How to Brew Irish Stout

by Steve Thanos | Updated: November 7, 2020

Irish Stout can be traced back to London in the early 1730s. Within time, the Irish stout became popular in Great Britain and Ireland.

The word, “stout” became a part of the brewing vernacular in a manuscript dated back to 1677. In this manuscript, stout was synonymous with strong beer.

In the 1700s the phrase stout porter was to describe a strong Porter. Stout ales and stout porters were common until the end of the 19th century.

The Use of Brown Malt

The original Irish stouts had a very particular characteristic from one particular ingredient – brown malt. Brown malt was the lowest, roughest grade.

It was kilned as if it were like popcorn, as it would explode while being heated. It gave a very burned, acrid flavor or a “smokey tang” as Willaim Ellis wrote about it in 1736. 

Wheeler’s Malt Kiln Invention

Daniel Wheeler’s 1817 invention of the malt kiln certainly helped the brewing world. This allowed for the use of roasted malt and brough on a very unique taste to beer. The results were a very dark, bitter roast to the malt without the smoky tang. This became known as what we know as black patent malt. 

Upon Taxation Comes Innovation

The next change for the beer world came in 1880 in the form of a new tax law. Ireland, as we remember from history class, was part of the United Kingdom then. Only malt was allowed to be in the grist for beer recipes. The Free Mash Tun Act of 1880 allowed sugar and other ingredients to be added to the grist of an Irish stout. The innovation came in the form of adding unmalted roasted barley. This allowed for other ingredients to be added to beer such as sugar, lactose, oatmeal, and yes, even oysters.   

Style Profile for Irish Stout 

Appearance

The color can be anywhere between jet black to a deep rich brown. A creamy-soft, long-lasting tan to brown head is expected for this style.

Aroma

Aromas of coffee coming from the roasted barley is common for the style. A slight chocolate, cocoa, and a slight graininess is present too. Esters are low to medium, but usually not present at all. The same can be said about the hops. 

Mouthfeel

The mouthfeel is smooth despite the high hop bitterness and high amount of darker grains. There should be a creamy quality to the palate with low carbonation and a full mouthfeel. Astringency might be present but should be low. 

Taste

The roast shines through in this style. There may be some acrid sourness with some bittersweet chocolate qualities on the palate. Dry coffee-like finish. Medium to high hop bitterness compliments the sharpness of the grains. The creaminess of the beer is a balancing role, with the slight fruitiness and low hop flavor. 

Food Pairing

Irish stouts possess some wonderful tones of chocolate, coffee, and malt that pair greatly with rich foods. Pork (or any protein) with mole sauce, Kansas City-Style spareribs with barbecue sauce, a burger, beef and stout pie are all great ways to pair an Irish stout with food. Baked macaroni and cheese and barbecued baked beans also pair wonderfully with an Irish stout. Desserts are a common pairing when considering an Irish stout; think chocolate, coffee. 

Tips for Brewing your own Irish Stout 

Grain

When considering the grain that you should use for an Irish stout, think about the unfermentable or complex sugars that might be added to the grist. Single and two molecule sugars are easily fermented. Some complex sugars can be broken down to simple sugars.

However, the more complex sugars that are added in your mash, the more unfermentable sugars are likely to be left. Try avoiding crystal/caramel malts, Munich, Vienna, any Carapils, or dextrin malts. High quality pale malts and Golden Promise should be considered. Achieving the dark color and roasty quality of this beer.

Consider dark chocolate, roasted malts, and black patent all can give you the darkness and roastiness you need in an Irish Stout.   

Hops

English hops, such as Fuggle and East Kent Goldings (EKG) should be considered when brewing an Irish Stout, with Fuggles at bittering and EKG for aroma and flavor. The main objective when hopping an Irish stout is to find that balance between the roasty malt and the bitterness of the hops/ 

Yeast

An Irish yeast will have the nice low ester profile you are looking for in this beer. If you want to go the English yeast route, then pick one that has a low ester profile. Be forewarned, many English yeasts have a high ester profile. White Labs WLP004 Irish Ale and Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale are good choices. Follow the temperature recommendations with any yeast that you pick. 

Mash Temperature

Mash temperature is very important to achieve a good dry stout. The right mash temperature will convert the complex sugars into simple sugars that can be fermented out. A mash temperature between 140°F and 150°F (60°C – 65°C) will give you the most beta amylase activity. 

Irish Stout the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 25 – 50 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.036 – 1.050 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.007 – 1.011 FG
  • IBU Range: 30 – 45
  • ABV Range: 4.0 – 5.0%

Martin Keen’s Irish Stout  Recipe

Grain

  • 70%        5.5 lbs     Golden Promise
  • 15%        1.5 lbs     Flaked Barley    
  •   8%        10 oz       Chocolate Malt
  •   7%          9 oz       Roasted Barley

 Hops

  • 1 oz          East Kent Golding – Boil 60 min
  • 1 oz          Fuggles – Boil 20 min
  • 1 oz          Fuggles – Boil 10 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg    Fermentis SafAle English Ale S-04

Instructions

  1. Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins
  2. Boil for 60 mins

Transcript: Irish stout is a beer style that I really enjoy and have brewed a bunch of times in different ways. But today I am trying out a special new recipe. Let’s do it.

