alcohol that I thought I would do at 7%. I thought maybe it would taste a little bit more alcoholic. Yeah, that’s true. If we had to go back and look at the stouts that we’ve done, do you have a preference for the different styles?

The oatmeal stout.

I will say that it was my, I think that lasted like two and a half days. You went, you went to the beach. Yeah. I came back to try the oatmeal stout again, see how it age after a good three days. And it had disappeared.

It was so good. I can’t remember the other ones. So we had Irish stout and Irish extra stout, which was served on nitro. You remember that one?

Uh, okay. I did like the extra stout. I probably would’ve gotten oatmeal and then extra stout.

Yeah, for me, it’s kind of a tie between the Irish stout. I just really liked dry irish stout and the tropical stout, because it’s just so different.

Well, we will revisit stouts on the Homebrew challenge. Don’t you worry, but we are moving on to some strong English styles starting next week. Okay. Yup. 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.