This is a recipe that had won me a gold medal in the category for stouts for the Cowtown YeastWranglers Homebrew Roundup. It originally started with a trip to the Fallen Timber Meadery, where I ended up meeting Colin Ryan and some of his employees. We enjoyed a good chat, and bored the heck out of the kids for about an hour, but part of that day involved a good chat by the fermenters, and a sampling of some of their homebrews.
Most of their homebrews were attempts at braggots, but bucking the trend of what one would call a braggot. For those not in the know, a braggot is essentially a beer where at least half of the fermentables is honey. When trying out some of their beers, there was one that stood out to me. A stout. The only thing I knew about the recipe was that it used honey, and that Colin had accidentally used more roasted barley that was typical in stouts. Somewhere north of a pound or two when a few ounces or half a pound was typical. This got my mind chugging on how to go about building this recipe.
The thought process was to say “screw it” to conventional wisdom about how much roasted malt one should use in a stout, and likewise, it was time to play with honey. Leaving the meadery, I picked up a 7 kg pail of honey, which I have since used in many other homebrew beers with great success. The goal was to make this an extreme beer by using so much roasted barley and chocolate malt, mashing it high to get a ton of body out of it, then once that was fermented out, dump a load of honey directly into the fermenter. There wasn’t really a rhyme nor a reason to how I put the recipe together, but I knew it was going to be darker than dirty oil, roasty as hell but have a very unique character contributed by the honey.
To be honest, this is one of the most simple recipes I’ve done, so there is something to be said for simplicity. I wasn’t necessarily trying to brew to style when I did it, and to be honest, I was thinking it should have been a category 23 beer (which it probably wouldn’t have won any medals), but at the recommendation of Drummond Brewery’s brewmaster David Neilly, I did go ahead and enter it as an Imperial Stout.
The brew stats may not be too accurate as the honey was added into the fermenter AFTER the maltose had fermented. Like with most of my beers, a good base malt is generally key and I went with Canada Malting Company’s Superior Pale Ale malt, with chocolate malt and roasted barley from Bairds. The honey in this case was purchased directly from the Fallen Timber Meadery here in Alberta. Other honey will probably do fine, but it is best to ensure you are using a wildflower honey.
Original Gravity: 1.061 (Pre-Boil – Mash Only)
Estimated Original Gravity After Honey: 1.091
Final Gravity: 1.020
SRM: 73.4 (estimated)
IBUs: 79 (calculated)
Volume: 5 US Gallons (19 Litres)
Quantities based on 75% estimated efficiency. Percentages based on amount of sugars contributed.
10 lbs (55.6%) – Canada Malting Superior Pale Ale
2 lbs (11.1%) – Bairds Roasted Barley
1 lbs (5.6%) – Bairds Chocolate Malt
5 lbs (27.8%) – Honey
2.5 oz – Centennial hops (11% A/A) (60 min)
White Labs 013 London Ale yeast
Grains should be mashed in a single infusion mash at 158ºF. Feel free to experiment with lower temps to make a slightly drier beer, but 158ºF seemed to do well for this one, given the amount of honey that was going to be used. Let mash for about 45 minutes. Sparge according to your equipment setup.
Bring wort to a boil. Add Centennial hops at the 60 minute mark. Honey in the case of this recipe was not added at any time during the boil or prior to fermentation. Add yeast nutrient and/or kettle finings as desired.
Fermentation and Finishing
Pitch your yeast or yeast starter, then aerate or oxygenate your wort. Room temperature is ideal for fermentation. I was around 65ºF for fermentation. It may finish fermenting for a few days. Once fermentation is shown to be complete after a few days of testing, add the honey. I did it by weighing out and dumping into a funnel. The honey was not treated, heated or frozen. Oxygen was not much of a worry because there is a blanket of CO2 on the top of the beer. It will continue to ferment, but once this is done, it can be left to sit indefinitely. After about a month, I racked the beer from the carboy into the keg, put the lid on, purged the oxygen with CO2, then pressured it to around 25 psi at room temperature and let it sit for a couple weeks. You could shake the keg to get it in faster, but I was in no hurry as I wanted to age this longer anyways.
This is a beer style that does do very well with age. I originally brewed this recipe on June 17, 2011. It currently is mellowing nicely in its flavour. I could imagine that this recipe could be one of those that could get constantly better with age;
With this beer, it was bottled into sparkling wine bottels and left to store in a cellar. When submitted to competition, one of the bottles was opened and emptied into smaller bottles.
This beer is very sensitive to temperature in that colder temperatures affect its flavour negatively. As it warms up, some of the more floral and sweet flavours from the honey begin to shine. It tastes much better at room temperature than cold, but its ideal temperature is around 10 to 15 degrees celsius. While this is also the case with many beer styles, this beer seem to have more drastic swings in flavour with temperature.