Foreign Extra Stout

exportstoutIt was at least 90 °F (32 °C) and 90% humidity as I neared the end of my walk from one hot, dusty end of Barbados to the other. Thankfully, I spotted a roadside stand and even from a considerable distance, I could tell the bottles lining the bar were not the pale lagers common to most Caribbean islands. As I got closer to the ramshackle stand, I could see that these were bottles of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. I was still fairly new to the world of craft brew, but I had read about this style in one of Michael Jackson’s books. I knew that it was a unique beer brewed for tropical markets but I had never tried it. I thought it was quite odd that they’d sell a big, rich, roasty beer (something I’d drink on a frosty night at home) in a place that required wearing shorts year-round.

But hey, I was a budding beer geek and I wanted one, even if it was served a little warm. As I sat on the rickety barstool under the rusty tin roof sipping my beer, I began to appreciate the genius behind this style of beer in a hot climate. The beer wasn’t freezing cold and it wasn’t crisp and light. To this day I’m not 100% sure if it was the dryness of the roasted malt, the dilating effect of the alcohol on my blood vessels, or some other beery magic that occurs when you’re hot, tired and thirsty, but I can vouch for the fact that the beer was indeed refreshing.

Too many stouts?

There are six different stout styles defined in the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines ( and a common question is what exactly distinguishes one style of stout from another? How do I know if the recipe I created will make a mediocre sweet stout or an excellent foreign extra stout?

Many people think all stouts are the same. While the different sub-styles share many key attributes, there is still plenty to differentiate them. For example, all stouts are very dark beers and they all have roasted grain notes. They all have alcohol, fruity esters, hop bitterness, hop character and residual sweetness too, but it is the prominence or subtlety of these attributes that differentiate one style from another.

Foreign extra stout has a moderate to high roasted grain flavor and aroma, reminiscent of coffee and chocolate. It can have some light burnt notes, but it will not have as dry and sharp of a roast character as a dry stout. Foreign extra stout is also a much bigger beer than dry stout. It is usually bigger than oatmeal stout and sweet stout too. It can be big enough to have a gentle warming from the alcohol, but keep in mind that this should not be as big as Russian imperial stout and the alcohol should still be subtle. Foreign extra stout has very little to no hop flavor or aroma, while Russian imperial stout and American-style stout both tend to have a noticeable late hop character.

Even within the foreign extra stout style, there are two common variants. The style ranges from a medium-bodied, drier, less estery, more roasty, more bitter export type to a full-bodied, sweeter, fruitier tropical type with a smoother roast character. While the tropical type can have a high level of fruit esters, the export type tends to be more restrained, with some examples quite clean. In the end, the foreign extra stout style is very similar to either a scaled-up dry stout (export type) or a scaled up sweet stout (tropical type).

In competitions, I think many beer judges tend to favor the sweeter, fuller tropical style. The presence of higher alcohols, a little sweetness, dark malts and some esters from fermentation lend dried fruit or dark fruit notes to these beers and that bit of character helps it stand out a little. Of course, this can be overdone and in a flight of estery beers with lots of alcohol, the cleaner, less aggressive beer can stand out too, so don’t over do it.

That stouty goodness

I prefer to use British pale ale malt as the base for foreign extra stout. This more highly-kilned malt adds a background biscuity-malty note that fills out the malt profile of the beer. While you can substitute domestic two-row malt, it has a lighter character better suited to American stout. If you must use domestic two-row, you might want to add a touch (5% or less) of specialty grains, such as biscuit or Victory malt to create a slightly more interesting malt profile. Extract brewers should also try to use a British pale ale-based extract.

The roast, chocolate and coffee character of the style comes from the use of highly-kilned grain. While it has been said that the flavor difference between black malt and roasted barley is small, my preference and the general opinion has always been that brewing stout requires unmalted, roasted barley. About 10% of the grist should be highly-kilned grains. A 50/50 mix of highly-kilned and lighter kilned grain, like roast barley and chocolate malt, strikes a nice balance of sharper roasted notes and less burnt coffee/chocolate notes. Playing with the ratio of lighter and darker grains is a nice way to add a subtle difference to your beer.

