20. American Porter and Stout

Cabin Fever

American Stout (20B),  BeerSmith Recipe File


The inspiration for the beer is simple:  the damn snow in New Jersey during the 2013-2014 winter.  We received near record amounts this season, and combined with the below freezing temps, we needed a beer that would lift our spirits.

With this recipe we are trying an idea that many of you have probably heard of: cold steeping the roasted/dark malts.  I have to admit, before Jason mentioned this to me, I had never heard of cold steeping dark grains.  The supposed effect is lower tannin extraction, and there seems to be reasonable evidence to support this (1). We decided to see for ourselves what cold-steeping is all about.  Jason made a couple of different cold and hot steep worts of roasted barley, chocolate and black malt.  In our very un-scientific taste tests, we overwhelmingly preferred the cold steeped wort to the hot steeped, even when mixed with a popular Foreign Extra Stout.  The cold steep wort was definitely less astringent, and had a more round dark malt character.  To me, it seemed that cold steeping produced a richer, more complex dark malt flavor, whereas the hot-steeped wort was a more intense (and over-the-top) flavor that we found off-putting.  Long-story short, the hot-steeped roasted barley wort was undrinkable, while the cold-steeped wort was actually quite nice and probably would have made a fantastic hot-toddy.

So, our goal was to produce an American Stout with a deep, rich dark malt flavor that doesn’t give you palate fatigue after two sips.



11 lbs. US Pale 2-row
1 lb. White Wheat
1 lb. Roasted Barley (cold steeped overnight)
0.5 lb. Black Patent Malt (cold steeped overnight)
0.5 lb. Chocolate 6-row malt (cold steeped overnight)

Mash at 122° for 20 min, raise to 153° for 40 min, mashout at 168° for 10 min
Boil for 60 minutes

7.5mL CO2 hop extract boil for 60 minutes
1 oz each of Calypso (15.6% AA) and Belma (9.8% AA) @ flameout, steep 10 min

WLP090 San Diego Super, 850mL starter

OG: 1.052
FG:  1.014
ABV:  5.0%
IBU:  59
Color:  41 SRM (calculated, observed closer to ~25 SRM)

Fermentation Temp:  65-68°


Brew Day

Where da color at?
Where da color at?

So, we completely didn’t realize that our cold extract wouldn’t give us the same color we would have had if we had mashed the dark grains.  We also failed to calculate for the additional volume of water, 1.5 gallon in total, which brought our Original Gravity far below what we planned for (we were shooting for 1.070).  Actually, the less dark color and the lower OG are both related to the dilution.  So, lesson learned, but we realized we were probably going to end up with a weak American Stout, ABV wise.

Bring on the black!
Bring on the black!

After some colorful language, we pressed on.  We cooled, aerated, and pitched our favorite yeast.

Steeping calypso smells soo good
Steeping calypso smells soo good



As usual, San Diego Super absolutely destroyed that 1.052 wort in 4 days.  I let it sit on the yeast another 4 days before transferring the beer to the keg.



Nothing out of the ordinary here, kegged and carbonated to 2.5 volumes.  I drank many of these, to help cure my cabin fever of course.


My Take

Not as dark as I'd like...
Not as dark as I’d like…

Well, the beer is definitely not as dark, or as strong as I was hoping.  Overall, I enjoy this beer.  I’d call it solid, but it’s missing something and I’m not entirely sure what.  The roast character is smooth, but I do wish it was slightly bolder.  This beer is definitely session strength, and I don’t want it to be.  I wish the beer was in the 6.5% ABV range.


The Stig

And now it’s time the beer over to our Team Tasting Imbiber.  Some say He once cold-steeped His grandmother,  and that He’s afraid of mustaches.  All we know is, He’s called The Stig!

Aroma: Cold brewed coffee, mild chocolate, coca cola, black cherries, vanilla bean.

Appearance: ~ 30 degrees SRM. Deep, dark brown with russet edges. Off white head billows up while poured, and quickly settles down to thin film of resilient off white head. Slight lacing.

Flavor: Faintly roasty like darkly toasted, but not yet burnt bread. Lush char character without being acrid. Not much hop flavor, just hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Thin body and mellow carbonation.

Overall: I think this is more of a porter. A good American porter, but not a stout. It lacks the body and perceived bitterness that an American Stout should have.



Huh.  So, part of me just wanted to change the category of this beer and play it cool.  I don’t know what to say really.  I’ve actually made a good example of a beer I didn’t intend to make, which isn’t unsuccessful… right?

In all seriousness though, I think the lack of body is due in part to the dilution we didn’t calculate for.  In a future rendition, I would plan accordingly and bring the OG up, and perhaps add more wheat.  As for the perceived bitterness, perhaps the late additions are out of place here, or perhaps I should rely less on them and supplant with some mid-boil additions.  That would probably allow the bitterness to stand out more.  I am surprised that The Stig said He didn’t find any hop flavor.  Two ounces of hops steeped for 10 minutes should have brought some hop flavor to the table, and I personally thought there was some fruity hop flavors present.

So, re-brew for Robust Porter?  🙂

(1) “Cold Water Extraction of Dark Grains” by Mary Anne Gruber (January/February 2002 Zymurgy)


  1. I recently got to hear the brewmaster of Guiness talk about their brewing process and while I’m not sure they use a cold steeping process, he admitted that they mash their roasted grains separately and add them in later. So! It seems you’re in fine company 🙂

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