Hi, I’m Martin Keen taking The Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. Now, if you’ve been following my videos for a while, you may have noticed that I really enjoy this guy, Guinness. And because of that, I have tried my hands at brewing numerous Irish stouts.

In fact, Irish stout is the reason that I installed a nitro set up in my home bar. And I’ve also tried to replicate that little Guinness twang by souring worts and adding it into the beer. Today’s recipe comes from the Homeland itself. This one, the National home brewers club award in Dublin, Ireland we’re calling this one, Dez and Stephs Irish stout.

So what is this award winning recipe? Well, we’re going to build a beer with an original gravity of 1.041, and that will give us about a 4% beer. The base malt for this beer is made up of 70% golden promise. Then we’re going to add 15% of flaked barley, such an important ingredient in our irish stout, and then 8% chocolate malt and 7% roasted barley.

In addition to that, steph tells me that getting the bicarbonate level in this beer up is pretty important. So in my water chemistry, as well as balancing for pH, like I normally do, I’ve also added in three grams of baking soda.

I’m mashing here at 154 Fahrenheit or 68 Celsius for an hour,……been mashing out at 167 Fahrenheit or 75 Celsius.

Now, when it comes to adding yeast to your beer, you typically have two choices, liquid yeast, or dry yeast. I pretty much have exclusively been using liquid yeast.

Now liquid yeast has many advantages. There are a ton of varieties, for example, which means there’s just got a lot of choice, but liquid yeast does require a certain amount of babying as well. So just has to be kept cool, which means it’s difficult to ship and also means you have to find some room in your fridge to, to keep it.

Uh, it also needs warming up when you’re ready to use it. So with these Wyeast packs, for example, you smack them, you let them warm up to ambient room temperature. Before you can add them in. You might also need to get hold of some wort and build a yeast starter.

If there isn’t enough yeast in the liquid use pack that you’re using and liquid use is perishable. So it does tend to need a starter quite frequently unless you’re using a very fresh pack. The biggest advantage though, to the liquid yeast is of course the number of varieties that there are, and the fact that you can do stuff like overbuild, yeast starters, and save them for later.

So for example, I can steal some yeast from a yeast starter, add it to this vile here and freeze it in my frozen yeast bank and use it to me making more beers later on. Now, I don’t think I’ve used dry yeast since well, since my Brewer’s best extract days, but I really should look at this more because it has a lot of advantages. It doesn’t need warming up and storing in a fridge it’s shelf stable.

It’s going to stay viable longer. And it’s just a lot cheaper as well. And Steph recommended, but I use this particular dry yeast, which is SO-4 that’s English ale yeast for this beer.

Now I remember back in my Brewer’s best days, looking up what was needed to, uh, to use this yeast. And I remember there was kind of a rehydration step where you had to add it, the yeast to some water at a certain temperature that it hydrate in there and then add it into the beer.

So I took a little look here at my liquid yeast at the instructions, and here’s what it says; “sprinkle into wort.”…. Well, okay, then.

Now we’re building a beer with an IBU of about 40 and for beer batch size of five gallons or 21 liters. You would want to add at 60 minutes, one ounce of EKG, East Kent golding hops as the bittering hop.

Then with 20 minutes to go in the boil that’s when fuggle is added one ounce of that, and then another one ounce of fuggle with 10 minutes to go.

Beer has come out at 1.040. So it’s now time to sprinkle my yeast on top of the wort.

Fermenting at 66 Fahrenheit, 19 Celsius. Initially, once the fermentation is coming to an end, I’ll bump that up a couple of degrees, right. Then curious to see how this dry yeast works out.

Well, here we go. Guinness tasting time. Welcome Lauren.

Now, normally with actually every Guinness recipe I’ve ever done, I’ve always served it on nitrogen, but, um, the recipe didn’t mention that it was served on nitrogen.

So I decided to just try this on CO2 and I think it’s still looks the part. It does. So what do you think about this? This Guinness. It is very dark. They say it’s not black. They say it’s like a really deep red….I don’t see red.

Uh, what about the smell? Oh, well it smells right. This is exactly what I expected an Irish stout to smell like. It smells very stouty. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Well, that’s promising. Okay. Now little known fact. It is your father that taught me how to drink Guinness. Oh, really? I’d never had a Guinness before, until I met him in Ireland. And uh, I was kind of sipping it like a Stella, you know that the finger extended and he’s like, no, no, no. You take three full sips, you gotta get the foam too.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So this is not a dainty drink, take three full sips. And that gives you all of the mouth feel and the flavor of the beer.

It does taste like a Guinness, it really does. That’s pretty good.

Considering I thought the mouthfeel would be very different because on nitrogen you get a more creamy mouthfeel, but even without that, you’ve still, I think got all of those characteristics you would expect from it from a dry Irish stout.

Next week we are moving on. Not too far from this beer actually. Okay. Um, so we’re staying in the Irish stout family, but for now I am really pleased you like this beer. I love the beer. Thank you Steph, for sending this in. That’s good. It’s good. Yeah. And 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.