Brewer: Fal Allen
Brewery: The Pike Brewing Co., Seattle
Years of experience: Eight
Education: Attended several courses at the Siebel Institute in Chicago and has been homebrewing for 12 years
House Beers: Pale ale, stout, IPA, scotch ale, strong ale, rauchbier, barleywine
When making a stout, as with most styles, keep it simple. When I was a homebrewer, the urge to do many things at once was great. But you
don’t get a feel for the effect of each ingredient that way.
Try one type of dark malt, then try just one other for your next stout, then compare the beers. Pair the malts and you’ll learn more that way.
If you combine three or four, it’s nearly impossible to tell which malt brings forward which flavors.
Our stout has just one roasted grain: barley. Again, in some ways keeping it simple is the best. We use three different grains: pale, crystal, and roasted. It’s not overly complex in design, but the flavors are nice and have good depth. Some people get carried away and put in five types of roasted malt, which kind of blurs the flavors.
I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for stout, particularly in the United States today. But we all have our preferences. I don’t like chocolate malt in a stout unless you’re designing something like an Imperial stout. Then there are no holds barred, because then you want these huge, unusual flavors.
Even if you use only chocolate malt, you won’t run the risk of making it taste like a porter because the gravity is going to be so large. I don’t like large amounts of black patent malt, because it’s so dry and brings a real acidity to the beer. In small amounts it has a nice flavor, but you have to be careful with it.
To add more fullness to your stout use crystal, Munich, or dextrin malts, such as cara-pils. Also try adding more pale malt, which is going to give you more gravity and add more fullness.
For sweetness you could add more crystal or dextrin malt or mash at higher temperatures. But with a stout you have to be careful or you get more and more of those tannic flavors from dark malt in the higher temperatures. You definitely want to keep the mash below 156° F.
Our stout is very full-bodied, very English, very dark. Beer is mostly water, depending on the strength of it, so water is one of the most important things. We’re very lucky. In Seattle we have very soft water, so we don’t have to do much to it. We add a little bit of gypsum.
The harder the water is, the more it will change your beer. London is a good example. London has rather soft water compared with Burton-on-Trent, so it’s better for making the darker beers.
Burton-on-Trent with harder water is not as good for making dark beers. Soft water is better. Again, you don’t want to get carried away by adding all kinds of weird salts to your water. Stout features the big, bold, dark malts, so you want to concentrate on getting your mash right and not worry so much about adding strange things to your water.
Our stout was an evolution. I started here after Pike’s had been brewing about a month. It already had a stout. The stout we now brew is similar. I’ve changed the hops.
Originally they used Fuggle hops to bitter, which are very low in alpha acid. I didn’t like the flavor of Fuggle, and we were using such an enormous volume of them that we were actually getting a vegetable flavor from the vegetable matter of the hops.
I wanted to reduce that flavor, so we went to a hop with much higher alpha acid. We now use Chinook hops, and we don’t use anywhere near as much.
The bittering is a lot cleaner. It’s a lot crisper. In addition, the overall cost is much less, because instead of using something like 12 pounds of hops, we reduced it down to three. Chinook is about three times as high in alpha acid as Fuggle.
Choose a yeast that will give you characteristics you want in your stout. That’s easy to do now. If you want to make an Irish stout, all you need to do is look in Wyeast’s catalog. You don’t want to be using a German pilsner yeast to make a stout.
We have our own yeast for our stout, and that’s what we use for all our ales. It’s a London style yeast.