When making tropical-type stout, a fair portion of crystal malt (up to 10% of the grist) adds the required background sweetness. Just like the highly kilned grain, I like to split my crystal malt between darker and lighter varieties. A darker crystal malt (~80 °L) provides a slight raisin/fig note. A mid-color crystal malt (~40 °L) gives the beer a bit of caramel flavor and some residual sweetness. If you’re trying to make more of an export type, you’ll want less crystal malt for a drier finish. For export-type stout, keeping the crystal malt to a maximum of 5% of the grist will help. Eliminating the mid-color crystal malt altogether and going just with a darker crystal malt also tends to leave less of a perception of sweetness in the finished beer.

A number of traditional commercial examples include some simple sugar, which boosts the alcohol without increasing the body or malt character. Sugar isn’t really needed, unless you’re having trouble reaching a proper level of attenuation with the yeast that you are using. In which case, replacing a small portion of the base malt with sugar can help the beer finish a bit drier. Since this is a beer that can carry a touch of residual sweetness, I think it’s rarely necessary to use sugar in this style.

Measured hop bitterness is substantial in foreign extra stout, with the perceived level of bitterness often higher in the export type than the tropical type. While the measured IBU level can be higher in the export type as well, the difference in perceived bitterness between the two types is often due to the higher residual sweetness in tropical-type stouts.

The bitterness to starting gravity (IBU divided by OG) ratio for this style can range from a modest 0.5 to a bold 1.0. For the sweeter tropical type 0.6 to 0.7 is a good range and you can increase that if using a lower attenuating yeast or making an export-type stout. Be aware that highly bitter or hoppy versions are going to be more like American-style stouts than good foreign extra stouts.

There isn’t a lot of hop flavor in foreign extra stout and hop aroma is often non-existent or very low. In the drier export type, a little hop flavor can peek through, but it is still restrained and tends to come from fairly mellow hop varieties, such as Kent Goldings. Even though there can be some hop flavor in this style, there is no need to add late hop additions. Much of the hop flavor comes from using lower alpha hops to create a high level of bitterness. Using a large amount of low alpha acid hops for bittering can add a subtle hop flavor to the beer. Keep in mind when developing any beer recipe that the flavor of the hops used for bittering often comes through in the flavor of the beer, so choose style-appropriate hop strains for bittering additions.

Much of the character of this beer comes from the yeast. In the Caribbean, where lager breweries reign, most examples of this style are brewed with lager yeast at warm temperatures. If you’re looking to clone a particular beer you enjoyed while in the Caribbean, lager yeast will be the key. A good Pilsner yeast at a temperature around 60 to 65 °F (16 to 18 °C) should get you close. While lager yeast is common in tropical-type stout, I prefer an English or Irish yeast strain when brewing the sweeter, fruitier tropical version of this style. These yeasts tend to be moderate to low attenuating, leaving a little more residual sugar and an ester profile that I prefer over the warm-fermented lager yeast. Wyeast 1028 (London Ale), White Labs WLP013 (London Ale), Wyeast 1084 (Irish Ale), White Labs WLP004 (Irish Ale) or Danstar Nottingham dry yeast are all good choices for this style. If you want a sweeter finish, use Wyeast 1968 (London ESB Ale), White Labs WLP002 (English Ale) or Fermentis Safale S-04, but these less attenuating strains can be a little too sweet for export-type stouts.

I prefer to use a cleaner and more attenuating yeast for the export version. Wyeast 1056 (American Ale), White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) or Fermentis Safale US-05 will make a drier, cleaner version. In fact, it can be a bit too clean if fermented on the cool side (67 °F/19 °C or lower). If you’re going to use a neutral yeast like this, ferment at a slightly warmer temperature range, around 69 °F (21 °C). Since this yeast will attenuate a bit more, the beer is going to seem slightly roastier too. If you want an even drier export version, you’ll need to either replace some base malt with simple sugar (adding 10% table sugar is fine) or find another yeast that can finish even drier.

This beer style should not have much diacetyl. If you’re using a yeast prone to diacetyl production, you might need to perform a diacetyl rest near the last part of fermentation. To perform a diacetyl rest, warm your beer up a few degrees over the fermentation temperature for the last one-third of fermentation.

If you can’t control the temperature for a diacetyl rest, don’t worry and don’t be in a rush to package the beer. Keep the beer at fermentation temperature until it appears that fermentation is complete and then let it rest for a few additional days. If given enough time, healthy yeast will usually reduce the diacetyl in a beer to very low levels.

