The big stout save

I brewed an oatmeal stout last weekend. I’ve had a lot of trouble brewing stouts. In fact, I’d say I’ve never gotten it right. This was no different, but this time I may have pulled it off in an eleventh hour save…

but let’s recap:

Back in my extract days I brewed a Russian Imperial Stout.  I split the recipe and put half of it on oak chips.  It tasted great, but after I bottled it, one of them didn’t seem to ever want to carbonate.  I added new yeast, put it in warmer conditions, shook it every few days.  Nothing.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I forgot to add the sugar.  The upshot is, it still tastes pretty amazing.  But imperfect, owing to the carbonation.

Then, another extract I attempted a straight oatmeal stout.  It turned out tasting really bad, and certainly not as dark as a stout.  Forget it.

Finally, last week I did my first all grain stout.  It was also the first use of the gas ring I bought a while ago.  Owing to mostly a miscalculation of the equipment (I used a different cooler and pot than I had entered into my brewing software).  I ended up with 2 gallons rather than three, and a gravity that was off the charts.  I diluted it with 1 Gallon of distilled water, after which it still had an original gravity (OG) well above the predicted.  I fermented it with Irish Ale yeast, and it took off like wildfire.

I tried it a few days ago. The beer had fermented down to 1.010 (from 1.070) which is quite a drop.  It apparently means 7.8% abv, which is strong.  It didn’t taste strong. It was thin and rather flavourless.

Well, I thought, here I go again. Another messed up drainpour stout.  However, I did a little reflecting.  Pulled out all the tools of the desperate brewer.  I added 4 oz of maltodextrin (which adds body without much sweetness, and is pretty much non-fermentable), 4 oz lactose (which adds some milky sweetness and body and is also not fermentable) into a quart of water with the priming sugar.   Boiled that to dissolve and sterilize.  Then I dumped in two cups of strong brewed coffee when it had cooled a bit.

When I pulled a sample to test the gravity, I had a grav of 1.016, exactly as I predicted, and when I tasted it, it had body, sweetness and some nice flavour. I’m not sure if the coffee came through so much as roasty tastiness.  I tried a sample of the pre-addition stout, and this was tremendously better.

I’ve gone from another stouty despair to some cautious optimism.

I’ll try to remember to put an update in a few weeks when I try the carbonated finished product.


About danmalleck

Medical historian and jack-of-all-trades curmudgeon. I tend to ramble about politics, social incivility, and our self-centred culture more interested in buying the next cool ringtone or LED TV than actively engaging in the sorts of discussions and issues that matter. The more opportunity we have to buy more stuff, the less concern there is, it seems, in politics, social justice and let's face it, basic human decency, unless those things actually can save us money or get us more things to show how awesome we are through displaying our material wealth. And I like to brew beer, make cheese, and put food in jars.
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