Bell's News

Homebrew Q&A: Stouts

Question: We recently got a few kegs of your Oatmeal Stout on tap at our homebrewing/growler store and it's quickly become a staff and customer favorite. A couple of us wanted to try and clone it, do you have any pointers you could give us? Thanks a ton, both for your help and a great beer!

AnswerHere’s a start at Oatmeal Stout for you:

  • 2-row base with a heavy hand of Munich malt for your base malts.
  • Chocolate, Black Malt, and Roasted barley malts – use them in that denomination (more chocolate than black, more black than chocolate).
  • Some mid-range crystal/caramel malt for sweetness.
  • A heavy hand of oats – I’d say somewhere from 1 to 2 pounds in a 5 gallon batch.
  • 2 strikes of Northern Brewer Hops mostly for bittering.
  • Your favorite ale yeast – if you can culture our yeast from a bottle, that’s your best bet.

Question:  Hi guys, I am a really big fan of your beers and especially the RIS and as a home brewer I like making imperial stouts. One thing that I want to do is a thick RIS with a creamy mouthfeel. Do you have any advices on how I can achieve this? Mashing thicknes, mashing time, boiling time? Any advice will be more than appreciated. Also, what is your opinion on a dry hop with Blueberries, cocoa nibs and coffee for a RIS?

Hope you can help me with some advices.

Cheers and keep making those damn good beers!

Answer: Making big beers can be a challenge and I think the biggest challenge with a big stout is making sure you don't leave it too sweet. For creaminess, I'd recommend using some flaked grains - I like Flaked Barley with a fairly heavy hand. Carapils is another malt that adds body without being sweet. Lactose can work as well, but that creates a milk stout and not everyone can consume lactose. I recommend mashing at a low temp - around 148 to 150 degrees for a fairly long time - maybe 90 minutes to ensure a very fermentable wort. Boiling times can remain normal - I'm not sure there's much advantage to boiling longer other than creating more caramel flavors, but you should be able to create those with a proper recipe.

As far as your blueberry, cocoa nibs & coffee, I say go for it. Dark Horse makes a tasty blueberry stout, but I've not found many other blueberry beers I really care for. I say if you like it, go for it. Seems like a good mix. Good luck. 

Question: Your Kalamazoo Stout is my favorite! Can't figure out how to get the bittersweet chocolate flavor. Can you give a suggestion?
Answer: I can help you with that. Here we go:

Use a base of American 2-row with a small amount of Munich malt for some body. Use a nice amount of medium crystal malt (40-60L) for some sweetness. A little flaked barley will give some body. Now, for the dark malts – you’re going to use a good amount of Black malt, a little less Roasted Barley, and a little less chocolate malt.

For hops, give a nice bittering charge with an American hop – we use Centennial, followed by a decent amount of flameout hops of the German variety. Hallertau is a good choice or something similar.

We also use brewer’s licorice – it comes as a stick. Use about a half a stick for 5 gallons, but make sure you put it in early in the boil – it takes a while to dissolve.

Finally, ferment with your favorite clean American yeast.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

Question: I see you offer a few of your recipes for the homebrewer. I really like your Java Stout. Will you share a recipe for that brew? Thanks.

Answer: The only recipe we’ve released to homebrewers so far is the Two Hearted recipe, but I’m glad to help with anything else I can.

A Java Stout clone will start with a solid stout recipe that’s not too roasty – you’ll get that from the coffee. Use some munich for body, caramel for some sweetness and chocolate for color and flavor. Simple hop additions with some clean hops like Northern Brewer – you don’t want much hop flavor, mostly bitterness. The coffee addition should be done in the boil. I think the easiest way will be to brew a pot of coffee and add it during boiling. It’s going to take some experimentation and note taking, but be sure to start with a soft hand because you can always add more to taste before packaging.


- David Curtis, Bell's General Store Manager and resident homebrew expert

This post is a part of an occasional homebrew Q&A series. Bell’s founder and president Larry Bell began brewing his own beer in the late 1970s after working at Sarkozy Bakery in Kalamazoo where he learned about yeast and fermentation. Larry opened his homebrew supply store, Kalamazoo Brewing Co., in 1983, which later became Bell’s Brewery. Homebrewing is still a big part of who we are. This series is an homage to our homebrew origins - one of the ways we give back to the community that helped us get to where we are today.  Homebrew equipment and supplies can be purchased online or in person at our General Store.

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