Most water in the United States is fairly hard, with enough buffering capacity to brew good stout. If you happen to have water very low in buffering capacity and you are an all-grain brewer, you might need to add calcium carbonate or other brewing salts to the mash to help buffer the acidity of the roasted grains.

Whether you choose to brew an export or tropical-type stout, I recommend drinking one when you’re extra hot and tired. I’m sure you’ll find it just as refreshing as I did.

Moonless Tropical Night

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)

OG = 1.071 (17.4 °P)
FG = 1.017 (4.4 °P)
IBU = 45 SRM = 46 ABV = 7.1%

12.5 lb. (5.67 kg) British pale ale malt (3 °L)
0.75 lb. (340 g) black roasted barley (500 °L)
10 oz. (284 g) crystal malt (4°L)
10 oz. (284 g) crystal malt (80 °L)
0.5 lb. (227 g) chocolate malt (420 °L)
12 AAU Kent Goldings hops (60 min.) (2.4 oz/68 g at 5% alpha acids)
Wyeast 1028 (London Ale), White Labs WLP013 (London Ale) or Danstar Nottingham yeast

Step by Step
Mill the grains and dough-in targeting a mash of around 1.5 quarts of water to 1 pound (3.1 L/kg) of grain (a liquor-to-grist ratio of about 3:1 by weight) and a temperature of 152 °F (67 °C). Hold the mash at 152 °F (67 °C) until the conversion is complete, about 60 minutes. Raise the temperature to mash out at 168 °F (76 °C). Sparge slowly with 170 °F (77 °C) water, collecting wort until the pre-boil kettle volume is around 6.5 gallons (25 L) and the gravity is 1.055 (13.5°P).

The total wort boil time is 90 minutes. Add the hops with 60 minutes remaining in the boil. Add Irish moss or other kettle finings with 15 minutes left in the boil. Chill the wort rapidly to 67 °F (19 °C), let the break material settle, rack to the fermenter and aerate thoroughly.

Pitch 12 grams (0.4 oz.) of properly rehydrated dry yeast or use two liquid yeast packages. Alternatively, make a three-liter (3-qt.) starter using one package of liquid yeast. Ferment at 67 °F (19 °C), raising the temperature to 70 °F (21 °C) during the last 1⁄3 of fermentation to help reduce diacetyl and assure complete attenuation. Allow the lees to settle and the brew to mature without pressure for another two days after fermentation appears finished.

Rack to a keg and force carbonate or rack to a bottling bucket, add priming sugar, and bottle. Target a carbonation level of two to two and a half volumes.

Moonless Tropical Night

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)

OG = 1.071 (17.4 °P)
FG = 1.017 (4.4 °P)
IBU = 45 SRM = 46 ABV = 7.1%

8.4 lb. (3.8 kg) English Pale Ale liquid malt extract (3.5 °L)
0.75 lb. (340 g) black roasted barley (500 °L)
10 oz. (284 g) crystal malt (40 °L)
10 oz. (284 g) crystal malt (80 °L)
0.5 lb. (227 g) chocolate malt (420 °L)
12 AAU Kent Goldings hops (60 min.) (2.4 oz/68 g at 5% alpha acids)
White Labs WLP013 (London Ale), Wyeast 1028 (London Ale) or Danstar Nottingham

Step by Step
Mill or coarsely crack the specialty malts. Mix them well and place loosely in a grain bag. Avoid packing the grains too tightly in the bag, using more bags if needed. Steep the bag in about two gallons (~8 liters) of water at roughly 170 °F (77 °C) for about 30 minutes.

Lift the grain bag out of the steeping liquid and rinse with warm water. Allow the bags to drip into the kettle for a few minutes while you add the malt extract. Do not squeeze the steeping bags.

Add enough water to the steeping liquor and malt extract to make a pre-boil volume of 5.9 gallons (22.3 L) and a gravity of 1.061 (14.9 °P). Stir thoroughly to help dissolve the extract and bring the liquid to a boil.

Once the wort is boiling, add the bittering hops. The total wort boil time is one hour after adding the bittering hops. Add Irish moss or other kettle finings at 15 minutes.

Chill the wort to 67 °F (19 °C). Aerate thoroughly and pitch 12 grams of properly rehydrated dry yeast or use two liquid yeast packages. Alternatively, make a three-liter (3-qt.) starter using one package of liquid yeast.

Follow fermentation and packaging instructions for the all-grain version.


Issue: September 2007