“Blackstrap” Foreign Extra Stout
Foreign Extra Stout will hit the mark for your friends who like their chocolate dark, their wines deep and tannic, and their humor dry and acerbic.
Style: FES isn’t a complicated style. However, it is a distinct style, and missing the mark on any one of several flavor characteristics will drag it into one of the other stout styles. First, ABV: while several stouts can reach fairly high into the alcohol range, FES is specifically expected to do so. At the same time, FES should be dry, with only subtle warming. The alcohols should add some complexity to the bitter and roasty flavor profile, adding a peppery note but with the roast and bitterness countering the sweetness of the alcohol. It’s also a particularly roast-driven style. A light burnt note (but not acrid) is desirable. Hops play very little role here. So, we want moderately high alcohols (without heat), high roast (without too much burnt), low hops flavor (but moderate-to-high bitterness), and a clean fermentation character. Here we go! Recipe: You don’t need to use so many different malts to make an FES, but it’s an easy way to ensure that you don’t end up with a warm one-trick roast pony. We start with Maris Otter as a base, then add equal amounts of British Crystal 45 and Briess Extra Special Roast for a solid toffee-and-toast background on which to layer the roasted malts. To that we add pale chocolate malt, roasted barley, and black patent malt to add lots of complex roast, and the black patent and roasted barley should provide the assertive but not sharp “burnt” note we’re looking for. But we’re not quite done with the sugars yet: I add molasses just before the start of the boil. The burnt sugar impression really amps up the complexity without adding residual sweetness, and the flavor really feels deep. Being a mostly fermentable sugar addition, molasses might even help dry out the beer, but we’re counting on the roast and your fermentation to do that. That should get you to about 1.074 post-boil gravity, for a healthy 7.7 percent Abv—right in the wheelhouse for FES. Hops are simple. To minimize loss and reduce the risk of plant matter adding a vegetal flavor to the finished beer, I use any high-alpha hop at 60 minutes (to yield about 60 IBUS), then some Hallertau with about five minutes to go. Hallertau’s slight floral-earthy flavor will probably get lost in the shuffle, but it’s there if anyone starts looking for it! For yeast, we’re using Wyeast 1084 (Irish Ale) yeast. I’ve made this beer with my go-to London Ale III and German Ale yeasts, but it just doesn’t work. The Irish Ale yeast adds a subtle “roundness” to the roasted flavors, and so long as you thoroughly control for diacetyl, it’s a great fit. Process: Mash as usual and add the molasses to the kettle as you lauter/sparge, giving a small stir to be sure it’s dissolved before bringing the beer to a boil. You might also consider a check of your water chemistry, and if your sulfates outnumber the chlorides, consider an adjustment! Don’t obsess over it, though. Where you do want to pay particular attention is in fermentation, especially initially. You want to minimize any diacety production, so start cool (60°F/15°C) and hold there for at least the first 3 days. After that window, you can start ramping up the temperature, preferably by a degree or two per day, with a final target of 68–69°F (20°C). That way, any diacetyl that you have produced will be cleaned up, and the ramping will also promote a full attenuation. Hold at that higher temperature for at least a week after the end of primary fermentation to ensure that your yeast has fermented every possible scrap of sugar. Finally, take a bit of a flexible approach to carbonation. If all is well and the beer is prominently roasty, a little burnt, and not sweet, then go ahead and carbonate to an even 2 volumes of CO2. If it’s a little over-roasty, lower that a bit to reduce the bite from the carbonation, which should help. If it’s a little too “café au lait” and not enough “espresso,” go a bit higher on carbonation to let the carbonic acid take up some of the slack. This is one beer where tuning the carbonation can really do some good things!